Gov. Bill Haslam discusses the Common Core State Standards during a meeting with local educators at Indian Trail Intermediate School. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appeared at Johnson City’s Indian Trail Intermediate School Tuesday to reaffirm his dedication to the state’s implementation of Common Core State Standards and the accompanying standardized testing, despite recent attempts in the legislature to stop or slow the progress.
Speaking to a group of local educators and school leaders, Haslam said the new set of benchmarks have been critical to the state’s recent education gains, and turning back now could up-end the efforts of teachers across the state.
“I’ve been asked if this would end up being the flavor of the day in education reform, but this is a really big change in what we’ve been doing over the years,” he said. “We’re teaching students thinking and problem solving skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.”
The Common Core State Standards were developed through a consortium of governs and education professionals to help better prepare students for post-secondary education and joining the workforce.
The Tennessee Board of Education adopted the standards in 2010, and the state’s schools have been gradually implementing them since.
Next year, the state Education Department expects to being using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing designed to gauge if students are reaching the new benchmarks.
According to Haslam, 100,000 teachers have been trained so far with proven methods to better attain the new standards, which put greater emphasis on comprehension over factual knowledge.
Recent pushback, both nationally and on the state level, has questioned the motives of the reform movement, characterizing the implementation of the new standards as a federal takeover of public education.
Last week, a bill originally dealing with teaching the Constitution was amended and overwhelmingly passed by the full House to delay further implementation of Common Core and the PARCC testing by two years.
The accompanying bill would need to be amended by the Senate to reflect the House’s changes if the measure hopes to reach the governor’s desk.
So far, the Senate has only passed largely symbolic legislation seeking to underscore the state’s independence in making education choices.
Haslam refused to promise a veto on bills seeking to turn back the reforms, but strongly expressed his support of the Education Department’s initiatives.
“I made the commitment never to say one way or the other on that until I see the actual legislation,” Haslam said on the prospects of vetoing bills seeking to turn back the state’s education reforms. “But there are very few things I feel as strongly about as I do this issue.”
Johnson City Schools Board of Education Chair Kathy Hall, present during the governor’s visit, said the local district has made great strides toward the new standards, and reversing them could send mixed messages to teachers and students.
“We are fairly far along in the implementation process, and I think our teachers and principals have done a great job,” she said. “We do have some concerns about the testing, but I’m glad to see the governor is looking to continue to go forward with this implementation.”