The Bradley County Commission has voted to throw its support behind a pair of bills regarding Common Core educational standards that are currently being discussed in Nashville.
After a great deal of debate, commissioners voted to back proposed House Bill 2332 and companion Senate Bill 2405.
If passed, the House and Senate bills would amend Tennessee Code Annotated section 49-1-302 to say “on July 1, 2014, the state board and the department of education shall discontinue the use of the Common Core state standards in English language arts and mathematics.” At that time, the standards that had been in place before Common Core standards were first being implemented in 2010 “shall become the standards for use by LEAs [local education agencies] and schools until the state board develops and adopts new Tennessee specific standards for English language arts and mathematics.”
The vote came after the Bradley County Board of Education passed a resolution giving its official opinion on Common Core during its Feb. 6, as it had been requested to do by the Commission.
The school board’s resolution said “the continued global implementation” of Common Core standards as they are now “would be highly disruptive to student growth.” It also said the board recommended changes like postponing of PARCC assessment tests and tying those scores to teacher licensure, among other concerns.
Commissioner Jeff Morelock said his understanding of the school board’s resolution was the board was in favor of the standards as a whole, but some changes needed to be made to them. While he said there were some necessary changes, doing away with the standards would not help.
He added the standards “could be worked for the good of the schools.”
In contrast, Commissioner Jeff Yarber said he was in favor of Tennessee scrapping the Common Core standards altogether and creating new standards to replace them.
That meant local education would not be “tied in with” the federal government.
“Common Core is the problem, and we can do it better,” Yarber said.
Commissioner Adam Lowe said the state bills in question were “simple” and “straightforward,” though he was not totally certain they were “a step in the right direction.”
Lowe said he believed one of the problems the field of education has been facing has been the attention paid to reforming standards rather than actual teaching methods because “standards don’t have feelings.”
“We continue to try to teacher-proof the classroom,” he said.
Commissioner Terry Caywood said he had spoken with a teacher who said Common Core standards “took all the fun out of” teaching.
Fellow Commissioner Bill Winters said he had a problem with the fact the Commission’s resolution supported repealing the state standards.
He said he would not vote to repeal Common Core because the standards being removed would “tie the hands” of the legislators working to fix the parts of the standards that were not working well. On top of that, he said he did not think the vote would be in line with what the local school board wanted.
“The school board did not ask us to repeal this,” Winters said.
Commissioner Mel Griffith said he was “very supportive” of the standards’ goals, but they were not being implemented well.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks said the bills would have the state completely scrapping the current standards, meaning it would “throw out the baby, the bathwater — all of it.”
Instead of completely repealing Common Core, he said he was in favor of making “incremental” changes to the standards and changing the name to reflect those changes.
“I have been asked what is the most-debated topic in Nashville right now,” Brooks said. “It is Common Core. There’s nothing in me that wants to lower our standard, but the name — the brand — is broken.”
The 14-member Commission ultimately passed the resolution sponsored by Yarber supporting the state bills with nine in favor, four opposed and one absent.
Before that vote was made, Winters proposed a substitute motion to pass a resolution simply saying the Commission supported the school board’s resolution and not mentioning the proposed state bills. It failed with only five in favor.
Commissioner Mark Hall made another motion to refer the matter to a work session to be discussed further, but it failed with only four in favor after some commissioners pointed out the matter had been discussed in work sessions before.
During the time set aside for public comment, one meeting attendee, Dan Rawls, praised the Commission’s “brave” passage of the resolution, calling it “a big vote.”
After the Commission passed the Common Core resolution, it also voted to add four new roads to the county road list. Grayson Way, Lauren Way, Stonebridge Lane and Penny Hill Lane were all made official.
Commissioners also voted to grant an easement on county-owned land to Cleveland Utilities so it can expand a water line running along Urbane Road, and to accept a list of county roads and their current speed limits.