COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // MARCH 16, 2015

News You Can Use:

Charleston Gazette, “Common Core Repeal Dies on Legislature’s Final Day”: A bill that sought to require the West Virginia Department of Education to repeal and replace CCSS, and that was later amended to require a two-year study of the Standards, died in the State House on the last day of the legislative session. The move adds West Virginia to a list of Republican-controlled states, including Arizona, North Dakota and South Dakota, that have rejected legislation to repeal CCSS. The recently concluded legislative session was the first time Republicans have controlled both the State Senate and House since the 1930s.

What It Means: West Virginia is the latest Red state in which efforts to repeal CCSS have failed. One reason why the Standards are so resilient is, as Mike Petrilli wrote recently, “It is impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.” States like South Carolina and Oklahoma show that repealing CCSS for political reasons puts students at a disadvantage and creates a bigger problem of developing equally strong standards. Conversely, states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters, have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country under the Standards.

Seattle Times, “Criticism of Common Core Is Misdirected”: Much of the criticism of CCSS has been misdirected, and opponents “should give the standards a chance to work before writing them off,” the ST editorial board says. “While opponents should analyze effective teaching and appropriate accountability measures, they should do their homework,” the piece states. “Common Core does not prescribe curriculum or means of implementation. School districts and teachers remain responsible for deciding what material to teach and how to teach it.” It adds that CCSS-aligned assessments “are an important tool for determining what student have learned and their skill levels, where they need to improve and how they rank among their peers.” “Standards serve as a blueprint, but the real work toward student achievement happens in the classroom. Instead of fighting the new standards, parents and educators should focus on helping students meet and exceed those standards.”

What It Means: CCSS set high, clear learning expectations for all students and ensure that local authorities remain in charge of how to achieve those goals. Sadly, opponents have spread myths and misleading information, which have largely drowned out constructive discussion about the value of high, comparable education standards. As the editorial board argues, efforts would be better directed by helping students adjust to and achieve the rigorous benchmarks set forth by CCSS instead of seeking to get rid of them before they’ve had a chance to work.

Arizona Daily Star, “Panel: Common Core Fight Is Politically Motivated”: Panelists at a forum in Tucson organized by the League of Women Voters said that legislative efforts to repeal CCSS are politically motivated and refuted claims that the Standards were imposed by federal authorities. “I would have loved to have had nationally common standards as I moved from state to state to help with the transition,” said Brittany Betterton, a teacher and child of a military family. “Politically there were some people who wanted to make the term Common Core a toxic term,” said Tucson Chamber of Commerce president Mike Varney, who added that it was a false premise that the federal government would tell schools what to teach.

What It Means: CCSS were developed to address huge discrepancies in learning goals between states and districts. By setting high academic expectations for all students, the Standards help to ensure that children have a path to develop the critical thinking and analytical skills to succeed at high levels of learning, and to ultimately capably step into college or a career. The panelists point out that much of the opposition to the Standards has been based on politicization and misleading information, which puts students at a disadvantage.

Daily News Journal, “Math Instruction Now Pushes to Teach Students about Concepts”: CCSS are helping students get beyond rote memorization and put a greater emphasis on “project based learning,” writes David Lockett, a Tennessee teacher. “Knowledge of real-world applications is what is likely to enhance student performance in STEM fields…Emphasizing conceptual understanding, procedural skills and application of mathematical concepts, the standards require that students master fewer topics but at a deeper level.” Lockett adds that the Standards link topics from grade to grade, creating a more comprehensible progression of learning. “While the results of the shift will be valuable, it will likely take a significant amount of time before we start to see the type of improvement in mathematics performance that these changes are aimed at providing.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional learning techniques, CCSS introduce students to multiple problem-solving methods, helping them to develop strong building blocks to reach higher levels of learning. According to a Scholastic study last year, more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, and more than 8 in 10 support implementation.

Grand Forks Herald, “Common Core: Is a Backlash Brewing?”: Despite “intense political debate in many states,” opposition to CCSS and related assessments “has been minor,” the article reports. “Statewide, fewer than 500 of the nearly 423,000 students eligible to take the ELA portion of state testing were opted out.” The article notes that CCSS English standards (Minnesota adopted only the ELA standards), “have a stronger focus on critical, more deeply analytical thinking. And more higher-level questions are being asked of students.” It adds that assessments help teachers identify learning needs so that they can be addressed earlier. Teachers also say they have seen greater student engagement. “You can almost see them vibrate as I am getting closer to them because they are so excited to read,” said one Minnesota elementary school teacher.

What It Means: Contrary to the narrative that students and parents are protesting CCSS and tests aligned to the Standards, most schools are moving forward with them – and seeing the benefits. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of CCSS, proficiency rates at most grade levels and college readiness rates have steadily increased. And teachers continue to strongly support implementation, and most who have worked closely with the Standards report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


 

Correcting the Record:

Think Progress, “Ted Cruz Makes Impassioned Plea for Repeal of Federal Legislation That Does Not Exist”: On Twitter, Sen. Ted Cruz criticized the federal role in CCSS and called for repeal of the Standards, even though participation is a state decision. “Common Core was developed by the states – and has been voluntarily adopted,” the article notes. “The federal government played no role in creating the standards, nor did it require that states adopt them.” It adds that Common Core “is not a curriculum but a set of standards” of what student should know at each grade level to graduate high school prepared for college or a career. “How kids get there is left to the schools and teachers.” The “federal Common Core law” Sen. Cruz invokes “doesn’t exist,” the article concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: Sen. Cruz argues for getting rid of CCSS through federal involvement – the very reason he criticizes the Standards. CCSS are not regulated by federal authorities, and they were developed free of any federal involvement. CCSS began as and remain a state-led effort, and after two national elections all but one of the 45 states to adopt the Standards continue to use them or some nearly identical version. Conservatives seem to be seeing through the myth that CCSS is a federal overreach; recent polling finds support for the Standards is one of the least controversial issues in the next election cycle.

Hechinger Report, “Common Core Will Lead to Misery, Not Higher Achievement”: In the latest in a series of letters between principals Carol Burris and Jayne Ellspermann, Burris says it is “simply not true” that CCSS are “clear, easy to understand and research-based.” “[CCSS] will not help us catch up with other nations,” Burris writes. “It is far easier for me to help a student catch up academically than it is to undo disaffection and alienation from being miserable at school…The Common Core was hastily imposed and never field-tested. Moreover, the standards were not developed by teachers, principals and superintendents in conjunction with our State Boards of Education…There was minimal educator or public engagement.” Burris adds, “I am convinced that the intent was for the Common Core to become national standards with student performance measured by two national tests.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS were developed by educators and experts from 48 states, and once written the Standards were made available for public review, during which parents and others submitted more than 10,000 comments. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them, or some nearly identical version. In most states, schools spent nearly five years preparing to teach to the Standards, and educators who have worked closely with CCSS strongly support implementation.

Inside Higher Ed, “Unfortunately, I Am Ready for the Common Core”: John Warner, a college educator, says he is well prepared for incoming students who have experienced CCSS because “there will be no appreciable difference between the CCSS generation of students, and those who matriculated under the previous accountability regime.” “As long as students are herded through standardized assessments such as the PARCC exam, they will continue to be ill-prepared for the first-year writing classroom.” Warner says, “The college writing classroom demands multiple drafts as part of a recursive process…This kind of thinking is simply not possible in a standardized test because it is not standardizable…Over twenty years of accountability-based reform has mostly served to demoralize teachers and students. There is no scenario under which CCSS is likely to be an improvement.”

Where They Went Wrong: Strong systems of accountability are necessary to let parents and teachers know that students are making progress, and to identify and address learning needs. CCSS-aligned assessments provide a more accurate, constructive measure of student ability. Like the Standards themselves, the assessments ask students to think critically and demonstrate content understanding. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and an overwhelming majority continue to support implementation.


 

On Our Reading List:

Daily Caller, “Common Core Is Dead in South Carolina…Or Is It?”: Last week the South Carolina State Board of Education adopted new education standards to replace CCSS in the next school year, but several observers note that the new standards closely resemble the Common Core. Analysis by the State’s Education Oversight Committee found that the new South Carolina College and Career-Ready Standards are 92% aligned with CCSS in math content and 89% aligned in English content. “The list of major changes is relatively short,” and the “changes are mostly in wording rather than content,” the article reports. Opponents say the changes do not go far enough and criticize state leaders, including State Superintendent Molly Spearman who ran on an anti-CCSS platform, for not being “ambitious” enough.

BuzzFeed, “Education Giant Pearson Monitors Students’ Social Media Accounts While Testing”: Test administrator Pearson has been monitoring students’ social media accounts during PARCC testing to ensure no one is cheating, the article reports. Pearson watches students’ social media accounts to ensure they do not post questions or answers from the exams. A spokesperson for Pearson told the Washington Post that the “security of a test is critical to ensure fairness for all students and teachers and to ensure that the results of any assessment are trustworthy and valid…when test questions or elements are posted publicly to the Internet, we are obligated to alter PARCC states.”

New York Times, “Bush Says He Has ‘Backbone’ on the Common Core”: During a visit to New Hampshire over the weekend, former Gov. Jeb Bush defended his support of CCSS saying, “you don’t abandon your core beliefs” because a position appears unpopular. “I think you need to be genuine, I think you need to have a backbone. I think you need to be able to persuade people this is a national crisis, this is a national priority,” Gov. Bush said. Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post that some pundits have labeled Gov. Bush as a “fragile” front-runner in part because of his support for CCSS, but polling suggests the issue is not a deal breaker and Gov. Bush has clarified, not backed down, from his position.

Associated Press, “Walker Draws Scrutiny from GOP Rivals for Changing Positions”: Also visiting New Hampshire over the weekend, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker refuted claims he has flip-flopped on a number of issues, including CCSS. Gov. Walker reiterated “his staunch opposition to Common Core.” “The only major issue out there is immigration, and we listened to the people,” Gov. Walker said. “the other ones out there are just ridiculous.” “It’s lazy and inaccurate to simply lump all issues into one narrative instead of actually examining the facts,” a spokesperson added.

CBS News, “Will Bobby Jindal’s Kids Take Common Core Test?”: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said his kids will take PARCC exams this year. “As it stands now the kids will take it,” Gov. Jindal told the News Star. Gov. Jindal has sought to repeal CCSS in Louisiana. “Common Core started as voluntary state-led standards. I’m still for that. But it was bait and switch. Now if states want waivers from No Child Left Behind or other funding from the federal government they have to participate,” Gov. Jindal has said before.

Denver Post, “Bill on Test Panel Recommendations Introduced Friday”: The Colorado Senate introduced a bill on Friday that would prevent school districts from requiring schools to give high school juniors or seniors any state tests and that would allow parents to request their child take state test with pencil and paper instead of online. The bill, SB 215, is based on recommendations from a committee tasked with reviewing the state’s education standards and testing practices.

SeaCoastOnline.com, “Debate Continues over Common Core in N.H. Legislature”: On Thursday, the New Hampshire House approved a bill that would prohibit the state board of education from requiring schools to implement CCSS. One of the bill’s sponsors said it was not directed specifically at CCSS, but was intended to reaffirm that schools will be required to demonstrate proficiency no matter what standards they use. “Curriculum is a local decision, and students will still have to take the assessments and demonstrate proficiency,” said state Rep. Rick Ladd, a former teacher. Bill Duncan, a member of the board of education, said, “With virtually every classroom and district using Common Core and having been implementing it for the past four to five years, this undercuts all that effort with a  vote of no confidence.”