COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE, MAY 26, 2015

News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “A Poster Child for Common Core”: Ahead of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote, “Common Core decriers need a reality check.” Rubin says Oklahoma, which voted last year to repeal the standards, is a “perfect case where the anti-Common Core crowd wreaked havoc.” Oklahoma ranked near the bottom of most states. “The effort to raise standards was a recognition that the status quo was unacceptable,” Rubin says. “But then the anti-Common Core crowd descended… politicians crumbled, and Oklahoma withdrew Common Core in 2014 before it was implemented deciding to revert to Oklahoma’s own pathetic standards.” Rubin concludes, “Here’s the bottom line: If activists who are anti-Common Core want to pull out of a program their own state helped create, fine. But then they have an obligation to replace it with something at least as good, and if not, why should taxpayers from other states subsidize rotten schools run by people who flinch in the face of uniformed protests?”

What It Means: As Rubin points out, states like Oklahoma and South Carolina that caved to activists and voted to repeal Common Core risk putting their states’ students at a disadvantage and creating “chaos” in classrooms. One reason, as Mike Petrilli wrote last December, is that “it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.” By contrast, states like Kentucky and Tennessee, early Common Core adopters and high-quality assessments, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

New York Times, “The Importance of Play as a Learning Tool”: In response to a recent article by David Kohn, David Liben of Vermont, who provided input to the development of Common Core, says the standards do not reduce children’s playtime. “It is important to understand that the early literacy skills called for by the standards (like knowing the alphabet) can and should be accomplished through joyful, playful rhymes, songs and physical games. Indeed, the standards define what children should learn, not how to teach it… I’ve been lucky enough to work with teachers and visit lots of classrooms with young kids, and I have seen with my own eyes that standards-based education can be joyful, innovative and inspiring. It would be a shame to discount the Common Core State Standards because of a misinterpretation about its compatibility with play.”

What It Means: The Common Core sets high learning goals and gives educators and local authorities full control about how to meet them. For many teachers, the greater collaboration across subjects has introduced the opportunity to use physical activity to bolster learning. Eric Slifstein and Kim Hardwick, two Long Island teachers, explained that dynamic in action, saying, “By creating better continuity across states, districts and even classrooms, the Common Core is helping educators to share best practices and ideas to unlock students’ full potential. Gone are the days of teaching in silos.”

Eugene Register Guard, “Common Core Standards = Success in Math”: Madeline Ahearn, a K-12 math administrator for the Eugene School District in Oregon, and Dev Sinha, an associate professor at the University of Oregon, write that Common Core State Standards introduce greater focus and progression of learning to help students succeed in math. “The Common Core Standards put fewer topics at each grade level so there is more time for students to develop a depth of understanding and to gain the ability to apply it,” the piece notes. “Additionally, the standards are put together coherently, so they reinforce one another as a student moves from one grade to the next. To promote student engagement and long-term learning, the standards call for more integrated learning and emphasize meaningful application as much as knowing mathematical procedures.” The authors cite one rural Oregon school where 90 percent of students met grade level expectations, compared to the average of 55 percent. “The Common Core will not be fully implemented overnight, or even in one or two years…As people who support teachers in this transition, we ask that parents and our community be open to change in how we teach mathematics.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional learning techniques, the Common Core introduces multiple problem-solving methods to help students develop a strong conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. By cultivating stronger fundamental understanding, the standards set up more students to ultimately graduate high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college or a career.

Education Writers Association, “From the Classroom: Teachers Talk Common Core”: Amid the “political noise” surrounding the Common Core and related assessments, teacher and ground-level voices have largely been drowned out, the article reports. And overwhelmingly, those experiences have been positive. “It’s about getting [students] to become critical thinkers on their own,” says Merlinda Maldonado, a sixth-grade teacher in Denver. Noting the standards set a floor for where students should be, Kristy Straley, a New Mexico teacher says, “Common Core has definitely led to a path where we collaborate because we have to.” The teachers point out that misperceptions have conflated the standards with assessments, and trying to untangle them in the public eye is challenging. Still, they agree it is a “productive struggle” and that the standards are helping to empower children to become critical thinkers.

What It Means: Despite concerted attacks, educators remain overwhelmingly supportive of the Common Core. As the article reports, the standards put a greater emphasis on understanding and students’ ability to explain their reasoning, helping to develop stronger analytical skills. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

NPR Atlanta, “State Superintendent: Ga. Won’t Require ‘Funny Math Methods’”: Georgia State Superintendent Richard Wood wrote recently that students could struggle to learn if teachers use “funny math methods,” but that under Common Core those decisions are left to local teachers and education boards. Teachers can still choose how to teach; they don’t have to use one particular method, the article notes. “I guess what some people refer to as the Common Core methodology or the lattice and some of these other methods, we do not require that at the state,” Woods says, adding that the State Department of Education is working to better communicate that to schools and parents.

What It Means: Common Core ensures what is taught in classrooms, and how it’s taught, is a decision left to teachers and local school boards. While the standards encourage multiple problem-solving techniques to develop strong conceptual understanding, teachers have full discretion over what methods they use in the classroom to meet student learning needs. By setting a high bar, and giving teachers full control of how to reach it, the Common Core ensures more students will develop the skills to succeed at higher levels of learning, and ultimately to graduate high school prepared for college or a career.


 

Correcting the Record:

WND, “Crimes Perpetrated against Your Children”: Phyllis Schlafly, an outspoken Common Core critic, writes that “the new attempt to federalize what schools teach” is part of a broader “socialist” plan to “undermine the U.S. capitalist system” and “get rid of high literacy and independent intelligence.” Summarizing a new book by Samuel Blumenfield that argues education systems discourage literacy, Schlafly calls the Common Core “an educational fraud.” “Instead of reading the literary classics, Common Core students are given portions from tiresome government documents and technical manuals instead of great literature.” Schlafly says the word “crimes” is “not too strong a word to describe what the progressives have done to America and our children.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Schlafly’s claims, Common Core State Standards set high learning goals and put a greater emphasis on non-fiction texts, in addition to traditional literature, to ensure students develop the skills to succeed at higher levels of learning. According to a Scholastic poll last fall, more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the standards reported an improvement in their students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities, and more than eight in 10 were enthusiastic about implementation. Similarly, a Teach Plus study this year found 79% of teacher participants said new high-quality assessments are better than those their states used before.


 

On Our Reading List:

New Orleans Advocate, “Brett Geymann’s Persistence Helps Shape Common Core Accord During Legislative Session”: Louisiana State Rep. Brett Geymann, who has been an outspoken opponent of the Common Core, has played a key role in facilitating the state’s legislative compromise over the standards. Rep. Geymann says the bills “have laid the groundwork for an open process, for everybody to be involved and for us to be able to vet these issues that are causing all the controversy.”

EdReports.org, “Statement in Response to NCTM and NCSM’s Public Criticism of EdReports.org”: Addressing criticism by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, EdReports writes: “One of EdReport.org’s defining principles is to be adaptive to the needs of the field. As such, we continue to make refinements as we evaluate the alignment and usability of instructional materials to the Common Core… EdReport.org’s goal is for districts and educators to use our reviews to complement their own professional judgment and educator experience, so the more analysis we can provide, the better…That said, our ratings system sends a clear signal to the field about the primacy and importance of focus and coherence in instructional materials.”