COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // OCTOBER 08, 2015

NEWS YOU CAN USE:

Huffington Post, “The Common Core State Standards Are Good for Democrats and Republicans”: Despite politicization by some activists, Common Core State Standards remain a bipartisan effort, writes former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Even though education reform over the past two decades has produced achievements, “we have a system that decides for a child if they are college material.” “In order to truly help ensure that all of our young people are positioned for a healthy and financially secure future, we must make sure that they’re prepared to complete college,” Gov. Richardson notes. “That’s why more than 40 states are sticking with the Common Core.” For too long, states told “the story people wanted to hear” but that masked that “hard truth” students weren’t being prepared for high levels of learning. High, comparable standards ensure all students are held to expectations that prepare them with the skills they need and give teachers control over how to reach those learning goals. Even while some politicians have “publicly reversed their support,” Gov. Richardson says, “The fact is, these standards are good for everyone. That’s why none of the efforts to repeal the standards this year—that’s zero—have succeeded.”

What It Means: While Common Core State Standards may still serve as a rallying cry for small but vocal groups of activists, parents, teachers and voters overwhelmingly support academic expectations that fully prepare students for college and careers. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core State Standards continue to implement them or a very similar set of standards. Instead, many states have launched reviews to refine and build on the framework set by the Common Core, which states are required to do periodically. Karen Nussle explains that’s largely because parents and policymakers have weighed the evidence and continue to support college- and career-ready standards. And it is “impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that both bear no resemblance to Common Core, and adequately prepare students for college and career.”

Miami Herald, “Raising the Academic Bar”: John Padget, vice-chair the Florida Board of Education, writes that state officials’ decision of how to set cut scores will determine whether the state will raise the bar of expectation for students. “Antiquated standards and assessments resulted in Florida’s high school graduates not being ready to compete on the nation and world stages,” Padget says. “How can our businesses compete and win unless they have a superior stream of talent from our schools?” Florida has begun to address the problem by implementing Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment, Padget explains. The final step is to set proficiency levels adequately high so as to hold students to expectations that prepare them to ultimately graduate college- and career-ready. “If the panels recommended low passing scores, more students would pass but not be ready to meet the global competition…This is not ‘truth in advertising.’” Padget concludes, “I will vote for raising the bar as high as possible. Let’s take the cold shower now and enable our graduates to make higher wages later.”

What It Means: Padget makes clear that Florida has taken steps to raise classroom expectations and give parents and educators honest information about student readiness. By expanding the state’s definition of proficiency to include students who are not on track to develop the skills necessary to succeed after high school, policymakers would undo that work. This week, the Collaborative for Student Success launched digital ads in Florida to urge leaders to set cut scores high. “The promise of Common Core State Standards has always been predicated on not only high standards, but also on accurate measurements of progress under those standards,” an analysis explains. “Florida’s decision to either close the Honesty Gap or, conversely, take the politically expedient route and continue on with business as usual will have implications for an entire generation of young people.”

Akron Beacon Journal, “Academic Standards Are a Good Thing”: Thanks to Common Core State Standards, educators like Lisa Bass, a third-grade teacher in Nordonia Hills City Schools, are seeing more students reach their full potential. “For years, families, teachers and students were misled about how well prepared students were for next grade levels and life after high school,” Bass writes. According to Achieve’s Honesty Gap analysis, Ohio had a 49-point discrepancy in fourth-grade reading and a 40-point discrepancy in eighth-grade math between state-reported proficiency rates and those identified by NAEP. “The results showed that Ohio families and educators were told that students were performing at grade level when that was actually not the case. The bars were set too low.” Student assessments are an important tool to ensure new education standards meet student needs, Bass adds. “The results give us valuable information that will help us see how our students are progressing.”

What It Means: Like Ohio, most states have taken steps to close Honesty Gaps, hold students to expectations that fully prepare them for college and careers, and to provide parents with accurate information about student development by implementing Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments. This year states marked a new milestone in these efforts by administering tests aligned to higher expectations. Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains that while the results have been “sobering,” parents “shouldn’t shoot the messenger.” New assessments “may not be perfect but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing,” and “parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core.”

US News & World Report, “No Quick Fix in Education”: States have faced challenges as they implement Common Core State Standards and new student assessments, but policymakers should not “back away from raising the bar for all children,” writes Laura Bay, president of the National PTA. “The implementation of more rigorous standards and high-quality tests – consistent and comparable across states – is critical to accurately assessing student learning, and ensure all students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in college and the workforce, regardless of where they live,” Bay says. “It also is essential that families and educators have honest information about how students are progressing.” New assessments give a “real measure” of student readiness, help guide instruction, and make sure students are prepared to move on to higher level content. The first year has set a new baseline from which to measure future progress, Bay adds. “If we want students to achieve more, we need to expect more,” Bay concludes. “When the bar is set high, it will ensure students reach their full potential.”

What It Means: Most states this year passed a new milestone in the effort to raise classroom expectations and provide parents with honest information by administering assessments aligned to rigorous education standards. While the results may be “sobering,” parents and educators are finally getting honest information about how well their children are doing, and they have every reason to resist opponents’ call to use the moment to attack Common Core State Standards and related tests. Like Bay, Karen Nussle reminds parents, “This year’s tests establish a starting point to measure achievement going forward. It’s important to remember that getting students over a higher bar will be a gradual process achieved over years, not months.”

 

Correcting the Record:

Daily Caller, “A Key Part of Common Core Isn’t Working Out”: Some states’ decisions to expand definitions of proficiency to include students who fall short of proficiency benchmarks on tests aligned to college- and career-ready standards have undermined the comparability of Common Core State Standards, Blake Neff reports. “Common Core was supposed to make it a lot easier to compare standardized test scores between participating states,” the article states. “But despite taking nearly identical tests, each state classified what a ‘passing’ score was differently…Fudging is once again becoming a common part of standardized tests.” Blake explains such decisions are meant to avoid a “public backlash.” “This was exactly the problem that a lot of policymakers and educators were trying to solve,” Karen Nussle explains, “to get a more honest assessment of where kids are and being transparent about that with parents and educators so we could do something about it.” Neff notes that state participation in the Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing consortia has fallen, “and even among states that are still in consortia, they are quickly proving that shared tests are no guarantee that states will interpret scores the same way.” “This doesn’t necessarily invalidate the whole Common Core enterprise,” the article concludes, but “the widespread abandonment of shared testing standards means that, while Common Core remains in place, some of its biggest supposed benefits are proving elusive.”

Where They Went Wrong: Neff correctly identifies the importance of states setting cut scores adequately high to ensure parents and educators have honest information about student readiness. In a recent memo, Karen Nussle explains that “by expanding the definition of proficiency to include students that are less-than-proficient,” states risk regressing on efforts to raise classroom expectations and to be honest with parents. Contrary to Neff’s analysis, however, even while some states have opted to use independent assessments, we should focus on the fact that more students have taken assessments aligned to higher standards than ever before. Louisiana State Superintendent John White explained this summer, “States have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there can be an honest baseline…and that is a fantastic success for each state and for America and its children.”

 

On Our Reading List:

Washington Examiner“Bill Gates: Attacks on Common Core Drown Out the Facts”: In his first major retrospective speech on education in nearly eight years, Bill Gates said that much of the criticism leveled against Common Core State Standards has not been grounded in fact. “It’s unfortunate that many of the attacks against the Common Core have not really focused on what the Common Core is,” Gates said. “And if fact, to some degree, have drowned out the facts. We do need to have a system that defines excellence, and that system needs to be very thoughtfully designed…Standards are both about being well designed and setting a very high standard.”

Albany Times Union“Survey: Majority of New Yorkers Oppose Opt-Out Movement”: A survey by High Achievement New York finds more than half of in-state respondents believe public school students should take annual state assessments. Less than a quarter of participants said parents should not allow their children to take assessments, and slightly more than a quarter did not take a position. Seventy percent of respondents believe annual assessments are “very important, important or somewhat important.” The study also finds wide misperceptions about New York’s Common Core standards persist. For example, about half of respondents thought the standards were developed by the federal government. Still, two-thirds of respondents say they support implementation, while only a third said they would prefer to see the standards repealed. Seventy-two percent “strongly support” or “somewhat support” rigorous learning standards for math and reading.

Monroe News-Star“Louisiana Department of Education Releases PARCC Average Raw Scores”: The Louisiana Department of Education released the raw scores from assessments aligned to the state’s Common Core standards, which were administered for the first time this spring. “Raw scores represent only the first step in the scoring process for standardized assessments,” a notice accompanying the release explains. “In no way do the numbers below indicate statewide average scale scores, statewide cut scores, or statewide average achievement levels.” Pass rates won’t be calculated until the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education makes several policy decisions this month.