Rewind to November 2013.
Tennessee students and educators were celebrating as Governor Bill Haslam announced that Tennessee had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of any state, making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation.
Results also showed that Tennessee had the largest growth of any state in a testing cycle since NAEP started nationwide a decade ago. In addition, the report showed very strong growth for African-American students, and the state saw gains in overall results while significantly increasing the participation of special education students on the test.
Tennessee has also seen three years of continuous growth on its state assessments, known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), with more than 91,000 students on grade level in math since 2010. Haslam has cited the tougher Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with the hard work of students and teachers, when noting Tennessee's rapid improvement in national test scores.
But all of these achievements and Governor Haslam’s support of staying the course with continued implementation of the standards have failed to take the air out of Common Core critics’ sails.
Fast forward to April 16 of this year, when Tennessee House members approved a conference committee report implementing a one-year delay in the testing of Tennessee's Common Core. Tennessee is not the only state originally adopting the CCSS who has experienced backlash and politically charged movements against the standards.
Opponents have concerns about the security of student information or fear that local districts will lose their autonomy. Some oppose the CCSS because of the cost of implementing assessments aligned to the standards or the emphasis on the assessments, and consequences for teachers whose students don’t perform well on the assessments. Others hold the belief that the CCSS just won’t make any difference in the achievement of students.
These certainly are turbulent times on the standards and assessments seas, making it tough sailing for educators who know that students need essential knowledge and skills to compete in an increasingly global environment. Educators recognize that the CCSS and aligned assessments emphasize the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for college-and-career readiness. They know the standards emphasize teaching for conceptual understanding, fluency with basic facts, and procedures to connect important math topics across grades that form the foundation for more advanced mathematics – all recommended by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) in order to prepare a domestic workforce of adequate scale with top-level skills.
Students from the U.S. have traditionally not fared well on international assessments, as noted in our mathematical literacy blog post. But educators are confident that the implementation of the standards, which mirror those of countries who do perform well on international assessments, will bring our students to a higher level of achievement internationally.
Given time to implement curriculum, instruction, and assessments aligned to the CCSS will result in what Schoenfeld (1995) refers to as mathematics as the new literacy…”It should no longer be accepted that a rigorous mathematics education is for the few who will be engineers or scientists, but rather an essential educational foundation for all students in obtaining mathematical literacy.”