COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // MARCH 16, 2015

News You Can Use:

Times Picayune, “99 Percent of Louisiana Students Take Common Core Tests on Monday”: State Superintendent John White reported that about 99 percent of Louisiana students took exams aligned to CCSS on Monday as they were administered in the state for the first time. Calling the participation an “unqualified success,” White said, “Today’s assessment gives preliminary indications that concerns about widespread non-participation did not bear out.” Concerns had circulated for weeks about opt-out movements, but the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education put off voting on a measure to ensure that school performance scores weren’t affected by boycotts until they have complete data. CCSS-aligned testing will continue in the state through the end of the week.

What It Means: Contrary to the narrative that momentum to opt-out of CCSS-aligned tests is growing, Louisiana has seen that most students are participating in the assessments – including Governor Jindal’s children. Strong systems of accountability are an important tool for parents and teachers to ensure student progress and address learning needs. CCSS-aligned tests provide more constructive, accurate measures of student achievement and can actually help schools to gradually scale back time devoted to testing and test prep.

Times Picayune, “Old Math vs. Common Core Math: See How It’s Done”: Looking at best practice math techniques encouraged by CCSS and that have been in existence in high-performing schools for decades, the article says students are “now deeply focused on a few topics instead of broadly on many topics.” The article includes a comparison of the state’s former fourth grade expectations with the Common Core Standards. The article also highlights fluency exercises from one of the state’s chosen math curricula, such as classroom “sprints” and activities that have students clap their hands and stomp their feet to help learn counting.

What It Means: Despite opponent’s claims, there is no “new math.” In addition to traditional techniques, CCSS introduce students to multiple problem solving methods to help develop stronger conceptual understanding and building blocks to reach higher levels of learning. Objective analysis finds that CCSS math standards are more rigorous than 39 states’ former math standards, and more than two thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills.


 

Correcting the Record:

New Hampshire Union Leader, “False Hope: Common Core Isn’t Going Away Soon”: Although the State House of Representatives voted to allow districts to choose their standards, “Washington has other ideas,” the editorial says. The Standards are tied to assessments, it says, which the state is required to administer. “The penalty would be a loss of federal education funding for Manchester and the state…This is a problem for New Hampshire’s federal delegation and governor to address. But will they?”

Where They Went Wrong: Since No Child Left Behind was passed into law in 2001, states have been required to measure student performance through a single statewide exam – like K-PREP in Kentucky or MCAS in Massachusetts. New Hampshire, like every state, picked which assessments it would use – not Washington – and will only be subject to a loss of federal funds for failure to administer a single, statewide exam aligned to New Hampshire’s current standards. The editorial confuses federal law with Common Core – New Hampshire voluntarily adopted CCSS and has simply reasserted existing local control.

Fox News, “Spying on Students? Education Publisher Pearson Monitoring Social Media Activity”: Pearson, which administers PARCC assessments, revealed the company has monitored social media accounts to prevent against cheating during testing and reported findings to states’ Departments of Education. “We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity and integrity of the test results,” a spokesperson said. Some parents have called for a delay in assessments. “These revelations speak to the general lack of transparency around the PARCC tests, the lack of an open, deliberative process, and the exclusion of parents and other community members from any decision-making,” said a member of Save Our Schools NJ.

Where They Went Wrong: It is unacceptable for any corporation to infringe upon student privacy. However, it is important to ensure that no student has an unfair advantage over their classmates. Pearson and others are using publicly available data to ensure that students are not sharing actual test questions on social media – the equivalent of keeping students from photocopying the test and passing it out in the hallway. As Scott Norton of the CCSSO said, “It is up to each state to make sure it has the necessary protocols and processes in place to keep its statewide assessment secure.”


 

On Our Reading List:

US News & World Report, “Shifting from Learning to Read to Reading to Learn”: Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio says two big problems exist with “test-driven accountability schemes” in early grades: assessments “don’t test what we think they do,” and by the time they diagnose reading difficulties,“it’s incredibly hard for schools and teachers to help pull kids out of the spiral of reading failure that began years ago. “A reading comprehension test is a de facto test of background knowledge and vocabulary acquired in school and out. It doesn’t take very many missing bits of background knowledge and vocabulary to rob a reading passage of its meaning,” Pondiscio writes. “What if we focused testing and accountability on the part of reading – decoding – that really is a skill?”

Associated Press, “Montana Lawmakers Consider Repealing Common Core Standards”: On Monday, State Rep. Debra Lamm presented a bill in the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee that would remove CCSS and prevent the Department of Public Instruction from setting accreditation standards. The article notes that, if approved, the move would undermine a supreme court ruling against transferring any supervisory duties away from the board. The measure passed out of the State House last month by a vote of 54-46. The Great Falls Tribune reports that division over CCSS within the state has left little room for compromise. “Teachers are amazed by what students are learning because we raised the bar,” said State Superintendent Denise Juneau. “This is an exciting time for education in our state.”

Arizona Daily Star, “Douglas Backs Allowing Common Core Alternatives”: Arizona State Superintendent Diane Douglas backed legislation (HB 2180) to allow school districts to choose which tests to use, including those aligned with CCSS. “A one-size-fits-all approach to state testing is not the best way to truly measure student success,” Douglas said in a statement on Monday. Rep. Paul Boyer, who introduced the bill, said it was created to ensure that states could use assessments aligned to CCSS, like the AzMERIT test, even if the board of education is directed to come up with alternatives.

Wall Street Journal, “Jeb Bush Makes First Big Visit to South Carolina”: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will travel to South Carolina today for a two-day visit. His trip comes barely a week after the state board of education adopted new education standards to replace CCSS, which Bush supports. The article notes that Gov. Bush will take questions from the audience during his stops, so he is likely to get asked about CCSS. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will travel through the state on Thursday.