Newspaper article News Sentinel

Doug Harris: Common Core Will Help Tennessee Students Realize Potential

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Doug Harris: Common Core Will Help Tennessee Students Realize Potential

Article excerpt

Although I was initially skeptical of the Common Core State Standards, after doing much research I am now fully supporting this effort for Tennessee children.

Common Core is a set of standards, not curriculum. What exactly does this mean? Educational standards are the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Standards function like an educational map that helps parents, teachers and students follow one's academic progression. As a parent, I think it is extremely beneficial to see how my kids are doing compared to all the kids in the United States, not just Tennessee.

Sadly, Tennessee standards have a history of being very low compared to those of other states. We raised our standards a few years ago when it was revealed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that we were near the bottom in the nation. However, according to the Thomas Fordham Institute, an independent organization located in Ohio that analyzes and ranks all of the states, Tennessee math and science standards still graded a D, even after the changes. Thankfully, our language standards have been raised to an A- and are among the best in the country.

So, should Tennesseans maintain these inferior standards compared to other states or raise them up to at least a B+ level as provided by the Common Core?

I think many people are confused about the difference between Common Core standards and classroom curriculum. Curriculum is instructional content, materials, resources and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives. Independently, teachers will continue to devise their own lesson plans and curricula, often refining and improving them over years, and tailor their instruction to the individual needs of their students. They know how to structure, organize and deliver courses in ways that facilitate or accelerate student learning.

Despite what you may hear, curriculum is still controlled by the state and local school boards. We still decide which books and materials will be used. We will continue to hire and train the teachers. The federal government does not control the curriculum. The federal government cannot force your child to read a certain book or change your values. The future of our children is still in the hands of the local community. …

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