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Common Core sparks flood of legislation

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KNOXVILLE (News Sentinel) - WASHINGTON - Stephen Colbert mocked it. Comedian Louis C.K. called it a "massive stress ball that hangs over the whole school." And lawmakers in state capitols spent countless hours over the past few months debating it.

Their target is the Common Core, a set of math and English language arts standards voluntarily adopted beginning four years ago by all but a handful of states. The standards define what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia initially signed onto the standards in both math and language arts (Minnesota adopted only the language arts standards), hoping to better prepare students for college and careers by the time they graduate from high school. Supporters say the Common Core encourages critical thinking and analytical skills, rather than rote memorization.

But in the past year, criticism over the Common Core has ramped up in state legislatures, school board meetings and classrooms. Critics from both the right and the left, including a very vocal tea party contingent, want to throw out the standards.

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