Tennessee Education Standards Benefit From Public and Professional Review

Thursday, October 08, 2015 | 3:10pm

By: Lyle Ailshie and David Pickler

As a long-time educator who has the opportunity to serve as the superintendent of Kingsport’s City Schools, and as a long-time business leader and former chairman of the Shelby County school board, it is an honor and privilege to be appointed by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell respectively to serve as members of the state’s new Standards Recommendation Committee. We are charged with helping evaluate Tennessee’s K-12 education standards in math and English language arts.

This new committee is part of an unprecedented public and professional review of our state’s education standards that Governor Bill Haslam, in partnership with the State Board of Education, first announced in October 2014. The creation of a standards review website invited the public to review and offer feedback on what Tennessee students should know and be able to do by the end of each school year in both mathematics and English language arts (ELA).

During the 2015 Legislative Session, the legislature passed House Bill 1035 which refined the review process to include even more opportunities for input on the standards from the public and subject matter experts.

As a result of this legislation, a new Standards Recommendation Committee (SRC) for math and English language arts was created. This 10-person panel, appointed by the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was also formed to help review the new standards and recommend any changes to those standards to the State Board of Education.

All of this is meant to make sure Tennessee’s standards review process is as open, transparent and rigorous as possible – with a series of checks and steps, so we end up with the highest possible standards to ensure our students are ready for workforce and postsecondary opportunities, and our state is ready for the future.

Not only is this review process working, but it is quickly becoming a model for the nation.

Tennessee’s math and ELA standards were initially reviewed and evaluated by the public for six months resulting in 131,424 reviews and 20,344 comments – with the majority of feedback coming from Tennessee’s K-12 educators.

Next, the standards were intensively reviewed by educator advisory teams, composed of Tennessee classroom teachers and higher education professionals, who were charged with analyzing the public feedback collected from the website review and proposing any additional revisions to the math and ELA standards.

In June of this year, these educator teams began their review and revision work on the state’s 1,106 ELA and 930 math standards. The result of that intensive work is a draft of new Tennessee standards, which will now be further evaluated by both the Standards Recommendation Committee and the public.

Beginning this month and continuing through December, our Standards Recommendation Committee will meet once a month to review these newly drafted math and ELA standards.

During this time, the second public comment website, https://apps.tn.gov/tcas/, will also be opened. We encourage all Tennesseans, but especially our parents, to review the standards and offer feedback.  In addition, there will be regional meetings and roundtables with educators, parents, higher education community members, and other education stakeholders to make sure everyone is heard.

At the conclusion of this process, in January 2016, the Standards Recommendation Committee will present our recommendations on the new standards to the State Board of Education.

The staff and members of the State Board of Education will then review and consider our recommendations before final reading and adoption by the Board in April 2016 – with the new standards implemented in Tennessee’s classrooms during the 2017-2018 school year.

The overarching goal throughout this process is to ensure an open and public review process that will not only improve on Tennessee’s high education standards and make them even more meaningful and useful to teachers and students in the classroom, but also responsive to and broadly supported by Tennessee parents and the public.

A similar review process for K-12 standards in science is underway and you can already share comments on specific science standards at this link, https://apps.tn.gov/tcas/. Social studies will soon follow. 

Please join us in this important and public standards review process. Your voice is important. The future of our students and our state depends on getting this right. 

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Dr. Lyle Ailshie is the superintendent of the Kingsport City Schools and chairs Tennessee’s Standards Recommendation Committee; David Pickler is the President of the American Public Education Foundation as well as the President & CEO of Pickler Wealth Advisors in Memphis and serves as vice-chair of the Committee.