COMMON CORE STANDARDS DAILY UPDATE // OCTOBER 21, 2015

News You Can Use:

Lexington Herald-Leader, “What Bevin, Conway Said about Education”: As Kentucky voters consider the state’s two gubernatorial candidates, they should consider whether these leaders are “really poised” to meet student needs, write Katrina Boone and Kari Patrick, both high school teachers. “It’s not enough to prepare our students for careers; we must also prepare them to perform well in a higher education setting,” the authors argue. “Helping students get to and through college begins with high standards for learning…The adoption of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards raised the bar for every student, and their strength lies not just in their focus, coherence and rigor, but the way in which teachers believe in them.” The piece adds that meeting high learning goals requires talented teachers and classroom support. “All students deserve the chance to be productive citizens. Since they can’t vote on November 3, the citizens of Kentucky must advocate for them.”

What It Means: Boone and Patrick emphasize the importance of rigorous education standards that fully prepare students for college and careers. Like them, parents and educators in states across the country continue to strongly support classroom expectations that equip students to succeed at high levels of learning, and ultimately for success after high school. A Scholastic study last fall found more than 80 percent of teachers were enthusiastic about implementation of Common Core State Standards, and in a Teach Plus study this year 79 percent of teacher participants said assessments aligned to high standards were better than those their states used before. As Boone and Patrick point out, voters should demand that leaders ensure all students are held to levels that guarantee their college- and career-readiness.

PBS Newshour, “More Students Earning Diplomas, But Is Graduation Bar High Enough?”: Data released this month shows high-school graduation rates increased in 36 states for the Class of 2014, but some experts question whether the focus on raising graduation rates has benefitted all students. An Achieve report notes “multiple diploma options” and “lack of transparency” have left “more questions than answers about the true value of a high school diploma” in most states. The study finds 20 states do not require students to complete college- and career-ready requirements in English language arts and math, and in 26 states at least one diploma option falls short of college- and career-ready expectations in the two subjects. For students and parents that can “lead to misunderstanding and misinformation” about “how different diploma options support different postsecondary plans,” and for policymakers it may mask “information that is critical for parents, students, teachers and counselors.”

What It Means: The Achieve study underscores the importance of college- and career-ready education standards that are consistent for all students. By setting rigorous, comparable academic expectations, Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments ensure students are held to levels that prepare them for high levels of learning and ultimately to graduate high school ready for college and careers. As Karen Nussle wrote this summer, “It is virtually 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.”

Modesto Bee, “District Offers Aspirin for the Common Core Math Homework Headache”: At Sisk Elementary School in California, math specialists like Viji Sundar are offering parents and the public help to better understand changes to instruction under Common Core State Standards. Sundar and a group of math majors and future teachers provide outreach to some of the highest-poverty elementary schools in Modesto. The district is providing Common Core Math Nights to help parents transition alongside their children. “Kids want to be challenged,” Sundar explains. “The purpose of Common Core is to open your mind.” “No matter how many people say the old way was best…something in the old system was not working,” columnist Nan Austin weighs in. “Time to give something else a chance, and getting back to understand math basics – even with wonky phrasing and counterintuitive methods – might be a good place to start.”

What It Means: The outreach to families in Modesto is emblematic of efforts in states across the country to help parents understand changes in math instruction. Through the Common Core, educators are introducing students to a range of problem-solving techniques, in addition to traditional approaches. As a recent Collaborative for Student Success blog explains, the purpose is to help students develop a stronger understanding of math. “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.”


Correcting the Record:

WBUR NPR Boston, “MCAS Vs. PARCC: Now, Education Board Might Face a Third Option”: On Tuesday, Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts education commissioner, told the State Board of Education he was weighing a “door number 3” assessment option, which he called “MCAS 2.0,” which would use elements of PARCC tests to build a state-specific assessment. “It’s not a binary decision,” Chester said. “To what extent can we take advantage of the development that’s been done in PARCC to take us down that road of a next-generation assessment?” State Education Secretary James Peyser said he would consider the third option. “In thinking about MCAS 2.0, I think the question is, what are the next steps in developing that assessment?” PARCC CEO Laura Slover said it would be possible to use items from PARCC, but it could delay changes and the costs are unknown. The state will decide between PARCC, MCAS tests or another option next month. Chester will make a recommendation before a November 17 board meeting.

Where They Went Wrong: State officials are ultimately responsible for deciding which tests to use, but evidence suggests PARCC assessments are the best option. A Mathematica study finds PARCC is “significantly better” than MCAS at predicting students’ likelihood to earn top grades, and students who met PARCC proficiency benchmarks were more likely to not require remediation than those who met those levels on MCAS. The Boston Globe editorial board wrote this month, “PARCC promises to provide even better educational results for Massachusetts students,” and Chester acknowledges, “There’s no question that PARCC has set a higher standard for student performance.” Whatever option the Massachusetts Board of Education chooses, they should ensure their test measure students to college- and career-ready levels and provide parents and teachers with honest information.


On Our Reading List:

Springfield Republican, “Massachusetts ‘Test-Drive’ PARCC Scores Released as State Considers Switch from MCAS Exam”: On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released statewide scores for students who took PARCC assessments this spring by pencil and paper as part of a “two-year test drive.” The results were similar to those of students who took the tests electronically, which were released in September. Students who took PARCC tests were less likely to score in the “meeting expectations” range than students who took MCAS tests were to score at or above proficiency. “These statewide PARCC scores will help establish a baseline for comparison with other PARCC states and with our own progress over time should the board choose to adopt PARCC within our statewide assessment,” said Mitchell Chester, the state elementary and secondary education commissioner.

Wall Street Journal, “New Jersey Releases Latest Test Scores”: New Jersey education officials released scores on Tuesday from PARCC assessments, which were administered statewide for the first time this spring. Fewer than half of the state’s students met math proficiency levels across most grades. In English language arts, about half of students in grades four through eight met or exceeded expectations, though only about 36 percent of 10th grade students did so. “We promised many years ago a more honest, accurate assessment,” said David Hespe, the state’s education commissioner. “We have a great challenge ahead.” Hespe said he would recommend the State Board of Education adopt PARCC’s definitions for proficiency. Parents will get data for their districts and children next month.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Ohio’s New State Tests in 2016 Will Have Questions from Arizona, Florida and Utah”: Ohio education officials are developing state-specific assessments since it dropped out of the PARCC testing consortium, but those will not be ready by next spring when students in grades three and up take the next round of testing. As a result, state educators and the American Institutes for Research are piecing together a test for next year using questions from old tests given in Arizona, Florida and Utah. “We know that they work,” says John Cohen, AIR’s president of assessments. “They’re all fair. And they have all been vetted through Ohio educator committees. Sixteen committees of volunteers from different grades and subjects reviewed questions from other states to select which to use for Ohio’s test.

PBS Newshour, “At a School with a History of Social Protest, This Teacher Is Leading an Opposition to ‘Excessive Testing’”: Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher at Garfield High School in Washington, wants parents and students to know their right to opt-out of student assessments. “It’s just become completely over the top,” Hagopian says, comparing testing to taking the temperature of a person with hypothermia instead of getting them help. “It’s become a multi-billion dollar industry to sell exams to children in order to rank and sort them. And its’ become really a test-and-punish model.” Hagopian does add, “I really find authentic assessment important.”

Los Angeles Times, “How Parents and Teachers Should Talk to Each Other”: Parents have a responsibility to “build, nurture and maintain” relationships with their children’s teachers, writes Michelle Maltais, a mother in California. “Both teacher and parent are working toward the same end: forming and facilitating the development of your child.” Wendy Kennar, a local teacher, says, “What you’re trying to do in the classroom must be supported at home.” “Just as you know your child in a certain context, so do teachers – and you two might not experience the same person,” the piece adds. “Remember, you are really on the same team with the same goal. And just as you are working hard as parents, so are your child’s teachers.”