Reporter Jackson Baker says both left and right are “Sore at the Core.” He’s referring to Common Core. He attended a Dutch Treat Luncheon in which Dolores Gresham, state Senate Education chair, was the guest. She got an earful from both sides.
He writes in The Flyer:
It is hard to tell exactly how many members of the general public are worked up about the issue of Common Core educational standards, but there are clearly enough, on both sides of the political spectrum, to bedevil the Tennessee General Assembly as it prepares to wade into the issue.
The most recent legislative pillar to find that out was District 10 state Senator Dolores Gresham, the Somerville Republican who heads the Senate Education Committee and, as such, has been entrusted with the introduction of bills supportive of Common Core, the set of educational standards that are due to become effective in 45 of the 50 states this year.
Tennessee is one of the 45 states, and Governor Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman remain supporters of Common Core, but they and Gresham are now grappling with increasingly vehement resistance to Common Core from the political right and left.
Gresham found this out again Saturday, when she addressed a full house at Pancho’s on White Station for a meeting of the monthly Dutch Treat Luncheon. Ordinarily, the Dutch Treat group trends to a relative handful of Tea Party conservatives. The Tea Party and other conservative elements were well represented Saturday, but so were critics from left of center, and interruptions were frequent and sustained as Gresham attempted to present her legislative goals.
Essentially, she tried to assure the overflow group that the series of bills she has introduced, among other things, would attempt to minimize the imposition of national controls on Tennessee’s version of Common Core, block what she called “data mining” (i.e., sharing the state’s statistical results with the federal government), impose local controls on textbook content, and exempt science and social studies from the state’s version of Common Core.
That did not ally the critics, either of left or right. The former object chiefly to the reliance of Common Core on teaching-to-the-test techniques, especially in language and math, which they believe restrict educational breadth in favor of artificial results and inflict needless stress on both students and teachers. The latter object to the very idea of standards, which they fear smack of Big Brotherism and creeping statism.
As Gresham and others have explained, Common Core is an outgrowth of initiatives begun in 2009 under state, not federal auspices, specifically at the behest of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. The Common Core standards have evolved with input from the participating states but also from major nonprofit groups such as the Gates Foundation and with support from the current secretary of education, Arne Duncan.
Tennessee’s involvement is tightly linked with its success in and subsequent funding from the Race to the Top educational-reform competition developed by Duncan. The state’s Race to the Top efforts began under former Governor Phil Bredesen and continue under Haslam.
In any case, there are now serious efforts in the legislature to delay implementation of Common Core in Tennessee, and, given the mounting turmoil across the political spectrum, the task of passing enabling legislation — Gresham’s or anybody else’s — is clearly going to be formidable.
I must correct one thing. It’s not so much the “very idea of standards” that the right objects to. I think we want basic skills met in math, grammar and science. But the people determining these standards have a rigid propaganda in mind for students. It points them in the left direction and takes all power of content away from parents and the local community. To say that conservative parents don’t want their children to get these basic skills is ludicrous. Parents and communities want their children to achieve and excel. It’s ludicrous to say they don’t.
Gresham and Haslam better watch what they do in this area. People have roused themselves from their stupor and are not going to accept half hearted conservativism.