Bradley County School Board members said Tuesday they plan to check with teachers on how they feel about the controversial Common Core standards.
The Bradley County Commission earlier passed a resolution in opposition to Common Core. In attendance at the School Board work session were Bradley County Commissioners Terry Caywood, Ed Elkins and Jeff Morelock.
The board took a look at the Bradley County Commission’s official stance and discussed whether or not the board should respond to it, as well as how to best respond to community concerns over the Common Core curriculum.
Board Chair Vicki Osment Beaty said, “I have three schools in my district and I will be visiting each of those schools in November, and I am going to talk with teachers. They’re the people that are implementing this. They’re the people in the classroom, and they’re the people who know what’s really going on.”
Board member Troy Weathers added, “Madame Chair, I agree with you. I spoke with several teachers, I’ve spoken with several teachers that were very positive about it, but I’ve also heard from other teachers who are not. I think before we jump off into another fire I think we better make sure that what we have is how it’s impacting our students and how it’s impacting our teachers.”
Ms. Beaty continued by stating that so many mandated innovations come through the system that teachers don’t always have the time or breathing room to implement these changes with fidelity.
Tea Party leader Dan Rawls made this request, “I’d like to make a recommendation that when you go talk to teachers that you talk to the teachers outside of an official venue of the school and that you meet with teachers in an environment outside of their workplace. I think that there is a lot of - and I'm not saying that happens here - but it does happen that teachers are intimidated. You better tow the line with this Common Core and if you don’t tow the line with this Common Core you’re going to have problems.”
Mr. Rawls continued, “I think that you might be getting better answers if you talk to them outside of that environment - somewhere they did not feel like they were under the thumb of the system.”
Director of Bradley County Schools Johnny McDaniel said, “That is a state issue and that is something that the board has to remember. The board didn’t adopt the Common Core, the state board of education adopted the Common Core, the state of Tennessee adopted this TennCore. We can call Common Core TennCore. It’s the Tennessee state standards. The Common Core will become the Tennessee state standards next year, fully implemented and we didn’t make that decision. As long as we’re taking state money and the state funds us at 70 percent, we will have to follow what the state mandates.”
County Commissioner Caywood addressed some concerns he about the difficulty of the Common Core testing. He passed out a test that was taking by third graders in order to show the board just how difficult the new standards are. Commissioner Caywood said that he knew of families that were pulling their children out of public schools because of Common Core. He added, “This breaks my heart. I don’t want to see that because I’m a believer in public education. I spent my life doing it.”
Commissioner Caywood continued, “We’re running them off. We’ve got to do something. You can’t do it, but you can voice an opinion to our legislators to help us. We’re trying to keep up with China and Japan who only educate the select few and the rest fall through the cracks. We’ve got to educate everybody. We can’t pick and choose just the best ones. I want kids in public schools, I want our dollars used for everybody.”
Board member Chris Turner said, “We’ve got to do something different for our high school and the feedback that I’ve gotten back from our system is that Common Core is a move in the right direction.
”Now, I’ll be blunt, the feedback I’m getting from elementary schools is that we’re going to devastate, in particular the math education of elementary students in Bradley County with Common Core. The tests that we’re administering, the practice tests, the exercises, the things that we do are driving teachers out my district, out of my school system. They’re driving kids to home school, where they can have selection. I sat in a community meeting and I heard from people, parents who have taken the kids out of this school system and they said I want my legislators to pass a law that protects my right to home school without Common Core. That’s how strongly they feel about it.”
Mr. Turner suggested that the board gather some real, hard data in order to make an accurate assessment and take an official stance and to have it ready before the next state legislative session starts, as the Common Core issue will be up for discussion again in January.