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Conservatives rally against schools' Common Core standards as a federal overreach

6:38 AM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
Kevin Kookogey speaks Tuesday night at a panel discussion against Common Core federal education standards. / Dipti Vaidya / The Tennessean
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By Maria Giordona, The Tennessean

FRANKLIN - Conservatives came from far and wide Tuesday night to rail against Common Core standards, calling them academically weak and a threat to parents' control over their children's education.

More than 400 parents, community members and out-of-town guests gathered in the Cool Springs Embassy Suites for a second round of panel discussions on the standards, adopted here and in 44 states for what children are expected to know as they progress through school.

Kevin Kookogey, who led the "Confronting Common Core" event, entered to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." Other speakers included Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute, Bill Evers of the Hoover Institution, Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, and Emmet McGroarty and Jane Robbins, both of the American Principles Project.

Sharon Sewell, a member of Alabamians United for Excellence in Education, drove from Alabama for the event. She said the standards invade privacy, take away local control and impose an unfair burden on taxpayers, and that she is fighting to have the standards repealed in her home state.

"We want this stopped," she said. "Alabama stands with Tennesee."

Opponents of Common Core accuse the Obama administration of dangling billions of dollars in Race to the Top funds to get states to sign on to its notion of what children should be learning. The opponents say that, rather than raise student achievement and accountability, it dumbs down academics and leads to data-mining of student information.

Tuesday's meeting was billed as part of an effort to "address the federal government's overreach into state and local education in Tennessee."

Some parents angry

Some of the fervor surfaced during a Common Core meeting Monday at The People's Church in Franklin. The meeting filled up two weeks after organizers posted an online invitation.

At Monday's meeting, in which the standards were presented by Jamie Woodson, president of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and county schools' Superintendent Mike Looney, many parents and community members wore anti-Common Core stickers and were angered by the question-and-answer format.

Looney had parents write their questions on index cards rather than pass around a microphone. More than 400 people attended that event, which was to be an opportunity to learn more about the Common Core standards.

Woodson recounted how the state in 2009 came to adopt the Common Core Standards initiative, which was due in part because the state received an "F" in 2007 for truth in advertising about student proficiency.

Students were rated as proficient in math and reading based on assessments, but in actuality were behind in comparison to other students nationally. Tennessee is ranked No. 46 in the nation in math and 41st in reading.

Later, the state created the Tennessee Diploma Project to help align Tennessee's education standards for success in college and the workplace. Woodson repeatedly said that the state has led its own reform efforts, and is a founding member of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Career, or PARCC. There are 22 states in this consortium, including Massachusetts and Maryland, both states considered high achieving, Huffman said.

The standards have already been implemented throughout Tennessee. Students in kindergarten through second grade began using them in 2011-12.

Williamson County, along with many other districts, implemented the math common core standards in grades 3-8 this school year. All districts will implement math and reading common core standards by 2014-15. In those subject areas only, students will take what will be called online PARCC assessments. They will continue to take the TCAP for social studies and science.

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