Blake Farmer at WPLN looks at the ways that candidates are describing Common Core:
Common Core has become political kryptonite in GOP primary campaigns for Congress. And two Tennessee legislators running for higher office helped vote in the new educational standards, but they have very different ways of defending it.
“I’ve always been against [Common Core,” says state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who is running against incumbent Congressman Scott DesJarlais.
Critics of a new student exam linked to controversial education standards won a small victory Wednesday when the House adopted a compromise putting off testing for one year.
The House of Representatives voted 86-8 in favor of a deal hammered out largely by leadership behind closed doors, although members acknowledge the agreement left open loopholes.
“Today is an example of the art of the possible,” said Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, who helped assemble the bill’s hijacking last month. “I know you don’t like this, but this is a win.”
The governor’s office and Republican leadership would have rather the legislature leave the new standards alone, but say they support this plan.
“What has come out of this conversation is agreement that Tennessee should have higher standards,” said Alexia Poe, the governor’s director of communications. “This RFP process will ensure that everyone feels good about how we are testing those higher standards.”
A pack of House members made up the major opposition to Common Core and PARCC, short for the Partnership for Assessment in College and Career Readiness and the standardized test at the heart of the dispute. Members teamed with Democrats to seize an unrelated bill and install a two-year delay in the standards. Leaders in the Senate refused to go along.
Although the governor’s office and Republican leadership in both chambers initially rejected any move to budge on the standards and test, they came to a compromise that would keep the current TCAP tests in place for one more year while the state puts the new testing contract out for bid instead of accepting the PARCC exam without competition.
“We just blew it with this language,” said Rep. Rick Womick, a Rockvale Republican opposed to Common Core and the PARCC test. He argued the compromise created loopholes, such as allowing the state to eventually contract with PARCC. “I’m sorry, but it’s nothing more than lipstick on a pig.”
The Senate has yet to vote on the compromise but had favored leaving the testing and standards alone. Senate leadership expects the chamber to go along with the new language.
A compromise by the House and Senate to put off a controversial exam aligned with a new set of education standards is on its way to the House and Senate floors.
The legislation was agreed upon with no discussion by three delegates from each chamber in the House Speaker’s ceremonial office. It would put off for one year the PARCC exam, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Careers. It would also require the state to solicit bids for its next testing contract instead of adopting PARCC by default.
In the meantime, schools would continue to issue the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, known as TCAP, through the 2014-15 school year.
The new language is attached to a commonly agreed upon bill reigning in concerns over the Common Core education standards in how data is used and dispelling any belief the new standards are a directive from the national level.
Members of legislative leadership and the administration attempted to stave off harsher critics of the standards and new test and committee chairs sidelined bills going further. But opponents to Common Core rose up in the House earlier this session, believing that bill was not enough and a bipartisan band of lawmakers hijacked unrelated legislation and transformed it into a two-year delay in the PARCC exam and implementation of the education standards.
House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters this month she would try to rectify the situation while keeping the measure under her control by taking a separate bill to a conference committee.
The administration went into this legislative session expecting pushback on the Common Core and the PARCC exam, but refused to give ground to critics.
The details are still up in the air, but House Speaker Beth Harwell said she wants to weave any changes to the new statewide student exam into their administration-approved Common Core bill.
The move would give leadership more control over what a possible rollback of the exam would look like given rancor from rank-and-file members who teamed up with Democrats last month to hijack a bill to delay further implementation of Common Core education standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers for two years.
The Haslam administration has consistently said they are unwilling to budge on Common Core and believe its associated PARCC test is the best aligned with the state’s new standards teachers have been using in the classroom. The uprising went against both the administration’s and speakers’ wishes by digging deeper into the new standards and new test to be used in 2015 than they were willing to go.
“I think what we need to be examining now as a body is the testing,” she told reporters Thursday. “When I talk to most teachers and most concerned constituents, they’re worried about the PARCC testing and I think we have an opportunity now to address that.”
Harwell said members of her chamber are meeting with the administration now to understand what they can do and what the costs are. Harwell said her plan is to put any changes to PARCC into HB1549, a bill that currently builds in transparency for how student data can be used and reiterates that the state sets its own education standards, not the federal government.
Any PARCC changes would be added in conference committee, she said, a meeting between select members from both chambers to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Members of the committee can insert changes not in either bill to reach a compromise, but both chambers still need to approve identical versions of the bill for it to pass.
“I’m encouraging you to punch at your weight class because your view matters incredibly to the future of Tennessee,” the governor told members of the state Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. Here, in full, is his pitch.
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, says he thinks he has the votes to pass the House-approved two-year delay in the PARCC test and Common Core if he can get it to the Senate floor. His problem, he said, is the $10 million price tag will likely put it behind the budget "and I never hear from it again."
Two House Republican lawmakers whose bills were pushed to the last Education Subcommittee agenda — facing difficult passage as time runs out — point to frustration with management of the committee system as justification for adding amendments to unrelated bills once they reach the House floor.