COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // APRIL 21, 2015

News You Can Use:

Times Picayune, “Common Core Opponents Lose First Fight in the Louisiana Legislature”: “The first Common Core battle of the Louisiana legislative session is over – and the anti-Common Core side lost,” the article reports. On Monday, Louisiana House members voted 61-36 to hold a bill that calls for getting rid of the Standards in the House Education Committee, where it will likely die. Rep. Brett Geymann, who sponsored the bill, initially tried to circumvent the House Education Committee saying parents “have lost faith in the process.” The Education Committee voted down similar efforts to abandon Common Core State Standards last year. Rep. Geymann said he will try other avenues to move forward the legislation. “We will try everything in the rule book.”

What It Means: Despite efforts to skirt the legislative process, lawmakers in Louisiana continue to back Common Core State Standards. The Republican-controlled legislature has repeatedly voted down bills seeking to abandon the state’s Common Core standards, adding to the list of states that have rejected such efforts. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt Common Core continue to use the standards or some similar version. As the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle has pointed out, one reason the Standards are so resilient is that “public policymakers intent on repealing Common Core invariably are confronted with the reality that the public fundamentally supports higher standards.”

Education Week, “Opting In to Standardized Testing”: In response to a recent New York Times article, Walt Gardner, a Los Angeles teacher and Education Week blogger, says that despite vocal opposition to standardized testing most parents “do not have the courage of their convictions” when their children are involved. Noting only about four to six percent of students refused exams last year, Gardner says, “Are these parents hypocrites? I say no…it’s only natural for parents to do what is best for their children. I’m not saying that taking standardized test should be equated with quality education. But I wonder why outspoken opponents of tests don’t follow through with their actions.” The piece concludes, “Instead, what they should be fighting for is not the elimination of standardized tests but their misuse.”

What It Means: Contrary to efforts to have students opt-out of assessments, most parents continue to have their children participate. Gardner argues that one reason many parents don’t follow through is that despite their frustration with over testing, they recognize that annual assessments are one of the best tools to gauge student development. Assessments that support Common Core State Standards provide parents and educators with constructive feedback so they can better address learning needs and ultimately devote less time to testing and test preparation.

Newark Star-Ledger, “N.J. Schools Need Standardized Testing, Panel Says”: To help parents make the determination of whether schools are good for their child, they need data about student performance across racial and economic subgroups, leaders from The Education Trust say. “Without common data, without data that tells us how young people in schools are doing across communities, we have no idea where we are on our chart to educational excellence for all kids,” said Ed Trust’s Sonja Brookins Santelises at a panel discussion Monday. “There have always been educational standards and outcome expectations,” added Harvey Kesselman, provost of Stockton University. “The ones we currently have now are far more defined than they have been in the past.” A study by Gov. Chris Christie this year found students may be over-tested, but suggested local tests rather than state exams are likely the problem.

What It Means: The panel’s message underscores what educators have long been saying: new high-quality assessments designed to support rigorous academic expectations provide an important resource to help parents and teachers measure student progress, and they do so better than the exams that states used before. Assessments ensure education standards prepare students for college or a career, and a recent Teach Plus study found 79% of teachers said PARCC exams are an improvement over the tests their states used before.

Albany Times Union, “Educational Testing Must Move into the 21st Century”: Disagreeing with New York teachers’ unions over calls to boycott state assessments, Rachel Gerson Rourke says policymakers “should listen to classroom educators before attempting to do away with one of the most important tools we use to ensure our students are learning.” “I have found testing is crucial to guide effective teaching,” Rourke says. “The data from the check-ups let me know where to focus my teaching (or re-teaching), and help my students know where they need to re-examine the information necessary for skill mastery.” Noting old assessments required students to memorize and regurgitate information, the piece says teaching has evolved with the focus on teaching 21-centurty skills. “The Common Core has created a platform for all students across our country to have unilateral expectations of skill mastery for each grade level…Twenty-first-century assessments that are aligned with the new, more rigorous standards, coupled with fair teacher evaluations that measure student growth, will help educators across the state become more effective.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are an important tool to ensure rigorous standards prepare students for college or a career. As Rourke points out, “Assessing is a necessary part of schooling – so that teachers and parents can understand how their students are progressing toward college- and career-readiness. But our tests must match the high expectations we’re setting for our students through the Common Core State Standards.”

Asbury Park Press, “Common Core Needed to Raise the Bar”: Noting there are many misconceptions of Common Core State Standards, Michael Dunlea, a second grade teacher and former Ocean County Teacher of the Year, writes, “Common Core aims to have students understand and experience deeper learning, not just memorizing concepts.” Using examples from his classroom, in which students “used primary sources, nonfiction, deep understanding” and “text-based reasons to support their thinking,” Dunlea says CCSS “will ensure that our children will continue to be prepared to compete.” “Common Standards that raise the bar for all students are going to benefit the children of New Jersey as they will lead ot even greater gains in learning.”

What It Means: Like Dunlea, teachers across the country remain strongly supportive of Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments, and are enthusiastic about implementation. A Scholastic study last fall found more than 8 in 10 teachers support implementation, and more than two-thirds of educators who have worked closely with Common Core say they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. Likewise, a recent Teach Plus survey found 79% of teachers say PARCC exams are better than those their states used previously.


 

Correcting the Record:

Breitbart News, “Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee among Those Mocking Common Core Opponents with Unicorns”: Common Core supporters that left stuffed unicorns for lawmakers with the message, “Unicorns aren’t real, and neither are most of the things you’ve read about Common Core,” are mocking parents and opponents of the “boondoggle education initiative,” the article asserts. “With no independent studies whatsoever under their belts to prove the Common Core standards are ‘higher’ or ‘more rigorous’ than other standards, the group of mainly establishment, anti-conservative politicians, and education elites continue the same talking points they have put forward for the past five years about their pet reform.” “Of course, what they list as myths are actually facts, and vice versa,” said Louisiana activist Anna Arthurs. “This action proves that supporters of ‘Unicorns’ only have stuffed animals to offer our legislators, while we bring actual facts and research to them.”

Where They Went Wrong: It’s hypocritical for opponents to criticize the Alliance for Better Classrooms’ campaign when so many of their arguments have largely relied on and perpetuated misleading and often flat-out false information. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and CATO Institute’s Neal McCluskey wrote last fall, debate over Common Core State Standards has been “marked by acrimony rather than analysis,” which has largely drowned out constructive dialogue. Efforts like the Unicorn campaign and the Collaborative’s fact checker website provide resources to help cut through the rhetoric and encourage honest discussion about the value of high, comparable education standards and how to improve implementation of the Common Core State Standards.


 

On Our Reading List:

Chalkbeat Tennessee, “Tennessee House Unanimously Approves Common Core Compromise”: On Monday, the Tennessee House voted unanimously to move forward with legislation that would add a panel approved by the legislature to vet the state’s Common Core standards, in addition to the review process initiated by Gov. Haslam last fall. The bill will go before the full Senate today, where it is expected to be approved as well, the article reports. Passage there will send the measure to Gov. Haslam for approval, who has signed off on the version sponsored by State Rep. Bill Spivery and State Sen. Mike Bell.

Associated Press, “Review of Missouri K-12 Learning Goals Further Strained”: A panel of parents and teachers tasked with reviewing Missouri’s education standards is so divided that members told the state board of education they plan to split into two groups. The group has been tasked with providing recommendations of whether to amend or replace the state’s Common Core standards. The process so far has been divisive, the article reports, with some members interested in referencing Common Core State Standards and other pushing to abandon those guidelines completely.

Las Vegas Review Journal, “Common Core Testing Resumes; Problems Persist”: Nevada officials offered public schools some breathing room on Monday from testing requirements. State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga sent a directive providing districts with the choice of continuing student assessments online or requesting paper and pencil copies of the tests. Erquiaga’s guidance also clarified that schools that make at least two attempts to complete tests but cannot because of technical problems or time constraints may apply for administrative relief from participation requirements. “We certainly don’t want to put students or teachers in a situation where they’re constantly trying to get into this test and getting frustrated and having a really bad testing experience,” said a spokesperson for the State Department of Education. “That’s really one of the primary purposes and important reasons to offer this administrative relief.”