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Knoxville Regional
Transportation Planning Organization

400 Main St, Suite 403
Knoxville, TN 37902

email: contact@planeasttn.org
phone: (865) 215-2500
fax: (865) 215-2068

PlanET Perspectives:

Why East Tennessee Should Support Common Core State Standards


By Robert Myers
Human Resources Manager, Alcoa Tennessee Operations
Posted 08/14/2013

The bright vision we are building for the future of East Tennessee depends upon a vibrant economy. A strong economy provides good jobs for the people who live here. To attract the kind of jobs that pay well, our region must have a qualified workforce. Increasingly, a qualified workforce is made up of people who have received more than a high school education.

As we work to support economic development, we must throw our support behind the Common Core State Standards, a set of higher academic expectations that will help to prepare our students for college and careers.

If you haven’t heard of these standards, here’s a bit of background. The Common Core State Standards spell out the expectations for what every student should know about math and English at the end of every grade. The Common Core State Standards were created at the direction of leaders from states, including Tennessee, and they are based on the best practices of high-achieving schools across the United States and around the world. The standards have been adopted by 46 states, including Tennessee, which is really important now that the competition for jobs is a global race.

In the wake of the Great Recession, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed American job and education requirements in the year 2020. A headline in the report, Recovery: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2020, sums up its findings, “Jobs will return, but not everyone will be ready for them.” Some 55 million job openings will appear over the next seven years, but 65 percent of them will require education and training after high school. Our state has some catching up to do. Only about 16 percent of Tennessee’s high school graduates of 2012 were completely ready for postsecondary education, according to ACT results.

The Common Core State Standards emphasize learning real world skills, the kind that we use nearly every day on the job, whether that job is on the assembly line or in the sales force. Schools are using the standards to develop lessons that teach students to think critically, reason, and make informed decisions; communicate clearly in speaking and writing; learn, develop, and apply new skill sets; and develop solutions for problems.

PlanET’s Livability Score Card contains the statistics that illustrate why East Tennessee needs the Common Core State Standards:

  • A large portion of the region’s workforce, 30 percent, has no post-secondary education. That’s why the region’s jobs are low-skill and low-paying and why job growth is projected to be concentrated in low-skill fields.
  • Employment rates differ greatly based on much education an adult has. Workers with lower levels of education are more likely to be unemployed.
  • Many workers in these lower-skill jobs have little chance to advance because of their limited education and reluctance by employers to invest in job training.

In Tennessee, elementary and middle schools began using the Common Core State Standards over the past two years. High schools are beginning to use them as students return to class in August. To get ready for the transition, Tennessee has trained more than 30,000 educators in how to put these standards to use in the classroom.

The standards tell them what students should know, but our East Tennessee school leaders and teachers still decide what textbooks to use and build their own lesson plans.

While our educators work so hard to prepare students for the future, community and business leaders should stand solidly behind them and the Common Core State Standards.

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Copyright 2013 by Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission