COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // OCTOBER 13, 2015

News You Can Use:

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, “Common Core Standards: Setting the Record Straight”: William G. Clark, president of the Urban League of Rochester, writes that “misleading information is fueling a lot of concern around our academic goals” and clouding healthy debate. “Standards are simply a way of saying that by a certain age, kids should know a certain amount,” the piece explains. “When people refer to Common Core as a ‘curriculum,’ they’re confusing two important – but separate – parts of education. The standards are no more a curriculum than the football goal posts are the game.” Setting high, consistent academic expectations will create “opportunities for all kids,” Clark adds. Historically, 40 percent of SUNY students in two-year programs require remedial coursework. “The Common Core State Standards are not a silver bullet,” Clark says. “But we are setting a new baseline for students, we are seeing them rise to the challenge, and we can’t let them down now.”

What It Means: As Clark points out, over the past two years misperceptions about the Common Core have caused confusion and largely drowned out constructive debate. Common Core State Standards set rigorous, comparable learning goals at each grade level and give teachers and local authorities control over how best to achieve them. By ensuring all students are held to college- and career-ready expectations, the standards lay out a pathway for more students to graduate high school fully prepared for the next step. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and states leading implementation, like Tennessee, have achieved some of the biggest academic gains in the country.

Politico New Jersey, “Common Core Standards under Review, But Few Expect Major Changes”: Five months after Gov. Chris Christie ordered a review of New Jersey’s Common Core standards the Department of Education recently concluded its community listening tour. Though it will be three months before recommendations are presented about possible changes to the standards, experts say they don’t expect major changes. “Possibly there may be slight alterations or maybe better clarifications of what the standards are looking for so that teachers and administrators can better align their curriculum,” says Patricia Wright, executive director of the State Principals and Supervisors Association. “This is a review of the standards. This isn’t a recreation. This isn’t starting from scratch,” explains David Saenz, spokesman for the State Department of Education. Gov. Christie called for the review earlier this year, saying the standard “were not working,” but since then state officials have used milder language. Saenz notes New Jersey reviews academic standards every five years, and while this would not have normally been a year for review, it makes sense since the state recently administered PARCC assessments.

What It Means: The review in New Jersey reaffirms the strength of Common Core State Standards. After two national elections, all but one state continue to implement the Common Core or a very similar set of standards, and even after years of targeted attacks states have overwhelmingly opted to build on the framework laid by the Common Core rather than repeal it. Karen Nussle wrote earlier this year that Gov. Christie’s decision sent mixed signals to students and teachers, and for little purpose because it is “virtually impossible” to draft college- and career-ready standards that look nothing like Common Core.

Washington Post, “Another State Redefines ‘Proficiency’ on Common Core Tests, Inflating Performance”: Arkansas officials recently expanded proficiency definitions to include students who qualify as “approaching academic expectations,” thereby “inflating the performance of its students.” Ohio made a similar decision late last month. “Like Ohio before it, Arkansas has decided that students are proficient if they score at level 3 or above” on PARCC exams. But according to PARCC, students are only on track to graduate college- and career-ready if they score at level 4 or above. Under Arkansas’ rubric, 60 percent of Algebra I students are proficient, but only 28 percent would be considered on track by PARCC’s definition. A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Education said officials will send follow up material to families clarifying that students who score a 3 have only “approached academic expectations.” Arkansas will give a new test next year.

What It Means: Arkansas officials’ decision to set proficiency definitions below levels that fully prepare students for high levels of learning, and ultimately for college- and career-readiness, undermines efforts to raise classroom expectations for all students. A Collaborative for Student Success memo explains that parents deserve an honest account of their students’ progress. States like Arkansas have worked for years to raise classroom expectations and give parents and teachers accurate information. Inflating definitions of proficiency risk undoing that work. “By expanding the definition of proficiency to include students that are less-than-proficient,” states are regressing, Karen Nussle explains. “Parents deserve an honest assessment of student proficiency. ‘Local control’ cannot become a fig leaf that covers up a dumbing down of the system.”


Correcting the Record:

Newbury Port News, “Senators Hope to Curb PARCC Test”: Last week the Massachusetts Senate passed an amendment that could slow down implementation of PARCC exams if the state moves to replace MCAS tests with them. Filed by State Senate Majority Leader Bruce Tarr, the amendment would require the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to evaluate how much it would cost to enact the PARCC tests for high school students. The amendment will move to a conference committee where differences between the House and Senate versions will be considered. It comes as State Secretary of Education Jim Peyser is expected to make a recommendation next month about which test the state should implement. “I strongly want the state to not act so hastily in enacting the PARCC exam,” said State Sen. Kathleen O’Conner. “The verdict is still out, so before we do this we need more time and more assessment…This cost-benefit analysis has to be done.”

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments are one of the strongest tools teachers and parents have to measure student development and identify and address learning needs. PARCC tests measure student progress toward levels that reflect what they need to know and be able to do to succeed at high levels of learning, and ultimately in college and careers. A Teach Plus study found 72 percent of Massachusetts educators believe PARCC assessments are better than MCAS tests, and the state’s higher education community strongly supports PARCC. By impeding implementation, policymakers risk jeopardizing efforts to hold students to college- and career-ready expectations and to provide families with better information.


On Our Reading List:

New Orleans Advocate, “Common Core Test Results Show State Well Short of Goal of Having Students ‘Fully Ready’ for Higher Education”: On Monday, Louisiana education officials released the first results of student assessments aligned to the state’s Common Core standards. Scores were below the state’s long-range performance goals, but State Superintendent John White said they fall in line with how students fared on previous exams and can pave the way for better outcomes moving forward. “The results are not surprising,” White said. “The real question ahead of us is not did our students significantly change but how will we change as adults in using the tests.” Scores are divided into five levels: advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic and unsatisfactory. Officials have set a state goal of having all A-schools in the state earn an average performance of “mastery” by 2025, but only 22 to 40 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at that level on the most recent tests. The State Board of Education will vote today whether to use the proficiency benchmarks proposed by White.

State Impact Florida, “In Florida and across the Nation, Common Core Standards Still Standing”: Picking up on a recent Politico article that most states are sticking with Common Core State Standards despite targeted attacks, the story notes the same is true in Florida. “Last year, opponents were talking about repeal and Common Core was expected to be a big issue during the legislative session. That didn’t happen.” State Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg says he doesn’t think the issue will come up in the next legislative session. “We’ve worked our way through it.” Still, state officials will have to address standardized tests associated with the standards, and some “opponents may still claim some victories in 2016 state and local elections.”