COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // MAY 6, 2015

News You Can Use:

Education Week, “Common Core Is Not a Government Takeover; This Is”: Addressing several popular criticisms of CCSS, Dave Powell writes that math instruction espoused by Common Core is “supported by academic researchers and professionals” and the Standards’ emphasis on more informational texts promises to help students develop stronger reading and writing skills. Claims that Common Core is a federal takeover of education, the “most pernicious” criticism, Powell says, are an “irrational argument, which means it can’t be countered with a rational response.” “Common Core has become a straw man, and attacks on it primarily survive because it’s really hard to refute a polemical argument that borders on demagoguery,” the piece says. “The attacks also survive because the ones doing the attacking count on the fact that most people have no way of knowing if the ‘government takeover’ claim is legitimate or not.” It’s not, Powel makes clear. “Over and over proponents of Common Core have to explain that it wasn’t Obama’s idea, nor did it come from Congress. It didn’t come from the ‘liberal media,’ either, and it wasn’t even spearheaded by snobby coastal elite college professors.” Citing examples from North Carolina, Powell says a more serious concern is “when legislators start telling teachers what to teach.” “When you don’t have standards, anything goes,” Powell says. “We need to establish real professional standards to prevent government interference in schools.”

What It Means: : As many education experts have pointed out, much of the criticism against CCSS have been based on misleading and often flat-out false information. CCSS were developed free of federal involvement and voluntarily adopted on a state-by-state basis. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them, or a similar version. As Mike Petrilli pointed out, one reason is that “it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.” Sites like TheCommonCore.com seek to debunk myths about Common Core.

Topeka Capital Journal, “Science and Math Education Is Transforming with the Times”: CCSS are helping usher in a new approach to math instruction that puts a greater emphasis on content skills, problem-solving and critical thinking, writes Tim Ellis, a Kansas high school teacher. Noting the Standards “support a more holistic view of teaching,” Ellis says, “No longer is the focus on memorizing answers to individual problems…The new focus is on creating a complex understanding of a topic through observing patterns, gathering information, and drawing conclusions from that information.” “As teachers transition to this new angle on educating students, their needs are going to dramatically shift as well,” the piece says. “Modern educators will also have to be adept at helping students discern the quality and biases of information…and willing to integrate content from multiple disciplines into their own…We need a highly trained, dedicated and caring workforce of teachers to meet the rising needs of our students.”

What It Means: As Ellis notes, CCSS set high academic expectations for students and place a greater emphasis on content understanding. In addition to traditional problem-solving methods like memorization and standard algorithms, Common Core math standards introduce students to a range of techniques to help develop stronger fundamental building blocks, setting up students to succeed at higher levels of learning. A Scholastic poll last year found more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


 

Correcting the Record:

Associated Press, “Montana Unlikely to Meet Common Core Requirement”: On Tuesday, state superintendent Denise Juneau said she expects between 82 percent and 92 percent student participation on Montana’s student achievement tests this year, falling short of federal requirements of 95 percent. Deputy superintendent Dennis Parman said it would be the first time Montana has not reached the goal since the NCLB requirements were initiated in 2001. Juneau made testing optional after the state experienced technical problems on April 15.

Where They Went Wrong: While technical problems caused low participation on state tests in Montana, federal testing requirements are not linked to Common Core. No Child Left Behind, passed by Congress in 2001, requires all states to have at least 95% participation rates regardless of what tests or standards they use. The article conflates the technical problems as an issue with CCSS, which it was not.


 

On Our Reading List:

Chalkbeat Colorado, “Senate Takes Its Turn on Testing, Advances Compromise Plan”: The Colorado Senate passed a compromise bill late Tuesday on that resembled a measure approved by the House on Monday, clearing the way for the testing bill to pass this session. Sponsors say the bill would reduce testing time to between 30 and 50 hours, continue PARCC and CMAS testing in grades 3-9, administer a college- and career-ready test like ACT Aspire in 10th grade, and retain the ACT test for 11th grade students. It would also require parents be notified about their rights for students to “opt-out” of tests and prevent districts from taking action against students who don’t participate in testing. On Wednesday, the last day of the legislative session, lawmakers will work out differences between the House and Senate versions to prepare a final bill for the governor’s approval.

Denver Post, “Colorado Teachers Disciplined after Students Leak PARCC Items Online”: In at least three Colorado school districts, teachers proctoring state tests face disciplinary action after students shared material through social media. Two Denver Public Schools teachers received letters of reprimand, two Pueblo teachers were disciplined and a Douglas County teacher was barred from later rounds of testing, the article reports. “That not just students but teachers were disciplined could further inflame a debate in Colorado and nationwide about high-stakes tests and pressures attached to them.”

Ed Excellence, “Ben Carson Quotes about Education”: Fordham Institute’s latest installment of what presidential candidates have said about education issues looks at Republican Ben Carson. In May, Carson said of Common Core: “In recent years, there has been a troubling trend of the U.S. Department of Education increasingly trying to dictate how children are educated in our primary and secondary schools. This must stop and Common Core must be overturned.”