COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // NOVEMBER 24, 2015

Note: There will be no Daily Update on Thursday or Friday this week. We will resume regular daily service on Monday, November 30. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

News You Can Use:

Business Roundtable, “Staying the Course on Higher State Standards”: A recent article in the Wall Street Journal has been heralded by opponents as evidence Common Core Standards are on the ropes, but the premise is hardly accurate, writes John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and former Governor of Michigan. “Of the 45 states that adopted Common Core, 42 are still implementing the higher state standards…And it’s worth noting that two of the three states that announced they were dropping the Common Core academic standards – Indiana and South Carolina – replaced them with high standards that bear a striking resemblance to Common Core.” Where did the WSJ go so wrong? “Uniformity of standards was never the goal of Common Core; rather it was commonality around a very narrow and universally agreed upon core set of higher standards,” Gov. Engler explains. “If you accept the incorrect premise that Common Core was designed to be some top-down national policy, a one-size-fits-all set of standards, then every deviation in standards among the states is evidence that commonality is being degraded…But, of course, the standards were intended to establish a common floor, not a common ceiling.”

What It Means: For years, opponents have trumpeted that a momentum was building that would spark a mass exodus away from Common Core Standards, but after five years states overwhelmingly continue to refine and build on the framework to establish high, consistent academic expectations for students—exactly as the Common Core was designed. As Gov. Engler points out, only one state, Oklahoma, has replaced its Common Core Standards with a set of distinctly different standards. Like Gov. Engler, Karen Nussle explains, “Common Core State Standards were always meant to represent a basic level of broadly agreed upon benchmarks for instruction. They are a floor, not a ceiling. And they were absolutely designed to allow states to tweak, amend, and generally customize them in order to meet local needs.”

Grand Forks Herald, Give Common Core Time to Close the ‘Honesty Gap’”: For the first time in a long time, North Dakota education officials are addressing the state’s academic problems “head-on” and speaking honestly about the challenges, writes editor Tom Dennis. Officials have gotten serious about the Honesty Gap, in which North Dakota tests reported between 70 and 80 percent of students as proficient, even though national tests showed only about 40 percent of students actually reached those benchmarks. Common Core Standards are a “key component” to begin closing discrepancies, Dennis explains. “When the Smarter Balanced results came out last month, they showed some 46 percent of students proficient in English and 40 percent in math. Those numbers are much closer to the NAEP results…That’s not as upbeat a finding as North Dakotans are used to. But it has the powerful advantage of being true.” State superintendent Kirsten Baesler explains, “This gives us a much more honest and accurate assessment result, so we can determine what we need to do to help our students.” Separately, Carmel Martin writes, “Before the Common Core, each state designed its own standards, resulting in 50 different definitions of academic success…The new standards made it possible to compare results from one state to the next and enabled parents, teachers and school system leaders to know whether their students were really on track to graduate ready for college or a career.”

What It Means: For a long time states inflated measures of student readiness by lowering the academic bar, a reality brought to light by the Honesty Gap analysis. Fortunately, most states have begun to address the problem by implementing high, consistent education standards and honest assessments. As Dennis and Martin explain, these efforts ensure more students will get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness, starting at a young age, and that parents and teachers will get accurate information to provide support when students need it. Going back on these efforts would put students at a disadvantage and undo the hard work states have begun.


Correcting the Record:

Daily Signal, “Why Massachusetts Gave Up on Common Core”: The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education “has decided it that it will opt out of Common Core and develop its own state standards,” writes Mary Clare Reim, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation—a wild interpretation that has been picked up by other media outlets. (Note: Mass. official did not “opt out of Common Core”; the BESE voted to pursue an independent student assessment that will incorporate material from both PARCC and MCAS.) “It comes as no surprise that a ‘top-down, one-size-fits-all’ approach to education is not working…The sentiment held in Massachusetts is shared by parents, students, teachers, and school administrators all over the country…Restoring control to states and localities to make informed choices for their communities will better ensure education quality.” Reim concludes, “It is time for more states to consider going the route of Massachusetts and say ‘no thanks’ to Common Core State Standards.”

Where They Went Wrong: The Heritage Foundation has regularly mischaracterized Common Core Standards to stir opposition, but its followers at least deserve to get the facts straight. To be clear, state officials did not vote to repeal the Common Core or to develop new education standards, as Reim states. The BESE voted to pursue an independent test that will incorporate elements from both PARCC and MCAS, the state’s old proficiency assessment, and will measure student achievement against the Common Core State Standards. State education commissioner Mitchell Chester has made clear PARCC will provide a “substantial component” of this new, improved test. The decision provides “greater options to deliver 21st century, superior quality assessments focused on the skills that matter most for success in college and careers,” and represents efforts to ensure high, consistent education standards meet student needs.

Washington Examiner, “Tide Shifting against Common Core”: Picking up on a recent New York Times report, the article states that Massachusetts’ decision to pursue a new hybrid test is evidence support for Common Core Standards is on the decline. “The more people hear about Common Core, the more controversial it becomes,” the article claims. “Massachusetts would rather spend millions of dollars and delay testing by a year than stick with a test aligned with Common Core education standards.” “[The decision] opens the door for a lot of other states that are under a lot of pressure to repeal Common Core,” Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, told the New York Times. The Times article claims, “The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on Common Core assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past.” The Examiner adds, “Ultimately, change in Massachusetts will start slow but be evident in the long-term.”

Where They Went Wrong: Even though Massachusetts opted to develop its own test, PARCC will remain a “substantial component,” and officials are working on contracts to incorporate PARCC material. By doing so, state officials will ensure parents and educators have a high-quality assessment to measure student development that will still be aligned to the Common Core State Standards used in Massachusetts. In a recent memo Karen Nussle explains, “States are making changes to ensure that the new high-quality assessments meet their needs. More states will have 21st century, high quality tests focused on the skills that matter for success in life that are not only comparable across states but also provide honest, accurate information to parents and educators.”


On Our Reading List:

Education Week, “Louisiana Election Results Cloud Future of Common Core, Vouchers, Charters”: Louisiana’s elections on Saturday, in which John Bel Edwards was elected governor, “could have broad implications for the state’s use of the Common Core State Standards.” Bel Edwards has indicated he hopes to replace the state’s Common Core standards as well as replace state superintendent John White. Louisiana is currently in the process of reviewing its education standards. “As governor, Edwards will be able to either approve or reject the standards, though rejecting them will mean the state will have to stick with the standards until the state can come up with new ones,” the article reports.

Christian Science Monitor, “States Disagree on Whether to Release Glitchy Common Core Test Results”: Three states which experienced technical problems that affected student participation on assessments aligned to Common Core Standards – Montana, Nevada and North Dakota – have differed in whether to release score reports. This week Nevada, where about seven out of 10 students were not able to complete the tests, released its results. North Dakota, which experience considerably fewer problems, released scores last month. Montana continues to hold its results, even though more than 80 percent of students were able to complete the tests. “It’s really important for us to be careful and thoughtful about making sure what we release has context and makes sense for parents and teachers,” said a spokesperson for the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

eSchool News, “Study Analyzes NAEP, Common Core Math Alignment”: A study on the math alignment between Common Core State Standards and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) finds “reasonable agreement” overall but some areas of fourth and eighth grade math did not match well. Organized by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel, 18 math experts concluded that 79 percent of NAEP items in fourth-grade math covered material included in the Common Core Standards for grades four or earlier. But, the match rate was lower in some areas: 47 percent for data analysis, statistics, and probability, 62 percent for algebra and 68 percent for geometry. In eighth grade, 87 percent of NAEP items assessed math included in the CCSS at grade eight or earlier, but 42 percent of the Common Core State Standards for grades 6, 7, and 8 were not being tested by any items in the 2015 NAEP item pool.