COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // JANUARY 13, 2015

News You Can Use:

NCEE, “Gene Wilhoit on the Common Core, Part 1”: In an interview about the development of CCSS, Gene Wilhoit, head of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), says the concept behind comparable state standards began 20 years ago but only became feasible in recent years as governors and business leaders pushed for stronger education standards. Wilhoit notes CCSSO took the lead to ensure the federal government wouldn’t, and at the time asked federal authorities to leave the initiative as a state agenda. There is “plenty of evidence that an overwhelming majority of teacher view these standards as superior to what they had before,” Wilhoit adds, but that enthusiasm must be met with public support to ensure their success. He adds the challenge is developing local curricula aligned to the Standards and strong assessments to ensure they are achieving their purpose.

What It Means: As Wilhoit points out, CCSS began as, and remain, a state-led effort. Across the country, teachers who have worked closely with the Standards strongly support them and believe they help students develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. In states that have fully implemented CCSS, teachers say they believe the rollout process is going well, and under the Standards states like Kentucky and Tennessee have seen some of the biggest academic gains in the country.

Business for Core: Parents wouldn’t wait years to follow up if a doctor told them their child had a health issue, yet that’s effectively what some are asking for by opposing regular student evaluations, a new video from the Chamber of Commerce points out. Tests are a necessary tool to help parents and teachers understand student progress and identify learning gaps before they are a problem, and should reflect a student’s true learning comprehension. Like a doctor updates his or her equipment, the video says, new assessments use the latest information to help build the critical thinking and reasoning abilities students need. Parents, teachers and students need high-quality tests aligned to high academic standards to ensure children develop the skills necessary to succeed in a competitive world.

What It Means: As the video points out, student assessments aligned to high standards are an important tool to identify student learning gaps and ensuring a child is on track to develop the skills needed to succeed in college or a career. CCSS-aligned tests provide more constructive feedback for parents and educators, so that schools can gradually begin to devote less time to testing and focus on classroom learning.

Salt Lake Tribune, “Governor’s Common Core Advisors Like the Controversial New Education Guidelines”: Two reports from the committee assigned with reviewing CCSS in Utah found the Standards to be “at least equal to and in many ways superior to the state’s previous grade-level benchmarks,” the article reports. If implemented properly, the committee found, CCSS will help prepare students for college-level coursework or a career. “We think, in the short term, yes, this is very much going to help students be more successful,” said Maureen Mathison, one of the committee members.

What It Means: The Utah committee’s findings reaffirm that the rigor of CCSS will help students achieve to higher levels of learning and better prepare them for college or a competitive job. One of the most conservative states in the country, Utah leaders dismissed the idea that CCSS are a federal intrusion into local control of education issues. The recent findings underscore the value of high standards to position students for success.

Tools for the Common Core, “When the Standards Algorithm Is the Only Algorithm Taught”: Addressing concerns CCSS could influence which problem-solving methods educators teach (“Standards shouldn’t dictate curriculum or pedagogy,” the article opens), Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers of Common Core math standards, writes that although the Standards encourage multiple approaches educators can still meet the benchmarks using only traditional techniques. “In short, the Common Core requires the standard algorithm; additional algorithms aren’t named, and they aren’t required,” Zimba notes. He adds additional mathematics, including a knowledge of algebraic functions and properties, are required. The piece corrects the common misconception that CCSS demand teachers introduce multiple algorithms to solve problems, and instead demonstrates how a teacher may choose to meet the standards by only teaching the standard algorithm. Zimba illustrates his point in this table, by annotating the progression of standards that leads to the standard algorithm with specific instructional decisions.

What It Means: In addition to traditional problem-solving methods, CCSS encourage multiple approaches to help students develop a better conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. By developing stronger fundamentals, CCSS help students develop the building blocks to reach higher levels of learning.

Asbury Park Press, “Give PARCC a Chance”: Although concerns over upcoming CCSS-aligned test are warranted, “it is too soon to completely pull the plug” on PARCC tests, the New Jersey-based editorial board writes. Concerns, the piece says, boil down to worries test scores will fall. “The goal of the new standards is to raise the academic bar, so it stands to reason that new tests will be tougher than their standardized predecessors in New Jersey. That, in itself, is nothing to fear; in fact it should be encouraged.” The editorial adds some opposition stems from a “simple reluctance to change,” which should stand in the way of holding students to higher expectations. It concludes, “The underlying goal of the Common Core standards isn’t unreasonable. We’re this far along; PARCC deserves a chance.”

What It MeansStrong, fair systems of assessments and accountability are important tools to help ensure high standards achieve their purpose of ensuring students are equipped to step into college-level work or a good job. As a Business for Core video highlights, assessments provide an honest evaluation of how well students are learning, and give parents the tools to ensure their schools are preparing their child for the challenges of a competitive environment.

 


 

On Our Reading List:

Politico Magazine, “Louisiana’s Common Core Debacle”: An expose on the rollout of CCSS in Louisiana, the article takes a close look at state superintendent John White’s role in the implementation of the Standards. Noting education reforms between 1990 and 2010 failed to budge the state’s poor education status, the Standards were initially met with broad bipartisan support. “The grand hope for the Common Core, adopted by the state board of education in 2010 and first introduced to schools in 2011, was that it wasn’t punitive or piecemeal, like many of the state’s earlier efforts. Instead, it was an ambitious and unambiguous road map outlining the skills and knowledge every student ought to have at the end of each year,” the article reports. It attributes early opposition to “reform fatigue,” which led many to seize on examples of confusing homework assignments and materials. At the same time, education and political commentators “were having no problem getting through” to parents with messages that CCSS were a federal intrusion into local education. Gov. Jindal then sued both the state and the Department of Education, a series of events White said made it more difficult to send a clear message to the state’s schools about the Standards. The article points out CCSS “is likely to stay, at least in some form” if parents are able to help determine textbooks and support from the business community stays strong, especially as other states like Oklahoma and South Carolina have struggled to come up with equally rigorous standards.

CNN, “Sec. Duncan Unveils Plan to Revamp No Child Left Behind”: In a speech Monday, Sec. Arne Duncan called for an overhaul of NCLB but emphasized the need to keep strong student assessments. Many outlets report the Department of Education’s position sets up a fight with Congressional Republicans about the appropriate level of testing and the role of federal government in education. In Monday’s speech, Sec. Duncan said he would like to start from scratch with a new bill that places greater focus on access to early education, increased resources for K-12 schools, and a reduction of duplicative tests.