COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE, AUGUST 26, 2015

News You Can Use:

The Seventy Four, “New York Principal: Make No Mistake, Common Core Is Raising the Bar in My District”: Kim Hardwick, principal at Long Island’s Clayton Huey Elementary School, writes that “Common Core is working” in her district largely because teachers are being properly supported and taking ownership of curriculum development. “We kept the emphasis on day-to-day instruction and chose not to focus on the annual assessments,” Hardwick says. “The best way to excel at those tests is to create an environment where critical thinking and problem solving are front and center, and where learning is prioritized above memorization…If teacher-designed assessments are aligned to higher standards, our community has an accurate measure of student performance.” Noting that high-quality schools don’t “prep” for tests, but rather teach to consistent learning goals, Hardwick says New York’s exams “emphasize problem solving and critical thinking, which are simply not conducive to rote memorization.”

What It Means
: Hardwick makes a strong point that, when coupled with high-quality assessments, Common Core State Standards are empowering educators to better prepare students for high levels of learning. She makes clear that tests are not only one tool that teachers and parents use to measure student development, but one that informs instruction and helps to address learning needs. Assessments that hold students to the high expectations set forth by Common Core State Standards reduce pressures to “teach to the test,” allowing teachers to focus on building strong content understanding over rote memorization.

Military Times, “Common Core Coming to DoD Schools”: Officials at the Department of Defense Education Activity, which oversees the 181 schools worldwide operated by the military, have begun to implement Common Core State Standards, a process that will continue over the next five years. “It’s a deliberate attempt to do it over a period of time, properly resourced, with professional development and supplies and instructional material to make it happen,” Thomas Brady, director of the school system, said Tuesday. Noting a lot of misperceptions exist about the Standards, like that they are driven by federal authorities, Brady added, “The standards are rigorous. They’re based on 21st century learning standards. They are a very positive thing for our students. It’s a great step forward.” DoDEA began using the Common Core 18 months ago, and within a year DoDEA officials will choose assessments aligned to the standards. “Accountability is critical, assessments are critical, but implementation is going to be reasoned and good for the system,” Brady explained.

What It Means
: As retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks wrote last year, “Disparities in what is expected of students puts a strain on military families…Common Core Standards address these problems by establishing clear benchmarks to ensure that once a student completes a grade, he or she is prepared for the next.” High, consistent education standards are particularly important for military families – who move on average once every two to three years – to ensure students do not fall behind or have to sit through material they already learned. Evidence suggests that Common Core State Standards are already working in DoDEA schools where they’ve been implemented. Despite 45 percent of students qualifying as low-income, DoDEA students performed better on the latest national tests than their counterparts in public schools on average.

Philadelphia Tribune, “Common Core Math Helps Students of Color Achieve”: While techniques encouraged by Common Core math standards may be unfamiliar to most adults, they represent developments in “understanding of what matters most in math instruction,” writes Center for American Progress’ Max Marchitello. “When I was teaching in North Philadelphia, I saw firsthand the difference between what most students learn in math class, and what is expected of them when they reach college or start a job,” Marchitello says. Most entered college “only to discover they had not been taught the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed. “For my students, and millions like them, Common Core math means college-readiness, it means a college-degree, and it means a good job.” The piece notes Common Core math standards emphasize conceptual understanding over memorization. “In other words, they learn the how and why of math, not just the tricks and shortcuts.” Noting that the standards are supported by research, Machitello concludes, “Common Core math adds up to improved critical thinking and problem solving for students, and greater likelihood of success after high school.”

What It Means
: Common Core State Standards aim to ensure that more students of all backgrounds are held to expectations that fully prepare them for higher levels of learning, and ultimately to graduate high school ready for college or a career. In addition to traditional math techniques, like standard algorithms and memorization, Common Core math introduces students to multiple problem-solving methods to help build stronger conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. By helping students develop a stronger foundation in early grades, the standards help ensure they will be able to succeed at higher level content.


 

Correcting the Record:

Huffington Post, “Warning: Has Educational Accountability Become a Political Pawn?”: Rob Furman, an elementary school principal and author, writes that as schools are held to a “moving target,” school accountability has become a “political weapon.” “The nation wanted the educational system to be held accountable for the education of all students,” Furman says, but “randomly decided” proficiency scores make it difficult for teachers to achieve them. “We want to set our students up to succeed not fail. Our students have achieved the goal for which they were told was a measure of success and now we must inform them that that just was not the case.” Furman pins the “demise of public education” on leaders with no experience in public education, Common Core State Standards and tougher scores that “make [schools] look as if they haven’t improved.” Furman concludes, “When did our kids’ education become just another political talking point? Are we willing to destroy public education to win elections?”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Furman’s assertion that states’ adoption of higher standards and tougher assessments is an arbitrary change that sets up students and teachers to fail, it is a necessary transition to hold students to levels that adequately prepare them for college and careers. As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, for a long time states lowered the bar for students by watering down expectations and inflating proficiency measures, giving parents and educators a dishonest picture of how well students were really doing. By implementing Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments, states are finally giving a truthful representation of student development, ensuring students can get the support they need to get on and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness.

Daily Chronicle, “Another View: Common Core Not Based around Kids”: Targeting presidential candidates supportive of Common Core State Standards, the editorial says the standards are the latest “attempt to force a common curriculum” on schools. “Rather than supporting national standards that reward schools that do the best job of turning out test-takers, how about studying how children really learn, and then get out of the way so teachers can teach?” The piece adds that by back-mapping what students should be able to achieve at each grade level, the standards “require skills and knowledge that do not match how young children think, learn and develop.” “The standards devalue ‘the whole child and the importance of social-emotional development.’” “Common standards might sound good in a stump speech, but treating students as individuals and allowing teachers to do what they’ve trained to do offers the chance for better results.”

Where They Went Wrong
: Common Core State Standards provide a clear roadmap for what students should reasonably be able to accomplish to succeed at higher levels of learning and ultimately graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. Contrary to the editorial’s claim, the standards do not discount teachers’ involvement. By setting high learning goals and maintaining full control over curriculum for teachers and local educators, the standards create greater flexibility and creativity in the classroom. A Scholastic study last year found more than eight in 10 teachers who worked closely with Common Core were enthusiastic about implementation, and more than two-thirds reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


 

On Our Reading List:

US News & World Report, “Make School Mean Something”: American Enterprise Institute’s Nat Malkus and Max Eden write that watered-down classroom expectations and low proficiency definitions have undermined efforts to improve student outcomes. “The Common Core and other next generation ‘College- and Career-Ready’ learning standards, and new tests aligned to them were designed to cut against this trend – to actually raise our standards. They still hold promise to do so, but if these efforts are watered down in the face of public pressure, they may prove to be the biggest edu-participation trophy yet,” the piece states. “At this point, whether it will work is up to the individual states.”

EdSource, “Report: Educators Seek More Clarity on Implementing Common Core”: A new report by the Sacramento-based research group EdInsights finds that most California teachers, policymakers and district leaders believe Common Core State Standards will help create more college- and career-ready high school graduates, but educators also want more clarity on how to better implement them. “This research outlines policymakers’ and educators’ hopes for how the [Common Core] can support improvements in students’ college and career readiness, and it provides early evidence about both similarities and disconnects between those expectations and implementation activities in high schools and districts,” the report states. “We also wanted to show how we can improve Common Core going forward,” said Andrea Venezia, a coauthor of the report.

Associated Press, “California Lawmakers Send Governor Exit-Exam Reprieve”: California Gov. Jerry Brown says he plans to sign a bill passed by state lawmakers exempting about 5,000 high school students who couldn’t graduate this year because the state cancelled a required exit exam. The State Department of Education allowed a contract with the company that provides the test to expire expecting lawmakers to pass legislation suspending the test since the state adopted Common Core State Standards. Without the change, students who did not take the exit exam may not have been able to enroll in college.