COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // APRIL 1, 2015

News You Can Use:

Education Week, “States Should ‘Stay the Course’ on Common Core”: Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, and John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, write: “Those who are proposing changes to the development and implementation of college- and career-ready educational standards like the Common Core State Standards must take into consideration merit, outcomes, and the severe cost of inaction on behalf of those students who will ultimately be left behind.” Noting that high standards are “devalued when they become a tool for political pundits,” the authors highlight the higher education community’s support for CCSS, including more than 300 college presidents who have joined the Higher Ed for Higher Standards coalition and a recent rally in Tennessee with all the state’s community college presidents. The letter points out that 75% of students in two-year colleges and about 50% of those in less-selective four-year universities require remediation. “We would ask [lawmakers] to focus less on labels and more on the substance of standards,” Zimpher and Morgan conclude. “Lawmakers should think carefully before derailing educational standards that are working.”

What It Means: Like elementary and secondary educators, the higher education community strongly supports CCSS and high-quality assessments. In states like Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, college and university leaders have called for using Common Core-aligned assessments for college placement. As Zimpher and Morgan emphasize, lawmakers should put student preparedness ahead of political considerations.

Real Clear Education, “Common Core = Common Language No Matter Where You Live”: For students in rural parts of the country, “a common set of standards based on college and career readiness,” are an important tool to create greater education equity, writes Loretta Labrador, a teacher in Molokai, Hawaii – where the college attendance rate is 45% and unemployment is nearly 14%. “Living in a rural community, I value the opportunity to have my children and students exposed to the same rigor that students across the country are working toward,” Labrador says. “[CCSS] is the avenue for students from rural communities to position themselves on the national playing field alongside their other suburban and urban peers. Having a common set of standards – standards that are more rigorous and that encourage our students to be better thinkers – means parents and educators can feel confident about how we are preparing children for college and careers.” CCSS, Labrador says, allow for greater collaboration among teachers from across the country to help unlock students’ potential, and teachers are now “digging in to better understand the standards and help develop curriculum.” “Common Core supplies equitable access to a quality education for all of our students and gives all of our educations common ground to discuss and grow.”

What It Means: By setting high, comparable academic expectations, CCSS allow educators to collaborate across state lines to better help students develop their full potential. As Labrador notes, CCSS give students and teachers in rural areas the same educational opportunities as their peers across the country, and help to ensure that more students in these areas will graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career.

Daily Caller, “People Like Common Core, as Long as It Isn’t Called That”: A poll conducted by Louisiana State University found strong public support for the principles of CCSS – high, comparable education standards – but that many have an aversion to the term “Common Core.” 67% of adults were supportive of a generic description of the Standards and only 27% were opposed, but only 39% were supportive and 51% were opposed when the Common Core label was attached. The shift was even more pronounced among Republicans; 71% support shared multistate standards, but only 27% have the same view when called Common Core. “People like the idea,” said Michael Henderson, research director of the polling lab. “But the phrase [CCSS] has become politically toxic.” The poll also found confusion among respondents about what the Standards entail.

What It Means: The poll underscores that the public strongly supports rigorous, comparable education standards, but that targeted attacks – largely based on misleading information – have damaged perceptions of Common Core as a brand. As experts across the board have pointed out, policymakers should put student preparedness ahead of political agendas. One reason that CCSS have held strong in most states is that parents fundamentally support rigorous standards and high-quality assessments that ensure more students will graduate high school prepared for college or a career.

Educators for High Standards, “Teachers Testify to Keep Common Core in New Hampshire Classrooms”: Pam Harland and Angie Miller, two New Hampshire educators, testified recently before the state House Education Committee to urge lawmakers to oppose a bill that would prohibit implementation of CCSS. Calling the state’s previous standards “outdated teaching” and “useless learning,” Harland says CCSS has helped students achieve better understanding through “out-of-the-box” activities and greater collaboration. “Our teachers are making assessments that require students to actually understand and use the material. Comprehension is no longer an optional component of learning.” Miller adds, CCSS “gave me control over content in my classroom; they provided clear language to communicate with students and parents; and for the first time, we had standards that introduced research-based practices like writing across the curriculum.” Miller says that the Standards are not a threat to local control and do not dictate curricula. She concludes, “We should have equally high standards for every single student, regardless of background.”

What It Means: Harland’s and Miller’s testimony reflects the strong support for CCSS among educators. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards report an improvement in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills, and more than eight in 10 support implementation. As the teachers point out, holding all students to rigorous standards will ensure more students graduate high school with the skills to succeed in college or a career.


 

Correcting the Record:

Las Vegas Review Journal, “Nevadans Deserve Better Options than Common Core”: Christina Leventis and Joy Pullmann write, “If Common Core is so intellectually healthy for Nevada’s children, then why does it require constant promoting and defending?” Calling it a “miracle of biblical proportions” that 45 states voluntarily signed onto CCSS, the authors say Nevada’s superintendent adopted the Standards “without the knowledge or approval of Nevada’s legislature – which means without the knowledge or approval of the people of Nevada.” The piece says that supporters are “cheering for cut-and-paste students,” and that “evidence does not favor Common Core.” “Common Core’s intricate, edubabble commands reward children for sitting silent and motionless while filling out reams of worksheets to plod toward their someday career. The standards demand endless, mindless ‘cold reads’ of disconnected reading selections, and hair-tearing, inefficient and ineffective methods for learning basic math procedures.” The piece adds, “If our nation’s leaders truly wanted ‘first-class standards,’…then why don’t we adopt our nation’s highest-rated standards, from Massachusetts?” It concludes, “[Common Core] is academically mediocre, socially manipulative and politically illegitimate.”

Where They Went Wrong: Leventis and Pullmann resort to many of the same distortions to portray CCSS as a big government effort to usurp local control of education and impose inferior standards on schools. In fact, CCSS and the high-quality assessments that support them mark a vast improvement over the standards and tests that states used before. Even Massachusetts, which the authors suggest should set the bar for standards, voluntarily adopted the Common Core. Nearly eight in ten teachers say high-quality assessments that test to the Standards are better than those their states used before, and more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical abilities.


 

On Our Reading List:

Quartz, “How Common Core Is Killing the Textbook”: Contrary to expectations that CCSS would position publishers to easily market new materials to broad markets, the Standards “may be rushing what many now see as the inevitable disappearance of the textbook” and “an increasing number of districts across the country” are now rejecting textbooks or workbooks for some classes. Experts note that it takes time to write high-quality textbooks, and “others have been more nimble than the old publishing giants” to supply schools’ needs. “In many places, teachers are putting their own curriculum together or schools and districts are doing the work,” the article notes.

CNBC, “Common Core Political Fight Heats Up”: Differences among likely Republican presidential candidates have “virtually assured that Common Core will be an important topic of debate ahead of voting in November.” “It will be a major issue because of its symbolic importance,” says Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution. “It’s the red meat for the kinds of conservative activists that a number of the contenders on the Republican side want to appeal to.” While most debate has been among Republicans, “there’s a chance Democrats join the fray,” the article notes. “While it’s clear that Common Core will be a political fight, it may not last through the entire election.”