TN Teacher Voices: Tennessee Standards Essential for Classroom Success

This article appeared on December 15th 2014 on and in the Knoxville News Sentinel 

As a middle school teacher, I base every decision on the following question: What is best for my students?

Every time I have found the answer to be simple and clear when viewed from the students’ perspective.

As Tennessee moves forward with higher standards and aligned assessments, those steps illuminate the best education for our students.

Recently, state Sens. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Mike Bell, R-Riceville, proposed new legislation that would reverse the substantial progress Tennessee education has made since 2010, when the Tennessee state standards (also known as Common Core State Standards) were implemented.

Students are already demonstrating the effects of higher standards in my science classroom, where they can identify specific evidence from their data or a scientific article to substantiate their conclusions.

Tennessee students have made progress across the nation as the fastest improving on the 2013 Nation’s Report Card and with meaningful gains on the 2014 composite ACT.

The Tennessee standards are essential for continued rigor in the classroom and continued improvement as compared to other states.

Our Tennessee standards were adopted in 2010 based on feedback from Tennessee teachers and the Tennessee Department of Education. The proposed legislation by Gresham and Bell would re-create this already completed process, requiring additional time from educators and more financial resources to redo the work.

Through his education standards review process, Gov. Bill Haslam created advisory and revision committees made up of Tennessee educational leaders from across the state to review the current Tennessee standards. These teams represent some of our brightest educators who are committed to educational excellence. If the advisory and revision teams are already in place and comprised of exceptional Tennessee educators, why should we create new ones?

At the center of this most important work are our students. They are already meeting our higher expectations and will continue to expect more from us as educators. If we change our course now, and expect less or pause the standards revision process, our students will suffer the most.

We have only 13 years in grades K-12 to ensure the best educational program for our students, and students will suffer through decreased achievement if we have future adjustments or lapses in standards. It is simply not fair to them.

During this holiday season, consider the idea of wrapping all your gifts, only to then unwrap and rewrap them with new paper. You still get wrapped gifts but will have wasted a lot of time and money in the process. Is it worth it when you could be focusing on other gift adornments and completing holiday tasks?

Our educational future in Tennessee is in danger of being repackaged in a less effective manner than already in place. Let’s move forward on what is best for our students and allow educators to focus on implementing the current standards to continue improving student achievement in Tennessee.

Are you a teacher? Have you published something in the news recently? If so email us and let us know, we’d love to republish your work here, so long as its positive and solutions oriented. Contact us at [email protected]

About the Author: Cathy Ginel is a seventh-grade science teacher at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge and is a Knoxville resident. The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) selected her for the inaugural class of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship. She is on Twitter as @CathyGinel.

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