State lawmakers will review new Common Core education standards teachers are using in Tennessee classrooms in light of recent criticism of the system from conservatives.
The state Senate Education Committee “will hear from critics from all ends of the political spectrum,” plus gather testimony from proponents and state education officials by this fall, read the release from committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham Thursday.
“These are fact-finding meetings,” Gresham said in a news release. “We will look at all the factors as we review how this program is serving our students and helping us reach our academic goals.”
State officials have been implementing the Common Core standards in Tennessee for two years, beginning in elementary school and now extending through eighth grade. Plans include implementing those standards through high school next year, and students will begin being evaluated under the new standards in the 2014-15 school year, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.
However, the program only recently came under fire in Tennessee at a “Confronting Common Core” event in Williamson County last month where some 400 people gathered to hear more on and express concerns about the standards, such as a nationalization of education, data mining through longitudinal data tracking systems and the costs — concerns which are being echoed elsewhere throughout the country.
“We hope at some point there will be legislation in the next session, several pieces of legislation, to either slow down, defund or entirely stop the entire process of implementing Common Core in Tennessee,” said Katherine Hudgins, a chief organizer for Tennessee Against Common Core and who is a political activist for the 912 Project and a Tennessee director for Rutherford County Tea Party. “We are forming an army here in Tennessee.”
Common Core is an education standard now adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The standards call for mastering skills and problem solving, then building on those lessons. The standards shift away from memorization.
“Before, we had an emphasis on getting the right answer. You just have to race through tests very quickly,” said Kelli Gauthier, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. “Under Common Core, it requires students to think more not just about what the answer is, by why that’s the right answer.”
State education officials are staunchly defending the new standards, as or various education reform advocates who say the new standards will better prepare students for the workforce.
A recent poll on behalf of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, also known as SCORE, found three out of four people  favor the new standards. While the survey of 500 registered voters showed support for the standards, nearly two out of three people polled said they had heard little to nothing about Common Core, according to poll results.
The survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in May and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.
A date for the Senate Education Committee hearing is expected to be held in late summer or early fall. The legislature is made up of a Republican supermajority, many of which align with conservative and tea party principles.