Police chiefs from cities across Tennessee met in Kingsport last month to voice their support of Common Core, a set of standards for student proficiency in math and English. As reported by the NET News Service, these law enforcement officials believe the new national standards will help keep kids out of jail.
“Tennessee students need an education that prepares them for the post-secondary education and the workforce so they will be less likely to turn to a life of crime,” said Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois.
Common Core state standards are designed to better prepare students for higher education, or for entry into the workforce. Tennessee is one of the 12 states that helped to develop the Common Core standards. Tennessee is expected to fully implement the standards in the 2014-15 school year.
Sirois and his colleagues pointed to a report that found only 24 percent of eighth-graders in Tennessee are proficient in math, 27 percent are proficient in reading and 31 percent are proficient in science, while 14 percent of Tennessee freshmen do not graduate in four years.
Common Core standards have also been embraced by industry and business leaders. Earlier this year, Gary M. Mabrey, president and CEO of the Johnson City/Jonesborough/ Washington County Chamber of Commerce, wrote a guest column for this paper in which he stated the new standards would help “ensure our students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help them succeed after high school, in postsecondary education or the workforce.”
Mabrey also wrote Common Core will raise the standards of what Tennesseans expect from public schools.
“Our chamber members, as well as business owners in general, know that competition for jobs no longer comes from across the state,” he said. “It comes from across the world. The Common Core state standards are replacing Tennessee’s old set of expectations that were less rigorous, with standards that are internationally competitive.” Not everyone, however, thinks Common Core is a good idea. Some critics argue the standards ask too much of teachers, particularly those in poor and rural areas. Some limited government activists also say the Common Core robs state and local communities of their control over public schools. Andrea Shepherd, a community activist who lives in Hampton, wrote a guest column for the Press earlier this year in which she suggests Common Core will allow the federal government to collect “vast amounts of data” on students. “Common Core will result in the Bill Gates view of the world — develop an ‘operating system’ that can be imposed on every school, so that everything can be standardized and run by people in Washington,” Shepherd wrote. “When has this kind of thing ever worked? Are we educating children or creating trained drones?”
We want to hear from you. Do you think Common Core can improve public education in Tennessee?
Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org? . Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.