News You Can Use:

USA Today, “Full Repeal of Common Core Fails in Miss. Senate”: Several states this week postponed or voted against measures to repeal CCSS. In Mississippi, the state Senate passed a bill that if signed into law will create a commission whose members will make recommendations about the Standards. The legislation does not, however, require the state board of education to implement those suggestions. An amendment that would have made that requirement was voted down. In Tennessee, lawmakers tabled debate on a plan aimed at revising CCSS, the Tennessean State Rep. Billy Spivey said he had an ‘epiphany’ and will consult with Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration before moving forward with the legislation. Finally, in North Dakota, House lawmakers defeated a bill that would have required the state pull out of the CCSS-aligned Smarter Balanced Consortium, the Grand Forks Herald notes. The chairman of the state House Education Committee encouraged members to vote against the legislation, saying a “vast majority” of educators support CCSS.

What It Means: Despite more than a year and a half of targeted attacks, states continue to stick with CCSS. The perseverance of CCSS is a testament to the quality of the Standards and the value parents and teachers put on high education standards. Teachers who have worked closely with CCSS strongly support their implementation, and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills.

New Orleans Advocate, “Students Face No More Testing than before Common Core”: Under new CCSS-aligned assessments, students will face no more tests than previous years when they were not allowed to opt-out, writes Jim Anderson, a former director of accountability and assessment for New Orleans public schools. Anderson says the alarm now is largely a result of Gov. Jindal’s “quest to attract national attention regarding the Common Core standards.” “It is important to clarify that, with the implementation of the Common Core standards and the PARCC tests, students aren’t being tested any more than previously, under LEAP, as far as the total subject areas assessed are concerned…All these tests are given so that Louisiana can assess whether or not its students are receiving an education of the same quality as the rest of the nation.”

What It Means: CCSS-aligned tests are designed to give educators and parents more accurate and constructive feedback about the true proficiency of students. Strong systems of assessment and accountability are an important tool to ensure standards and schools are achieving the mission of preparing students for college- and career-level work.



Correcting the Record:

Newark Star-Ledger, “Christie’s Flip-Flop on Common Core”: “The governor who tells it like it is, who speaks from the heart, is now sucking up to the Republican base with a calculated flip-flop on Common Core,” writes editorial writer Tom Moran. In an appearance in Iowa on Tuesday, Gov. Christie said he has “grave concerns” about the implementation of CCSS, particularly the way the Obama Administration tied RTTT funds to them. “That changes the entire nature of it, from what was initially supposed to be voluntary type system and states could decide on their own to now having federal money tied to it in ways that really, really give me grave concerns,” Gov. Christie said.

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Christie has been a strong advocate of high education standards and has supported implementation of CCSS in New Jersey. As the Governor pointed out in 2013, state leadership is leading the push and much of the opposition has been based on partisanship. At that time, Gov. Christie said, “We are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue.” His state now continues to move forward with implementation of the Standards.

New Jersey Spotlight, “Christie’s Flip-Flop on Common Core”: Gov. Chris Christie’s “grave concerns” about CCSS feeds into “a common narrative repeated by critics” that’s “inaccurate,” writes John Mooney. “The federal government never demanded that New Jersey or any other state adopt the Common Core as part of its application for Race to the Top funding,” the article notes, and “not all states did so.” “What the governor was speaking to was a perception of an enticement that has been out there,” said Maria Ferguson, director of the Center on Education Policy. “It’s just not true. It’s simply politics…There’s been a morass of confusion about the Common Core, and that has allowed people to play loose with the facts.”

Where They Went Wrong: As the article lays clear, Gov. Christie’s comments feed into the narrative propagated by opponents, but that’s “just not true.” CCSS began as and remain a state-led effort, a fact Gov. Christie himself articulated before. Today states continue to take ownership of the Standards, tailoring them and building on them further, exactly as they were designed. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt the Standards continue to use them or some nearly identical version.

New Hampshire Union Leader, “Hotel Common Core: You Can Never Leave”: Comparing CCSS to the famous line of the Eagles’ Hotel California song, the editorial says New Hampshire schools are effectively prohibited from using their own assessments because the state’s commitment to Smarter Balanced tests. “Not a federal mandate? Please,” the piece states. “Washington, with the assistance of state boards of education and education departments, is saying to school districts: Use these standards and this test or your bank account gets it.” It adds, “The Obama administration is using federal money to force nationwide adoption of an untested, experimental set of standards and the test that goes with them.” This week the Manchester school board voted to move forward with Smarter Balanced tests, further underscoring the state’s commitment.

Where They Went Wrong: The editorial confuses voluntary state standards with federal testing requirements and uses CCSS as a scapegoat for a state-based decision it happens to disagree with. States are in charge of keeping schools in line with federal testing mandates. Those national requirements are the same from state to state regardless of whether they use CCSS or not. States are free to choose what test they use, and many of the states that adopted CCSS use exams different than those in New Hampshire. The editorial is disingenuous in deducing from state’s testing decision that the Standards are a federal mandate, and the fact the largest school district in the state reaffirmed its commitment to Smarter Balanced underscores the local control of the issue.



On Our Reading List:

Associated Press, “Committee Sends Partisan Education Bill to House”: The Republican-led House education committee approved an update of the NCLB law that maintains annual testing requirements but limits the federal role in state education issues, the article reports. The bill would prohibit the Department of Education from demanding changes to state standards or imposing conditions for states to earn waivers from federal requirements. The measure passed by a vote of 21-16 along party lines. Democrats criticized the bill saying it would cause the federal government to abandon its role of ensuring states provide equitable access to education for all demographics. Virginia Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott said the bill would “take American public education in the wrong direction.” Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, said “success in school” should be determined by teachers, local administrators and parents.

Huffington Post, “Schools Are Using Classroom Coaches to Keep Up with Common Core”: In California, many schools are using instructional coaches to help teachers acclimate to the changes encouraged by CCSS. Districts have used training specialists for years, the article reports, but more are now turning to them as an “essential resource” to help teachers get up to speed on the Standards. The Oakland Unified school district, for example, has doubled the number of coaches it employs compared to three years earlier. The instruction specialists observe classes, provide feedback to teachers and lead demonstration classes. One assistant superintendent said the coaches “are the most critical component of our capacity building [to implement CCSS].”