Tennessee lawmakers voted to delay the Common Core education program that would bring Tennessee public school standards up to speed with other schools across the U.S. on March 13.
The bipartisan legislative push to implement Common Core was first introduced in December 2008 by the National Governors Association after test results showed that Tennessee students were not prepared for college.
As of 2012, only 16 percent of Tennessee students graduated high school at a college ready level, according to test results from the ACT.
With a new set of standards on the cusp of being initiated in schools, University of Memphis education majors are being prepared to enter the workforce with a different set of expectations.
Kia Lasley, a senior education major at the U of M, said idealistically she thinks the Common Core will be beneficial, but she has her doubts on how schools will integrate the standards.
“Ideally, I feel like it’s a good idea, but I’m not sure that the implementation has been carried out the way that it should have been,” Lasley said.
“Children are not on the same level in the same classroom, so there will be a lot of kids who fall to wayside because of it,” she said.
Jaclyn Suffel, communications manager for Mid-South Strive, a network of organizations that work to support children cradle to career, has long been an advocate for the Common Core and its standards.
Suffel said that the standards would put Tennessee on an even level with other states when high school graduates are applying for college.
“It creates big problems when you’re having kids compete against each other to get into college,” Suffel said. “Because if I’m competing against a kid in Massachusetts that has a 3.5 average, and I have a 4.5 average and I’m from Tennessee, those really aren’t made equal because they have a harder set of standards.”
Tennessee is one of the 44 states that have adopted the Common Core standards.
“If we would implement these standards, we could start comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges,” she said.
The House has voted to delay the start of the program because of disagreements over the bill between political parties. The bill will be repealed in the Senate before a final decision on the curriculum is made.
At the center of the debate is the argument over the computerized Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career tests that will be required by Tennessee public schools as part of the Common Core.
The PARCC will test students K-12 in English language arts, literacy and math more rigorously than the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests, which are currently in place.
Some teachers are opposed to the new testing because they will be taken on computers and will not be based solely on multiple-choice questions like the TCAP, but will require students to provide full, critical thinking answers.
Lasley said she is worried about the PARCC because there is not enough information on the test yet to prepare students.
“I feel like the state doesn’t know enough about the standardized test enough to prepare us. A lot of education majors have concerns about it,”Lasley said. “It bothers me that there’s so much pressure to teach kids how to take this test, yet there’s no practice test for it and no material on how to help them."
Before becoming an advocate for Strive, Suffel spent two years working for Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that takes recent college graduates and places them in under-resourced schools across the nation. She spent her time in the organization teaching ninth grade English at Craigmont High School in Memphis.
Suffel said that the Common Core would have proved beneficial for her as a teacher because she had to move too quickly to cover what Tennessee’s current standards required of her.
“When I was teaching, state standards expected me to cover over 100 different standards in an English class,” she said. “I would end up teaching technology and oral communication skills in a English because whatever electives the state didn’t want to fund got shoved into English curriculum.”