COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // MAY 4, 2015

News You Can Use:

Daily Caller, “Teachers Poll: Make No Mistake, Common Core Produces Critical Thinkers”: A recent poll of Arkansas teachers finds most participants believe the state’s Common Core standards are working and should remain in place. Two-thirds of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the Common Core State Standards, and 61% said they would keep the standards, compared with 37% who would like to have them replaced. A full 92% said Common Core State Standards were more rigorous than the state’s old standards. “While it may be tempting to attribute teachers’ support for Common Core to them being rather liberal, that may not be a satisfactory explanation,” reports Blake Neff. “Of the teachers polled, 43 percent described themselves as Republicans and only 22 percent self-identified as Democrats.”

What It Means: The Arkansas poll adds to mounting evidence demonstrating strong support for Common Core from educators and the public, even among Republicans, which conventional wisdom once said would lead efforts to repeal the standards. As the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle wrote last month, confronted with overwhelming public support for high education standards and greater accountability, legislative repeal efforts have fizzled in at least a dozen states, two-thirds of which have Republican-controlled legislatures and governor’s offices. A Scholastic poll last year found more than eight in 10 teachers who work closely with Common Core State Standards support implementation, and a Teach Plus study this spring found 79% of teacher participants said assessments designed to test to the increased rigor of Common Core are better than those their states used before.

Associated Press, “High Participation in Colorado for Tests”: Despite calls from some lawmakers and activists, many of Colorado’s school districts unofficially reported high participation rates in the state’s student assessments. Estimates gauged student participation at 95% in Aurora, 96% in De Beque, 99% in Eagle, and 98% in Kit Carson, the article reports. “A kid isn’t going to be harmed by taking the tests,” said Cheryl Serrano, superintendent for Fountain-Fort Caron School District. “We’ve been doing assessments for 50 years. Why is it now so different?” Some superintendents expected opt-out numbers to rise because parents are more aware of the option, but state legislator Mike Johnson, a former principal, said high participation rates are in line with what’s been the case for years in Colorado.

What It Means: Despite efforts to undermine rigorous academic expectations by encouraging the boycott of assessments, most parents and students are “opting in.” Strong student assessments are one of the best tools educators and parents have to measure their children’s development and to identify and address learning needs. Exams designed to test to more challenging benchmarks laid out by Common Core State Standards provide more constructive feedback to inform instruction and ultimately will help schools devote less time to testing. And because new assessments require students to demonstrate their reasoning, they alleviate pressure to teach to the test.

Newark Star Ledger, “Adverse Consequences for School Districts When Students Opt Out of PARCC”: Schools are beginning to see the consequences of students refusing to take state tests, and they’re not good, writes Brian Zychowski, a New Jersey superintendent and president of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. State officials have made clear that – due to federal law – districts with less than 95% participation will be placed on a corrective action plan, but “unfortunately, other voices have sent mixed messages that have misled parents and the public.” “We’ve always known that end-of-year assessments are beneficial to students—allowing teachers and administrators to evaluate and improve student learning more accurately while assisting parents with their children’s progress,” Zychowski says. “Now many are coming to realize that assessments are also important for securing services for students through state and federal school funding. Fortuantely, it’s not too late to act.” Zychowski encourages students to take the second round of testing later this year, and says parents “need facts, not distortion.” “There’s real evidence that the new assessments, coupled with higher standards, are increasing and ensuring academic rigor… [and] an annual assessment is only one of multiple measures to provide objective feedback on student achievement and progress.”

What It Means: Zychowski makes clear that student assessments are one of the most important tools for parents and educators to ensure students are developing the skills and knowledge base necessary to succeed at higher levels of learning. While opting out of state tests puts school funding at risk, it also undermines educators’ ability to identify and address learning needs. Strong assessments designed to test to higher content raise the bar for students, providing a more honest measure of student preparedness, and helping ensure that more students will graduate high school prepared for college or a career.

Charleston Gazette, “Common Core Actually Increases Local Control”: Much of the uproar in Colorado to get rid of Common Core State Standards has ignored evidence of what the standards are and what they mean for everyday students, writes Tyler Lawrence, a local instructional coordinator. “Like I used to tell my students: We must have reliable facts before we can form a credible opinion,” Lawrence says. “While the evidence of state and local control is glaringly evident, the opposition still loudly and incorrectly argues that CCSS was a federal mandate.” In response to state lawmakers’ assertion that Common Core would “give away authority over standards,” Lawrence says he has yet to experience such frustration. “The teachers I work with are more excited in their current instructional practices because of CCSS, and engaged students are presenting greater quality work.” Noting the emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving and complex texts has provided a more accurate measure of student proficiency, Lawrence adds that teachers are creating curricula and lesson plans to support the higher standards. “Districts won’t have the ability to create and implement curricula if bills that seek to eliminate CCSS are proposed and passed,” Lawrence concludes.

What It Means: The piece highlights the control and flexibility that Common Core gives teachers to address learning needs and ensure that more students are on track to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed at higher levels of learning. Like Lawrence, educators overwhelming support Common Core State Standards. A Scholastic poll last year found more than two-thirds of teachers who had worked closely with Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and an Arkansas study last month found more than nine in 10 teachers said Common Core State Standards are more challenging than the standards the state used before.

Lowell Sun (MA), “Opting In with PARCC Is the Right Choice for Massachusetts”: Lindsay Sobel, a Massachusetts parent, says she decided to have her daughter take PARCC assessments this year based on experts’ support. “Like all parents, I want what’s best for my children,” Sobel says, “and the wisdom of experts helps inform me what that is. Those experts – 350 Massachusetts teachers well-versed in the content of the tests – overwhelmingly agree that PARCC is better than MCAS and measures what matters.” A recent Teach Plus study found 72% of teachers in Massachusetts who had experience with PARCC said the new exams are better than those the state used before. Only 7% thought MCAS was a better test. “Based on these findings, the group of Policy Fellows recommends the adoption of PARCC in Massachusetts. So do I,” Sobel writes. “While many tests are rightfully criticized for demanding drill-and-kill preparation, PARCC requires schools to teach deep critical-thinking skills – just the kind of skills that Massachusetts children will need to be ready for college and their careers.” The piece adds high-quality tests will illuminate achievement gaps and hold schools accountable for closing them. “According to teachers, PARCC is the right test for the right skills. That’s why I am opting in. Massachusetts should, too.”

What It Means: As Sobel points out, teachers who have worked closely with Common Core State Standards and with tests that hold students to high standards strongly support them. In addition to the Teach Plus survey that Sobel cites, a Scholastic poll last fall found that more than eight in 10 teachers familiar with Common Core support implementation. Another study in Arkansas last month found that 92% of teachers reported that Common Core State Standards were more rigorous than those the state used before.


 

Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “Why the Movement to Opt Out of Common Core Is a Big Deal”: Efforts in New York to encourage parents to opt their children out of assessments designed to test students to higher content are “reverberating around the nation,” writes Carol Burris, a New York principal and vocal opponent of Common Core. “New York’s rejection of the Common Core tests crosses geographical, socioeconomic and racial lines,” Burris says. “These rates defy the stereotype that the movement is a rebellion of petulant ‘white suburban moms.’…Despite attempts to suppress opt out, refusal rates were over three times last year’s 60,000 and activist parents are already planning to increase numbers next year…Opt out is far bigger than a test refusal event. It is the repudiation of a host of corporate reforms that include the Common Core, high-stakes testing, school closing and the evaluation of teachers by test scores. These reforms are being soundly rejected by parents and teachers.”

Where They Went Wrong: Despite concerted efforts to encourage parents to opt their children out of assessments, most are opting in. Although parents are concerned with overtesting, they recognize that assessments are one of the best tools educators have to identify and address learning needs and that the new exams designed to test to tougher content provide a better measure of student preparedness. As Chris Minnich, director of CCSSO, wrote last week, “These new tests are more challenging…It doesn’t mean students are learning less. It means we have raised the bar for students, and that’s a good thing.”


 

On Our Reading List:

CNN, “John Kasich: Likelihood of Presidential run ‘Looks Pretty Good’”: Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on Fox News Sunday the likelihood he’ll seek the Republican presidential nomination “looks pretty good.” “The results here in Ohio give me, I think, a lot of credibility for our team to be able to move forward,” Gov. Kasich said. Gov. Kasich has been an unrelenting supporter of Common Core and increased school accountability. “I’m not sure I want to sound like a candidate. I just want to sound like an American who’s trying to make this country a heck of a lot stronger,” Gov. Kasich said on Sunday.

Associated Press, “Jindal Administration Kicks Reporters Out of Common Core Meeting”: On Friday, officials from the Jindal administration asked reporters to leave a meeting to review the State Education Department’s plans to hire new contractors to administer state assessments. “We don’t consider this a public meeting,” said Pamela Rice, assistant director of state procurement. Last month State Superintendent John White said Gov. Jindal’s latest budget proposal would throw the Louisiana testing system “into a state of chaos.” About 320,000 public school students in grades 3-8 took tests designed to support Common Core State Standards in March, but the contracts to handling the development and scoring of the exams are expiring.