A standing-room only crowd gathered at Embassy Suites in Cool Springs Tuesday night to hear a panel discussion about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The “Confronting the Common Core” discussion was planned by Tennessee Freedom Coalition, Heritage Action for America, and Tennessee Eagle Forum, among other sponsors, who see the CCSS as a “threat to academic freedom.”
“Parents and people in the community are beginning to realize the federal government has attempted a federal takeover of their education and they're not standing for it,” said Kevin Kookogey during his opening statements.
The panel discussion came one day after a heated open meeting Monday night in Williamson County, where state and local education leaders met with parents and teachers about CCSS. Many critics felt shutout of the meeting when organizers refused to answer direct questions from the audience, instead opting for written submissions to be answered at a later time.
Tuesday's event, organized by some of those same critics, provided presentations by panelists, followed by an open mic question and answer session.
However, News 2 and other media outlets were limited in coverage, with access only to panelists as they made their presentations.
“This program is academically weak. This program discourages and hobbles innovation,” said Dr. William Evers, discussion panelist.
“They're signing onto a standardization push that will fail to improve education outcomes,” added Lindsey Burke, another panelist.
The state adopted the federal standards in 2010 when it applied for Race to the Top money, as a means to improve academics and college readiness for all students. But critics see the standards as a means for the federal government to take control over state education.
Several groups, including those that sponsored the panel discussion, argue CCSS was not developed by the states, was not voluntary due to pressuring government incentives, and was designed to dictate local school curriculum.
“We do not need to nationalize our schools,” Lou Ann Zelenik told Nashville's News 2 in a separate interview on Monday. “I do not need the political agenda of some group outside Tennessee dictating what our children in Tennessee learn, much less what are teachers have to be burdened with. Another layer, another bureaucracy, another jumping through the hoops.”
Zelenik is the Executive Director of Tennessee Freedom Coalition and was among the estimated 700 in attendance Tuesday night.
The state department of education rebutted those claims.
“Common Core is a set of standards that say, 'Your child should know X at the end of the year,'” said State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, also in a separate News 2 interview on Tuesday. “Curriculum is still up to local schools and local districts, the way it's always been. But I think that's been muddied and some people are confused about what the common core is and isn't.”
More meetings by the state and opponents are expected in the coming months.
Every school district in the state must implement the standards by the 2014-2015 school year.