Parents and teachers have been expressing concerns with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for a while now, but, for some reason, he has just now announced that he has put together advisory teams and panels that will supposedly “listen” to the opinions of teachers and parents from across the state. These panels will then reportedly make recommendations for changes in our state (i.e, Common Core) standards to the TN Board of Education. (For more information on this plan, click here.)
This seems like a very wise and thoughtful move by the Governor. But many people, including us Momma Bears, think this is a complete farce. And based on the people and organizations involved in this grand scheme, it seems pretty clear to us that the man behind the mask has no intention of doing anything other than keeping Common Core in place.
This review process will supposedly be completed at the end of 2015. This means that the state legislature could not vote on changing our state standards, based on the recommendations of this commission, until the winter/spring of 2016. If things go according to Haslam's plan, Common Core in its current form will, at minimum, be used until the end of the 2015-2016 school year. This gives the state a 1 ½ year-cushion to keep CCSS in place and to wait for the Tennesseans who are spitting mad about CCSS to finally get tired and shut up.
The process used to select the teams and panels for this commission was shrouded in secrecy. We have no idea how these people were chosen, but we strongly suspect that Haslam's private meetings with teachers and administrators this summer were linked to the selection process. (Remember those meetings? The ones where school board members, the media, and elected officials were not allowed to attend?) In fact, 1 of the 2 teachers who represented Bradley County at one of the meetings, Amber Caldwell, ended up on the Math Advisory Team for grades 6-8. And, not surprisingly, Amber made her support of Common Core very public before her hush-hush secret summer meeting with Haslam. Some people might think this is a coincidence, but Momma Bears happen to think Haslam used these meetings as a way to find teachers who would toe the party line in these advisory teams. (For more information about these secret meetings, please go to this link.)
Some of the organizations and people that have been selected to participate in this process appear to have personal interests in keeping CCSS around. (Click here to see a list of those selected):
- Southern Regional Education Board (SREB): Haslam appointed the SREB to oversee the collection of input from parents and teachers on CCSS. The problem is this group is far from nonbiased. Since 2008, this organization has received almost 13 million dollars in funding from the pro-CCSS Gates Foundation. (Click here for documentation.) And a good portion of this grant money was used to promote CCSS. (Click here to see a list of grants.) But, to top it off, SREB also has a variety of other donors, including Pearson--the British-based corporation that has already made tens of millions of dollars from CCSS-aligned curriculum and textbooks. And Pearson stands to lose a lot of money if CCSS are changed or discontinued.
- Candice McQueen: Dr. McQueen is an advisory team leader for the K-5 English Language Arts team. She currently works for Lipscomb University and has been an active cheerleader for CCSS--even speaking in favor of them before the TN Senate Education Committee in September, 2013. (By the way, the promised report from that hearing has never been released. We wonder if/when the commitee will ever get around to that.) The Ayers Institute at Lipscomb received a large grant from the state of TN (via Race to the Top funds) to develop a teacher traning program for Common Core. Based on this information, it seems evident that Dr. McQueen has a vested interest in keeping Common Core around. [Side Note: Interestingly, when Dr. McQueen was appointed senior VP of Lipscomb Academy--the K-12 private school affiliated with the university--about 6 months ago, she insisted that she would not be implementing CCSS at the private school. Apparently CCSS are good enough for public school kids, but not the students at the private school she helps run. (Click here for more information.) Which leaves us with this question--if CCSS are so great, wouldn't she want all schools to use them?]
- Meghan Little: Ms. Little is on the English Language Arts Advisory Team for grades 6-8. She is currently the chief academic officer for KIPP charter schools in Nashville--but she is also on the Common Core Leadership Council for the TN Department of Education. (Click here to see her Linkedin profile).
- Stephanie Kolitsch: Dr. Kolitsch is the Math Advisory Team leader for grades 9-12. She is a professor at UT Martin who also happened to participate in a “Core to College Curriculum Design Project”. (Please see this link for more details: )
- Susan Groenke: Dr. Groenke is an associate professor of English education at UT Knoxville who, along with Dr. McQueen, is serving on the English Language Arts Standard Review & Development Committee. On page 7 of this PDF document, you will notice that Dr. Groenke is part of the Lipscomb University/Ayers Institute “IHE Advisory Board” that “will guide the development of pre-service teacher education resources and Common Core’s implications for change in teacher preparation.”
- Emily Medlock: Dr. Medlock is on the Math Advisory Team for grades 6-8 and is an assistant professor for the College of Education at Lipscomb University. (Lipscomb again? Are we seeing a trend here?) She was a featured speaker at a Common Core “Educator Preparation Conference” at Lipscomb University in May, 2014. (Click here for documentation.)
It’s time to wrap this up for now because we have our Baby Bears we must tend to. But, as you can see, Momma Bears are not fooled by Haslam’s weak attempt to address our concerns about Common Core. If you would like to know what we would like to see from our Governor and elected officials, stay tuned for a follow up blog post...