COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE, AUGUST 21, 2015

News You Can Use:

Fox News, “Common Core Is Here to Stay”: Even while the label “Common Core” may rile some activists, most parents and conservative voters continue to support high education standards and increased school accountability – the principles Common Core State Standards are built on, writes Republican former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. “The framework laid by the Common Core is here to stay, even as states mold it and make it their own,” Gov. Brewer says. “The next step toward improving student performance will come this fall when states release results from the first year of tests aligned to higher standards. This, too, is an area where Republicans should be able to agree.” Noting tougher tests are a “necessary step to provide parents and teachers with better information about how well students are really doing,” the piece says setting a new baseline is a starting point to begin improving student performance. “Implementation of meaningful student assessments will be challenging…But it is a necessary step to ensure our students are empowered to meet their full potential.”

What It Means: After two national elections and years of targeted attacks, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt Common Core State Standards continue to use them or a very similar set of education standards. This year most states administered assessments that hold students to these higher standards, which as Gov. Brewer points out, is a necessary step to provide parents and teachers with better information about student readiness. By raising the bar to levels that reflect college- and career-readiness, the new exams will give parents an honest evaluation of how well prepared their child is and help teachers identify and address learning needs.

US News & World Report, “Common Core Doesn’t Kill Creativity”: Contrary to “doomsayers,” Lisette Partelow, a former teacher and director of teacher policy at the Center for American Progress, says claims that Common Core State Standards “somehow inhibit teacher creativity” are plainly false. “Common Core was designed to be less prescriptive than many states’ previous standards,” Partelow writes. “Like the rules or regulations that provide direction to other professions, rigorous standards provide a loose guide for teachers to follow, while still allowing teachers ample room for creativity in how they develop and execute their daily lessons. Partelow provides several examples of creative lesson plans designed to meet Common Core Standards, including one from Erica Mariola, a 2015 Fisherman Prize winner. “A standard is a guideline for what you teach, not how you teach it,” Mariola explains. “It’s the floor, not the ceiling.” The piece concludes, “Those who claim Common Core is stifling creativity are revealing nothing but the narrowness of their own imagination.”

What It Means: By setting clear learning goals and giving educators full control of how best to achieve them, Common Core State Standards empower teachers’ flexibility and creativity in the classroom. As Tricia Ebner, a middle school teacher in Ohio, put it, “[Common Core] gives me a great deal of freedom and allows me to be creative. I can tailor what we do to my students’ needs and strengths.” Such freedom in the classroom explains in part why teachers continue to strongly support implementation of Common Core Standards. According to a Scholastic study last fall, more than 80 percent of teachers who worked closely with the standards were enthusiastic about implementation, and more than two-thirds saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

USA Today, “Test Opt-Outs Teach Kids Wrong Lesson”: The movement to opt-out students from standardized testing, even in cases where parents are well-intentioned, undermine the tools to give parents and teachers necessary information about student development, the editorial board writes. “Like them or not, the tests are the most objective measures of student progress and school performance. They shouldn’t be dumped by individual parents in political protest,” the piece states. Noting some of the momentum has been driven by educators adverse to tying test results to evaluations, it adds, “Do teachers really want to return to the days when many teacher evaluation systems were shams and even the worst teachers were seldom fired?…You have to wonder what will happen when these kids grow up and face college and workplace competition…If [parents] opt for public education, they can work within the system to improve testing or change the law. But flouting the rules teaches everyone, including their own children, the wrong lessons.”

What It Means: Assessments are one of the strongest tools parents and educators have to measure a student’s progress, and the new high-quality exams administered in most states for the first time this year provide better guidance about how well students are really developing the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed at higher levels of learning. Leading civil rights organizations oppose opting out on the grounds that, “These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.”  As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, after years of lowering the bar, most states have taken steps to provide accurate information about student readiness. Opt-out efforts impede these gains and ultimately put parents and educators in a worse position when it comes to helping students.

Huffington Post, “Common Core In a Little Town in Arkansas”: De Queen Elementary, a small school in southwestern Arkansas whose student body is made up of two-thirds English learners, is among the top performing schools in the state. The reason, Karin Chenoweth of the Education Trust writes, is “dynamic educators who believe their kids are just as capable of learning to high levels as any other kid.” “For me the reason Common Core is more powerful and will be positive for our kids is the emphasis on argumentative writing,” one teacher explained in 2013. “The shift to an argumentative way of thinking creates more analytical, critical thinking…our kids are analyzing and probing and discussing the text rather than just being inside a little box.” Asked again this week if she still support the standards, she said, “I’m still a big supporter. Our kids are smart; they deserve good standards.”

What It Means: The example of De Queen Elementary underscores the impact Common Core State Standards are having in classrooms and educators’ continued support. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of the Common Core, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country, including steady gains in proficiency rates and college-readiness scores. A Scholastic study last year found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. By setting high, clear learning goals and giving local teachers control over how to reach them, Common Core Standards ensure more students will graduate high school college- and career-ready.

Chalkbeat New York, “Elia Says Supporting Opt-Outs ‘Unethical,’ Vows to Keep Pushing Feds for Waiver”: On Thursday, New York’s education commissioner MaryEllen Elia chastised teachers who encourage parents and students to opt-out of state tests. “I think opt-out is something that is not reasonable,” Elia said. “I am absolutely shocked if, and I don’t know that this happened, but if any educators supported and encouraged opt-outs. I think it’s unethical.” Numbers released last week indicate about one in five students statewide declined to participate in state assessments this spring. At the same time, Elia defended teachers and criticized federal officials for not making more exceptions for students with disabilities and English learners. “We can’t look at making the teacher the scapegoat for problems that may have existed in bureaucracies we have to fix.”

What It Means: To see their children succeed at high levels of learning, parents and teachers need honest information about how they are developing fundamental skills. For a long time, states dumbed-down assessments to paint a rosier picture of classroom achievement, often misleading families about how well prepared their children really were. This year most states took the difficult step of administering high-quality exams that measure students against levels that reflect what they need to know and be able to do to stay on a path of college- and career-readiness. The civil rights community is opposed to opting out of tests because, “[W]e cannot fix what we cannot measure.  And abolishing the tests or sabotaging the validity of their results only makes it harder to identify and fix the deep-seated problems in our schools.” The opt-out movement undermines efforts to give parents better information about how their children’s readiness and impedes teachers’ ability to address learning needs.


 

Correcting the Record:

Christian Post, “Common Core Report Card: Opposition Groups Rank Presidential Candidates”: On Wednesday, the group American Principles in Action issued a report card grading Republican presidential candidates’ positions on Common Core State Standards. “As the Common Core gathered speed, parents and policymakers started to realize the significance of the attendant policy and academic changes,” the report notes. “Within a few years, the pushback became a national movement.” The release gives grades from A- to F, with Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz receiving the highest marks for opposing the standards, and Govs. John Kasich and Jeb Bush the lowest for their support. “Governor Kasich continues to be an ardent supporter of the Common Core Standards – one who hook, line, and sinker accepts the false talking points of Common Core developers, owners and funders,” the report states. “Bush uses the phrase ‘high standards’ to paint a false picture of the Common Core Standards.” At the same time it applauds Sen. Cruz for having “consistently called for the repeal of the Common Core Standards and for the return of educational control to the state and local level,” and Sen. Paul for having “condemned the Common Core Standards as ‘anti-American propaganda’.”

Where They Went Wrong: The American Principles in Action ignores that most conservatives see past the rhetoric and embrace rigorous education standards and honest assessments. Instead of repeal, states have launched reviews to refine and build on the standards further, exactly as they were designed. One reason policymakers continue to implement the Common Core, as Karen Nussle wrote recently, is that it is impossible to draft college- and career-ready standards that look nothing like Common Core Standards because the Common Core employs the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to succeed at high levels of learning. As states now undertake the difficult task of raising classroom expectations, they are equipping parents and teachers with better information to ensure more students graduate fully prepared for college and careers.


 

On Our Reading List:

Washington Post, “Bush and Kasich Pass Education Test While Their Rivals Flunk”: Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, writing on the New Hampshire education summit this week, says the problem for Republican presidential candidates who pander on Common Core “is that their arguments generally make no sense or are self-contradictory.” Rubin identifies several “intellectual cul-de-sacs” some politicians have fallen into: “How can you brag about the progress you’ve made with Common Core and then declare it hasn’t worked?…They worship at the altar of local control, but then acknowledge, as in Newark, they had to take over schools that were doing a miserable job…They profess to be courageous, but yet when parents and students can’t present accurate, verifiable complaints the pols nevertheless lose heart and dump Common Core, blaming the feds for their troubles.”

Wisconsin State Journal, “One of Scott Walker’s Educational Role Models Doesn’t Agree with Him on Everything”: After Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker identified Howard Fuller, a professor and former district superintendent, as an education policy expert he admires, Fuller made it known he doesn’t agree with Gov. Walker’s opposition to Common Core State Standards. “I support the Common Core,” Fuller said as part of a tweet. “It’s kind of a weird position because I’m not trying to be negative toward Scott Walker,” He added when speaking with reporters. “I’m just making sure that everybody’s clear what my position is…It’s clearly not the position that the governor has.”