Academic standards shape teaching in classrooms across the state of Tennessee. From Memphis to Mountain City, a uniform set of academic expectations ensures our students are learning the same rigorous content across the state to prepare them for post-secondary success.

As a former eighth-grade teacher, the state academic standards allowed me to concentrate on what I was doing in the classroom each day with my students. I wasn’t left wondering what my students learned in prior grades and whether or not they were prepared for my class. I didn’t need to ask myself if I was covering the content that would prepare them for the next level. Instead, I was able to simply focus on teaching. The standards shaped the direction of my lessons and allowed for coherence across the school year. Strong aligned standards ensure students gain the skills needed to be successful in future classes.

Throughout the course of a school year, teachers interact with the Tennessee academic standards on a daily basis. To help their students master the standards, teachers create, implement, and adapt their lesson plans, projects, homework assignments, and classroom assessments. Teachers tailor instruction to the needs of the students in their classroom with the academic standards as the overarching goal. They have direct insight into what is working well for student learning and growth and what needs to be adjusted.

What some teachers and other Tennesseans may not know is how the state board sets academic standards. In fact, the academic standards review process laid out in law requires a thorough, transparent review of all academic subjects at least every six years, with input from educators and community members from across the state serving a key role in this review process. Sharing their valuable knowledge on the standards, teachers provide some of the most meaningful feedback for the review and revision process.

Over the next few weeks, the Tennessee State Board of Education (SBE) is inviting the public to provide feedback and comments on the state’s K-12 math academic standards. Members of the public can provide their feedback through noon on December 6, 2019. After the public comment period closes, an advisory team made up of Tennessee public school and university educators will create a draft of recommended math academic standards. The Educator Advisory Teams will consider all public comments and feedback collected through the survey as they review each standard line by line. Revisions proposed by the Educator Advisory Teams will be reviewed by another committee to ensure vertical alignment across the K-12 continuum and that the standards are clear and actionable for all teachers and students. Before the standards are approved by the state board, the Standards Recommendation Committee will conduct a thorough review. Members of this committee are selected by the governor, speaker of the House of Representatives, and the speaker of the Senate. 

The SBE is undertaking the revision of math academic standards at this time in order to align the math standards review process with the math textbook adoption cycle. After the state board approves math standards on final reading late next year, the state Textbook and Instructional Materials Commission will recommend a list of aligned educational resources. School districts will then adopt materials from the commission’s list. Revised math standards will go into effect for the 2022-23 school year along with aligned instructional materials.

To learn more about the academic standards review process and provide direct feedback, please visit the State Board of Education’s website.

Catherine Johnson is policy coordinator for the Tennessee State Board of Education.