News You Can Use:

Hunt Institute, “Teachers Taking Control”: During a visit to six school districts, Kaitlin Pennington and Nichole Hoeflich, fellows at the Center for American Progress, report that schools are “empowering teachers to take control of Common Core implementation.” “The districts in our report are diverse in almost every way – including size, socio-economic status, and student population – yet they all shared a commitment to systematically involve teachers in the rollout of the Common Core,” the article notes. “By shaking up notoriously adversarial relationships between administrators and practitioners, teacher leaders are provided opportunities to influence many important aspects of Common Core implementation, including the development of instructional materials, the use of collaborative time, and the creation of professional development activities.” The authors say they were “floored” by teachers’ enthusiasm. “Because of these districts’ collaborative approach to the rollout and implementation of the Common Core, teachers resoundingly felt like they were being authentically heard and were willing to capitalize on any opportunity to talk about it.”

What It Means: The CAP report underscores educators’ enthusiasm for involvement with the implementation of Common Core standards, and it dovetails with other studies that indicate the same. A Scholastic study last year found more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core support implementation, and more than two-thirds have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. A Teach Plus study this year found 79% of teachers believe new high-quality assessments designed to test to the Common Core are better than those their states used before.

Christianity Today, “Q&A: Talking to Jeb Bush about Religious Freedom at Liberty”: In an interview with Karen Swallow Prior ahead of his commencement address at Liberty University, former Gov. Jeb Bush addresses Common Core State Standards, saying: “Common Core is narrower in scope that what people are told. Common Core is higher standards for reading and math and nothing more. It’s not social studies. It’s not curriculum. It’s not politically correct content. It’s none of that. It’s not an imposition from up above.” Noting the importance of retaining local and state control of education issues, Gov. Bush adds, “The objective of Common Core is to have a set of standards that, if assessed faithfully, means that a student…is college or career ready. Between 30 and 40 percent of our kids are not, despite all this huge spending. There should be a sense of urgency about this. This should be a national priority. Not a federal mandate but a national priority.”

What It Means: Gov. Bush has consistently emphasized the importance of rigorous education standards and meaningful systems of accountability to ensure more students graduate high school prepared for college or a career. By setting high learning goals and holding school to them, Common Core State Standards provide a path for more students, regardless of where they live or go to school, to develop the skills they need to succeed at high levels of learning. Contrary to opponents’ claims, Gov. Bush’s support for Common Core positions him well with voters. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, the public fundamentally supports high academic expectations and increased accountability.

Times Picayune, “Education Committee Should Stand Up for Common Core”: Ahead of legislative hearings in Louisiana on the state’s Common Core Standards, the editorial board writes: “[The House Education Committee] held strong for Common Core last year, and members should do the same now.” Noting four bills that “would move our state backwards” are up for consideration, the piece says, “Common Core and the tests that measure students’ progress on the standards allow Louisiana’s students to be compared to their peers elsewhere. That will provide an important measure for how well our schools are doing and how well prepared children here are for college and work. Common Core broadens our aspirations as a state.” Pointing to a statement by Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, it adds, “States, not the federal government, led the creation of the standards. There is no such thing as a Common Core curriculum…The House Education Committee members ought to listen to [supporters’] well-reasoned arguments for the standards – and reject anti-Common Core bills.”

What It Means: In Louisiana, efforts to repeal the Common Core – based largely on misleading and distorted information – have created uncertainty for teachers and students, and risk putting students at a disadvantage to others in states across the country. A Public Affairs Council study (see below) found that repeal would carry significant costs and force schools to use curriculum developed a decade ago while new standards are written. Similarly, states like South Carolina and Oklahoma demonstrate the danger of repealing the standards for political purposes.

New Orleans Advocate, “Jindal’s Plan to Scrap Common Core Would Be Costly, Force Louisiana to Revert to Decade-Old Curriculum, PAR Report Says”: A study issued Tuesday by the Public Affairs Council indicates that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to replace Common Core carries “significant” costs and would force the state to use education standards adopted a decade ago as new ones are developed. The study came on the eve of the state legislature’s first major debate over Common Core State Standards; today the House Education Committee will consider two anti-Common Core bills. The report finds replacing Common Core would cost $2.7 million per year initially and $4.4 million per year afterward. “The state would have to revert to old curriculum and resources, including textbooks and materials of editions that may be out of print,” the report states. “The Education Department would have to work with publishers willing to reprint for a short time, and only if the districts are willing to repurchase these items.” A study by the state Education Department last year said replacing Common Core would cost $25 million over five years. The PAR report also indicates 60,000 public school teachers would have to be retrained if the state got rid of Common Core.

What It Means: In addition to uncertainty for teachers and students, the PAR study underscores the costs of repealing Common Core standards. States like South Carolina and Oklahoma, which experienced turmoil after moving to replace the Common Core, demonstrate the risk of allowing political motivations to drive decisions to abandon high, comparable learning goals. Mike Petrilli pointed out the challenge: “The basic problem is that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Journal Times, “Wisconsin Should Leave Badger Exam in Place”: Whether Wisconsin continues to use the Badger Exam, which was administered in grades 3-8 this year, “may have very little do to with student performance and nearly everything to do with politics,” writes the editorial board. “The Badger Exam is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. And the phrase ‘Common Core’ has been treated as if the two words, in that combination, were obscene, largely due to misinformation surrounding the standards. Not to mention the willingness of some to make political hay out of the misinformed opinions.” Noting misrepresentations have largely informed public opinion, the editorial says replacing the assessment would “result in Wisconsin students in 2016 taking their third standardized test in as many years,” preventing teachers from comparing progress. “It might be good politics, but it’s bad education policy. Gov. Walker and state legislators should leave the Badger Exam and its Common Core foundation in place.”

What It Means: The editorial brings to light the fact that opposition to Common Core and high-quality assessments has perpetuated a great deal of misinformation, distorting public opinion. The standards hold students to high academic expectations, and meaningful systems of accountability ensure they prepare more students to be fully ready for college or a career. A recent study found 79% of teacher participants said assessments like the Badger Exam are better than those their states used before. Changing course would hinder educators’ ability to measure student progress and to identify and address learning needs.

Education Post, “Common Core Isn’t Just for Math and English”: Temoca Dixon, a Nevada social studies teacher, writes, “Common Core supports all of the best skills and challenging academics we have always wanted for our students, and we would be setting our schools and state back if we repealed the standards in Nevada…Common Core affirms my abilities by granting me the autonomy to find the best ways to help my students reach their full potential. It is not a set curriculum pushing my students into a box.” Noting the standards only address reading and math, Dixon says by helping students “recognize their own growth and improvement” they also help grow confidence in other areas and encourages greater critical thinking across subjects. “I see how the implementation of Common Core standards have improved student achievement and helped me grow as a teacher. I believe in Common Core.”

What It Means: In addition to setting high learning objectives for math and reading, Common Core standards encourage greater cross-curriculum collaboration, helping to reinforce content and build student understanding. As two Long Island, NY, teachers wrote recently, “One of the hallmarks of the Common Core standards…is the greater collaboration they empower among teachers and students…the Common Core is helping educators to share best practices and ideas to unlock students’ full potential. Gone are the days of teaching in silos.”


Correcting the Record:

New Hampshire Union Leader, “Why This Teacher Opposes Common Core”: Diane Sekula, a New Hampshire teacher, says opposition to the Common Core is not limited to one political party. “Public dissatisfaction with Common Core is not a partisan issue,” Sekula, self-identified Democrat, writes. “It is a matter of importance for anyone interested in doing what’s best for the children of New Hampshire.” Calling Gov. Hassan’s veto of anti-Common Core legislation “shameful,” the Sekula says, “As a parent and teacher, I see the negative impact of Common Core on a daily basis. New Hampshire should be offering its public school children a proven curriculum, not Common Core.” Drawing comparisons to the Soviet Union, the piece asks, “What happened to differentiation, professional experience an judgment, and inspiring students with creative and fun lessons?”

Where They Went Wrong: Counter to Sekula’s experience, teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core overwhelmingly support implementation. Angie Miller, a fellow New Hampshire teacher, testified before the state legislature this year: Common Core standards “gave me control over content in my classroom; they provided clear language to communicate with students and parents; and for the first time, we had standards that introduced research-based practices like writing across the curriculum that were long overdue.” A Scholastic study last fall found more than eight in 10 teachers who worked closely with the Common Core expressed enthusiasm about implementation, and more than two-thirds reported gains in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. Furthermore, exaggerated comparisons with the Soviet Union only perpetuate the myth of federal overreach, when Common Core adoption and implementation are purely state and local issues.

Defending the Early Years, “Constance Kamii’s Critical Look at the K-3 Common Core Standards”: A report by Dr. Constance Kamii released by DEY argues Common Core math standards for grades K-3 “are not grounded in the large body of research on how young children learn mathematics.” “Dr. Kamii has worked for many years with early childhood teachers, experimenting with new ways of stimulating children’s independent thinking,” the article says. “Dr. Kamii explains that most of the CCSS are written as if the authors are not aware of logico-mathematical knowledge; they seem to think that the facts and skills in mathematics standards can be taught directly.” Dr. Kamii’s analysis indicates Common Core sets learning goals too early for students, before young children can grasp the mathematical concepts these standards require. “In an effort to meet the standards, teachers will try to accelerate learning by directly teaching specific and too advanced concepts and skills,” leading to “empty ‘verbalisms’ – children leanring by rote what they don’ truly understand.”

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core standards set ambitious learning goals, even at early grades, to ensure students get on a path to develop the skills and understanding to succeed at higher level content. As Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio wrote last year, the implication that “Common Core is demanding a type of critical thinking that children are simply not capable of” ignores the fact “the standards don’t demand that students grasp all the components of rigor…rather that they familiarize themselves with the larger quantities as a basis for future learning.” Pondiscio points to evidence the kind of math young students encounter under Common Core “is predictive of math literacy many years later.”


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Times Picayune, “Fate of Louisiana’s Common Core Legislation Is Still Uncertain, the Night before Bills Are Supposed to Be Heard”: Opponents of Common Core are expected to present bills to scrap the standards today in a Louisiana House Education Committee hearing, but as of Tuesday “they were talking with Common Core supporters, with the possibility that they might reach a compromise and possibly drop their legislation,” the article reports. “I have no idea what’s happening,” said state Rep. Steve Carter, head of the House Education Committee. The bills “are still on the agenda.”

Chalkbeat Tennessee, “Haslam Signs Common Core Bill into Law”: On Tuesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a compromise bill that calls for a review of the state’s Common Core standards and establishes a review committee to provide recommendations going forward. The new law codifies the governor’s current review of the standards, which the administration launched late last year, while also adding a layer of legislative review to the process, the article reports. While the review committee will provide guidance to update the state’s standards, the law does not require that any new standards be markedly different from the existing ones. No changes are expected before the 2017-18 school year.

U.S. Department of Defense, “DoD Education Activity Focuses on College, Career Readiness”: The Department of Defense Education Activity, which is responsible for overseeing DoD schools and the more than 78,000 children in them, announced on Tuesday it will launch the College and Career Ready Standards program, based on Common Core, this fall. “It will increase our achievement levels and prepare students for the 21st century,” said director Tom Brady. “We have a wonderful school system, so we’ll start off with a very high bar.” DoD schools will also implement assessments to measure student progress. “We will do it thoughtfully and over time,” Brady said of new exams. “Our target is to be the best. It’s what you do with the results that’s critical – more than the testing itself.”