What’s in a name? For a newly minted bill passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives, the answer is the same old stuff.
The bill being touted by some lawmakers as a repeal of Common Core Curriculum Standards is being derided by others, who insist it is simply a ruse that will keep the standards in place with a different name.
Officially, House Bill 1035 ordains that Common Core be eliminated two years from now, and several of its backers are touting it as the successful completion of a long-running effort to replace the standards.
Said state House member Andy Holt:
I set out on a mission to do everything in my power to repeal Common Core in State of Tennessee this year. In addition to repealing Common Core, this bill puts even more control back in the hands of families, local schools and the State of Tennessee, which is exactly where it belongs.
However, the bill, which passed the state legislature nearly unanimously, makes several concessions to Common Core supporters that leave it an open question just how much of the framework will actually vanish. Besides keeping Common Core in place for the next two years, the bill doesn’t describe the set of standards that will be taking its place. Instead, approving new standards is the responsibility of a ten-member committee to be appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam (a Common Core supporter) along with the state’s House and Senate leaders.
This committee could end up recommending a total overhaul … or it could simply slap a new name on Common Core while keeping the standards almost entirely intact.
Common Core foes in other states have claimed that multiple repeal efforts have been derailed by the implementation of “new” standards nearly identical to the Core. In South Carolina, which officially created new standards earlier this spring, the state’s leading anti-Core activist has accused officials of pulling a bait-and-switch that has kept more than 90% of Common Core in place. Similar allegations were made in Indiana, which officially repealed Common Core last year.
There are several signs within the legislation itself that the new standards may change very little. For example, the bill’s stated goal is to create “post-secondary and workforce-ready” standards, using a phrase identical in meaning to “college and career-ready,” the buzzword used to describe Common Core’s pedagogical approach.
The bill also gives final authority for approving new standards to the state board of education, which is entirely appointed by the governor and has been more supportive of Common Core. If the board wants to keep Common Core, it could very easily work to ensure that the state’s “replacement” changes very little.
The bill also keeps Tennessee’s current standardized tests in place, despite the fierce opposition of many activists to new Common Core-aligned tests. An amendment that would have explicitly given parents the right to opt their children out of exams was kept off the bill after a flurry of opposition from education leaders, who argue tests are essential for keeping accurate data on student progress.
As a result, the grassroots group Tennessee Against Common Core is crying foul, arguing that the bill is just another smokescreen.
“Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me,” the group said in a Facebook posting earlier this week. “People you are about to be fooled AGAIN. HB1035 is certain to pass. Even legislators that KNOW this bill is a ruse are supporting it. It is a feel good bill to quiet the opposition and most have fallen lock step with the program.”
This report, by Blake Neff, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.