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Looney: Common Core is not going away

Over the past month, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney and his staff answered hundreds of written questions from parents and activists pertaining to Common Core State Standards, a set of federally written guidelines adopted by the state of Tennessee in 2010.

The answers are posted on the WCS website.

“There continues to be a great deal of misinformation regarding the Common Core Standards in our community,” Looney wrote in the introduction to the webpage. “I have made a commitment to provide you with the facts.”

A recurring misconception, he said, is that the Common Core is a curriculum rather than a set of guidelines.

Looney walked out of the Let’s Talk Schools: Common Core meeting April 29 with a five-inch-thick stack of about 500 questions scribbled on index cards collected from members of the audience, which totaled about 400.

“We will make sure to answer all of your questions and post them on the website,” Looney promised the crowd, some of whom were vocal parents who yelled out in protest during the presentation that the meeting’s format did not facilitate audience participation. Some argued that the written Q & A failed to give parents an avenue to voice concerns.

“Your opinions do matter to me,” Looney said, responding to the crowd at the meeting. “However, we cannot address every concern and listen to hundreds of citizens in an organized way in this format.”

Although some critics still pound the guidelines as ill-conceived and exemplary of the federal government’s overreach, the standards are here to stay.

Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Assessment Tim Gaddis reminded school board members at a May 16 work session that the Tennessee Department of Education requires all public school systems to adopt the guidelines.

“The consequences for not following Common Core are dire,” Gaddis said.

The standards comprise what students must know upon completion of grades K-12, which prepares them for college and career readiness, he said. Students will also be assessed using PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), to be implemented by 2014-15, which reflects common core standards.

Looney has also conveyed in recent weeks that Common Core is here to stay.

“We have no choice,” Looney said at a school board meeting in April. “The state chose to adopt these standards.”

County officials directed Looney to inquire whether WCS could opt out of the standards. However, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman answered via email that the district must comply.

“A district is not allowed to opt out of state standards for any area of study, whether the Common Core state standards for reading and math, or other standards for other subject areas,” Huffman wrote. “The director of schools is required to use the state course of study for all the public schools in accordance with the regulations of the commissioner, as approved by the state board.”

Gaddis reminded board members that the Common Core standards are minimum standards and that WCS exceeds the expectation.

“We have always been required to abide by state standards, but we have never gone by the minimum,” Gaddis said. “This is not a Panacea; we go deeper in scope and sequence.”

“Scope and sequence” represents the material that students learn throughout the school year, comprised of a chronological list of the units taught throughout the year with the Tennessee State Standards and the Common Core Standards aligned to each unit.

“There are people on both sides of the fence,” Gaddis said. “These are the standards, and it’s up to us to make them meaningful in our county.”

Looney said Common Core standards will be fully implemented by WCS by 2015.

Visit to view Looney’s answers to the questions submitted at the Lets Talk Schools meeting April 29.

Posted on: 5/30/2013


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