COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // APRIL 16, 2015

News You Can Use:

Associated Press, “Pro-Common Core Group Makes Its Pitch with Unicorns”: Unicorns aren’t real and neither are most of the things you’ve read about Common Core, the Alliance for Better Classrooms is telling lawmakers in Louisiana. On Wednesday, the group left that message along with stuffed unicorns and resources about what Common Core State Standards are on lawmakers’ desks. The group’s website provides a list of popular myths about the standards, examples of the standards, and additional information about their development and role in classrooms. “Common Core State Standards are a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade,” the site says. “In Louisiana, and every other state that has adopted Common Core State Standards, the standards define what our kids should learn. How it gets taught is entirely up to local school districts and individual teachers.”

What It Means: Educators and experts have raised concern that opposition to the Common Core State Standards has been based largely off misleading and inaccurate information, which has drowned out constructive discussion about the merits of rigorous academic expectations. The Alliance for Better Classrooms’ campaign addresses these myths and helps to correct the record for a more honest debate at a time when Gov. Jindal and others have routinely distorted the facts. For even more mythbusting information, visit The Collaborative’s fact checker website at www.thecommoncore.com.

Education Week, “Universities in Six States Agree to Smarter Balanced Definition of ‘College Ready’”: Nearly 200 colleges and universities in six states have agreed to let students use scores on new Smarter Balanced assessments to skip remedial coursework. The announcement Wednesday “marks a major development in the consortium’s bid to convince higher education to accept the ‘college-ready’ cut score on its 11th grade test for course-placement purposes,” the article reports. The list includes 101 schools in California, 49 in Washington, 24 in Oregon, 10 in Hawaii, 7 in Delaware, and 6 in South Dakota. “This is a major endorsement of the standards themselves and of the assessment as an accurate measure of those standards,” said Jacqueline King, director of higher education collaboration for Smarter Balanced. PARCC has enlisted similar commitments, including 2 colleges in Colorado and community colleges in Illinois. How widespread acceptance of the assessments becomes is a pivotal question with a potentially huge impact, the article adds. “Large-scale acceptance of the tests’ college-readiness cut scores would suggest that colleges and universities agree with the consortia’s most central assumption: that scoring at those levels means that a student is ready for credit-bearing college work.”

What It Means: More states’ adoption of the Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments is a validation of their rigor and demonstrates an improvement over states’ previous exams. A Teach Plus survey found that 79% of teachers found PARCC exams to be superior to those their states used before. The new assessments, coupled with the higher standards laid out by the Common Core, will help ensure more students graduate high school prepared for college or a career, and help reduce the need remediation needs for students entering colleges or universities.

Preschool Matters, “What Is Developmentally Appropriate Math?”: Criticisms that Common Core math standards are “developmentally inappropriate” for young children too often function as a “Rorschach test for whatever a person wants to see or argue against,” writes Douglas Clements, a pre-K and kindergarten teacher and executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. “However, much of the mathematical thinking that some people say ‘cannot be done’ until age 7 (or whatever) can be learned by children – most children – in high-quality environments.” The piece notes that close inspection of common concerns, like those about place values, reveals “little reason to worry.” These concepts are “challenging but (for vast majority of children) achievable understandings.” “One might still argue that the CCSS-M goals are inappropriate for some group of children,” the piece says. “But this will be true of any set of standards that pose a worthwhile challenge to them. And our children deserve that challenge.”

What It Means: Many critics have employed the term “developmentally inappropriate” to paint Common Core learning goals for early grades as too challenging for young students. However, as Clements notes, the standards emphasize content that most children are able to comprehend with proper support and which help them establish the building blocks to move onto higher level learning. As the piece notes, the challenges do not mean that we should “allow children starting at lower levels to stay behind others. That would relegate them to a trajectory of failure.”


 

Correcting the Record:

National Review, “Study: Common Core Barely Improves Student Performance, If It’s a Boost at All”: Evidence of the Common Core’s effectiveness “has been hard to come by” and “mixed at best,” reports Jason Richwine. The article references a new working paper study by the American Institute for Research that indicates Common Core may be responsible for marginal test score improvements “in the range of 0.01 to 0.04.” “The higher end of the range reflects the (questionable) assumption that Common Core’s adoption led to a ‘preparation effect’ – test score gains made after the standards were legally adopted but before they were implemented in the classroom,” the article reports. “And if factors aside from Common Core affected test scores – Kentucky made other education-policy changes around the same time – the gains could be even smaller, meaning basically zero.” Richwine acknowledges that the transition to Common Core State Standards “does not seem to have hurt Kentucky students,” which is “not an insignificant finding, given the dire predictions made by some opponents.” He concludes, “Both points illustrate that the state of knowledge on the standards is not nearly where it should be to justify such a swift and sweeping policy change.”

Where They Went Wrong: While modest, the improvements in Kentucky and other early adopters of CCSS indicate that the standards are having a positive effect on student outcomes. “The numbers show, without a doubt, that we are making progress,” Kentucky’s Education Commissioner Terry Holiday said last year. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote in February, “Standards matter if for no other reason than they provide fuel and focus to efforts to improve curriculum and instruction,” and early improvements in states like Kentucky indicate they are having a positive effect.


 

On Our Reading List:

New Hampshire Journal, “Conservative Bennett Voices New Pro-Common Core Ad”: In a radio ad now running in New Hampshire, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett urges conservatives to support CCSS. “These sound academic standards are worth fighting for,” Sec. Bennett says in the spot. “Let’s go back to the original, conservative understanding of Common Core.” The ads, sponsored by the Collaborative, will run in the first-in-the-nation state over the next week. “Common Core is still an emerging subject line on the political stump here in New Hampshire, and Common Core supporters are not backing down from supporting it with this new ad buy,” the article reports. “The ad is the first of what we expect will be a longer, more sustained effort to clearly define what the Common Core State Standards are, and to make the case that these Standards are critically important for preparing kids for success in college and career.”

Wall Street Journal, “N.J. Says Number of Students Who Opted Out of Tests ‘Very Low’”: Officials at the New Jersey Department of Education said on Wednesday that the number of students opting out of state assessments this spring was “very low” in elementary grades. Preliminary tallies show in schools with grades 3-8, the average “parental refusal” rate was 4.6%, the article reports. The highest concentration of opt-outs came in 11th grade, where the combined refusal rate for ELA and Algebra II was 14.5%. Some high school students said they skipped the tests because they didn’t count towards graduation.

Associated Press, “Common Core Repeal Approved by Alabama Senate Committee”: The Alabama Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs voted 5-3 on Wednesday to approve a bill introduced by Sen. Rusty Glover that would repeal the Common Core State Standards. State Superintendent Tommy Bice said the bill would jeopardize Alabama’s waiver from NCLB – but the legislation may have a hard time reaching the Senate floor. “I’m not hearing a groundswell of support from my caucus for this to be on the calendar,” said Sen. Del Marsh, president pro tempore. “The school board is elected, and they drive the policies for the state’s schools.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “PARCC May Dump Its Two-Part Common Core Tests and Combine Them into One Shorter Round”: PARCC officials told the Ohio Senate Testing Advisory Committee on Wednesday that they are working to combine the mid-year and end-of-year portions of their exams. Jeff Nellhaus, chief of assessment for PARCC, said the move is in response to concerns from parents and educators about the time devoted to the two rounds of testing. “We’re seriously looking at this,” Nellhaus said. “This isn’t a bunch of happy talk. We have heard what you all are saying.”

Columbus Dispatch, “Ohio House Plan to Nix PARCC Tests Risks Loss of $750 Million in Fed Money”: Republican leaders in the Ohio House placed language in the two-year budget plan to ban the use of PARCC assessments and to cut off money to pay for them, which could jeopardize $750 million in federal funding. The House version of the state’s two-year budget prohibits the use of state funds to purchase the tests, cuts $33.6 million per year for assessments, and prevents the Department of Education from reallocating other money to pay for the exams. “We’re trying to send a message that is pretty clear: We need to look at different testing mechanism for the state,” said House Finance Chairman Rep. Ryan Smith. “It is the responsibility of states to ensure that all students are assessed annually because it gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education.