COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // MARCH 31, 2015

News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “La. Court Tosses Out Jindal-Backed Lawsuit to Kill Common Core”: On Monday, a Baton Rouge judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and a group of state legislators that argued adoption of CCSS violated due diligence laws. In a statement Gov. Jindal said he is “disappointed” by the decision, but that “we are also still fighting Common Core in federal court.” The case alleged that the BESE did not comply with public notice and legislative oversight requirements. The judge noted that state law allowed two years to file such complaints, but this case was filed five years after CCSS were adopted. “Today’s ruling should be a reminder there is no legal basis, and no academic basis, for an extremist plan to politicize the classrooms of our state,” State Superintendent John White said.

What It Means: Monday’s decision further underscores the political theater that Gov. Jindal has made out of the state’s education standards – at the expense of students. Like Gov. Jindal’s previous efforts to unilaterally repeal CCSS – which another state judge said did “irreparable harm” to the state’s schools – this latest lawsuit underscores the myths peddled by opponents of the rigorous standards. These efforts would be much better directed at building on CCSS further and improving student outcomes instead of creating greater uncertainty for students and teachers.

Arizona Daily Star, “State Senate Kills Effort to Kill Common Core”: On Monday, the Arizona State Senate voted to kill legislation that would have required the state board of education to scrap the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. The vote is “something of a loss for state schools chief Diane Douglas, who was elected largely on a commitment to kill the standards,” the article says. Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey asked the board of education to review, but not repeal, the Standards. “I don’t think that legislation’s necessary because we’re going to fix what’s wrong,” Gov. Ducey said. “As the public weighs in around the state, I still believe it will create sufficient momentum for the board to have to improve the standards,” Douglas said in a statement.

What It Means: Arizona lawmakers’ decision to keep using standards built on the baseline set by CCSS adds to the collection of conservative states that continue to stick with the Common Core, and reaffirms Arizona’s commitment to rigorous, comparable standards. After nearly five years and two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them, or some similar version. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle have pointed out, one reason is “it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core,” and “fundamentally, the public supports higher education standards and increased accountability.”

Columbus Dispatch, “Opting Out Is Not a Solution”: Challenges presented by new assessments aligned to higher standards “do not justify undermining the statewide effort to fix underperforming schools, nor risk sending the message to kids that when presented with something difficult, they should sit out,” the editorial board writes. “Children are feeling stress about the tests because adults – parents, teachers and people in news stories – are saying, directly or indirectly, that they should.” The piece applauds state lawmakers’ reaction, which includes creating an advisory committee to review PARCC exams. “But some legislators are using concern about testing to push a populist agenda that calls for repealing the Common Core content standards and the tests that go with them. That would be an ill-advised rejection,” it adds. “The standards and tests should not be cast aside wholesale, with nothing credible to replace them.”

What It Means: The editorial board raises important questions about what parents hope to gain for the children, the costs and the message that will be sent by opting students out of assessments. Strong systems of accountability that support high standards are critical to monitoring student progress and to addressing learning needs before they become problematic. Assessments aligned with the higher standards provide educators with more constructive data to help better inform instruction and allow them to adjusting to the multiple learning styles of their students.

Albany Times Union, “Testing Opt-Out a Mistake”: Encouraging parents to opt their children out of assessments is the “latest assault” on CCSS, the editorial board writes. “We have long agreed that the state Department of Education made many mistakes in its rollout of the new, tougher standards. But we agree with Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who called this opting-out of tests movement a terrible mistake.” The New York State Assembly is considering a bill that would require the state to notify parents of their option to refuse tests. “Why wouldn’t parents want to know whether their children are on the path to a successful education, or how they are performing compared with other students?” the article asks. It concludes, “Legislators should leave the task of setting standards for evaluating teachers and students to…the Board of Regents,” and “legislators should get their facts straight.”

What It Means: Strong assessments are a critical tool to ensure that student outcomes are improving, and to help parents and educators identify and address student learning needs. Exams that support high standards test deeper content understanding, which provides a more accurate measure of students’ progress and allows educators to tailor their instruction to the different learning styles of students.

Education Week, “Doing Math vs. Understanding Math”: Noting that CCSS call for a key instructional shift that puts “dual emphasis on conceptual understanding and procedural fluency,” David Ginsburg says the difference is important. “Research suggest[s] that once students have memorized and practiced procedures that they do not understand, they have less motivation to understand their meaning and reasoning behind them.” “The lesson here for us as math educators is that we need to shift the emphasis from answer-getting to the problem-solving process,” Ginsburg says. “We also need to model for students – and encourage them to pursue – multiple solution strategies rather than prescribe a standards procedure…We need to help students understand math rather than just do math.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional math learning techniques, like memorization, CCSS introduce students to multiple problem-solving methods that are intended to create deeper conceptual understanding. As Ginsburg points out, the combination of both is important to help students develop a strong grasp of numbers and math functions necessary to succeed at high levels of learning.


 

Correcting the Record:

New York Daily News, “State Teachers’ Union Chief Calls for Common Core Testing Boycott”: On Monday, Karen Magee, head of the New York State United Teachers, said assessments that support CCSS are “not valid indicators of student progress,” and called for a boycott of the exams. “I would urge parents at this point in time to opt out of testing,” Magee argued on an upstate public radio program. State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch disagreed, saying the assessments “provide an important source of objective information.” “It’s time to stop making noise to protect the adults and start peaking up for the students,” Tisch said.

Where They Went Wrong: Assessments provide parents and teachers with important information about student progress so they can identify and address learning needs. The Standards ask more of students – and the aligned assessments provide more accurate and constructive information about student progress to ensure that more students are on track to graduate high school prepared for college or a career.


 

On Our Reading List:

The Advocate, “LSU Survey Finds Common Core Views Formed by Partisan Rhetoric”: Louisiana adults seem to be getting their “facts” about CCSS from partisan rhetoric and basing their opinion largely on their political persuasion, according to a study by Louisiana State University released today. The poll also found strong support for the principles of CCSS when not associated with the term “Common Core.” “People like the idea behind the program, but the phrase has become politically toxic,” said Michael Henderson, research director for the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.

National Journal, “Is Common Core Working? Early Report Gives Very Qualified ‘Yes’”: Even though most states have only been implementing CCSS for a few years, the articles say the findings from a recent Brookings Institute study, which showed “slight upticks in both reading and math scores” in schools using CCSS, “could suggest a trend in the right direction.” It cautions, “we’re still not really sure what the long-term impact will be,” but adds that such research “sets up comparisons for the future.”

Ed Source, “In California, Opposition to Common Core Relatively Minimal”: In contrast to other parts of the country, in California CCSS “have experienced considerable support and little overt opposition,” the article reports. In a study conducted by Ed Source of six California school districts, superintendents of each said that opposition has been minor. “I’m not hearing opposition to the standards,” said Elise Darwish, chief academic officer for the Aspire Charter School Network. “If anything, I’m hearing, ‘I want to get better at them.’”

Washington Post, “Students Continue to Fail Math Final Exams in Montgomery High Schools”: Montgomery County high school students failed their most recent final math exams at rates similar to previous semesters, indicating there has been “little progress in boosting scores,” the article reports. “The poor results continue to raise question in the high-performing district about math learning, grading policies and the value of the tests.”