News You Can Use:

Christian Post, “Why Christian Should Defend Common Core”: Dr. Carlos Campo of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference urges Christians to support high education standards, calling CCSS “clearer, better researched, and more rigorous” former education requirements. As a college professor, Dr. Campo “watched in helpless frustration” as students unprepared for the challenges of college-level work struggled with introductory courses. Noting much of the criticism over CCSS “almost never referenced the standards themselves,” Dr. Campo writes a read of the content of CCSS they are not political in nature but “ensure students have the skills to step into the next grade with the skills to thrive.” “By setting such high expectation at each grade we could begin to rise as a nation and reclaim our once-vaunted educational prowess,” Dr. Campo concludes. “We will surely need God’s strength and wisdom to accomplish this worthy goal.”

What It Means: As Dr. Campo points out, individuals of faith have every reason to support holding young people to high academic expectations. CCSS set a high bar for all public school students (analysis finds they are more rigorous than more than 75% of states’ previous standards and 90% aligned with those of top performing countries) better ensuring they are able to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college or a career.

Ahead of the Heard Blog, “Will the Common Core Lead to More Schools Labeled Failing? Not Really”: Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners addresses the misconception that CCSS-aligned tests will results in more schools identified as “failing.” Aldeman indicates “students won’t know less than they did the year before” but the more rigorous tests will correct for past systems that inflated proficiency rates. That “doesn’t necessarily mean more schools being labeled ‘failing’ or targeted for interventions.” The Department of Education will allow schools to pause accountability determinations during the transition period, Aldeman notes, and under a normative accountability system schools will be able to compare students outcomes to one another. “Even if absolute scores fall, on a relative basis, student performance on the old state assessments is likely to look very similar to student performance on the new assessments.” Aldeman concludes, “The Common Core is an easy bogey-man. But while the myth that the Common Core will trigger massive numbers of ‘failing’ schools is a persistent one, it’s just not real.”

What It Means: The article emphasizes that when teachers and schools have the support and resources to properly teach to higher content aligned to CCSS they are able to help students achieve significant academic improvements. The piece makes no qualms that meeting the rigors of the higher standards ask a lot of both teachers and students, but by setting high expectations they help improve student outcomes. The evidence from Lockwood Elementary mirrors the success states like Kentucky and Tennessee, which have seen proficiency and college-readiness rates steadily increase since fully implementing CCSS.

Red Blog, “Common Core Creates Professional Possibilities”: Maddie Fennell, a former Nebraska Teacher of the Year, writes CCSS “hold tremendous potential for the education profession.” Fennell points out the Standards were developed by the “best experts and practitioners in the fields of math and English language arts” and “were not motivated by a drive to test students.” “CCSS provide a common language for teachers to use across district and state lines,” she adds, a provide teachers a tool to collaborate with their peers to help unlock students’ full potential. Noting implementation has experienced setbacks, Fennell says states like Kentucky can provide a roadmap of how to effectively transition to the more rigorous standards. “The Common Core State Standards are one of the best tools we can use to achieve [a better future for students],” Fennell concludes.

What It Means: Across the country, teachers who have worked closely with CCSS continue to support their implementation and believe they will help students achieve to higher levels of learning. A Scholastic study found more than two-thirds of teachers in schools that have fully implemented the Standards have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Richard Woods Gets Ready to Steer Georgia Department of Education”: At a public policy forum incoming Georgia superintendent Richard Woods, who ran on pledge to repeal CCSS, said he accepts that the state will likely proceed with Common Core Standards. “Woods may also be forced to back down from his campaign rhetoric, given the widespread support for Common Core among educators tired of changing edicts,” the article notes. At the forum, Amanda Miller, the state’s teacher of the year, said, “We want something to stick for a minute so we can become a master of it and create lessons that work.”

What It Means: States that have sought to abandon CCSS based off of political motivations, like Oklahoma and South Carolina, have run into significant problems trying to replace them with equally rigorous standards, and have put students at a disadvantage in doing so. Most teachers who have worked closely with the Standards report they have seen an improvement in students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills, and an Achieve study last year found 87% of recent high-school graduates would have worked harder in school if they had been held to higher expectations.



On Our Reading List:

Washington Post, “Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Outline Education Priorities and Defend Testing”: In a speech today outlining the Obama Administration’s position on rewriting NCLB requirements, Sec. Arne Duncan is expected to draw a “line in the sand” that states continue to give annual, standardized tests in reading and math. “[Duncan] will also call on states and districts to limit unnecessary testing so that teachers can focus needed time on classroom learning,” a spokesperson said. “Every parent, every teacher in 100,000 public schools is asking the question, ‘Are there too many tests?’” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate education panel. “I don’t know the answer. I’m asking the question.” Sen. Alexander added, “The question about testing gets mixed up in the question of how much federal control is too much federal control.”

Ed Week, “Colorado State Board Votes to Let Districts Opt Out of PARCC”: The Colorado Board of Education voted last week 4-3 to allow school districts to receive waivers to opt out of the first phase of PARCC assessments, which will be administered in March. The state attorney general’s office warned the board doesn’t have the authority to grant such waivers, and Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said he won’t allow them unless “they pass legal muster.” The PARCC exams are made up of two parts, performance tasks and a short-answer section. The board’s vote would allow waivers from only the first portion. The state’s assessment chief said both parts of the tests are needed to obtain a valid score.

Associated Press, “Key Aspects of the Governor’s Proposed California Budget”: Califorinia Gov. Jerry Brown called for an additional $1.1 billion to help implement CCSS in his annual budget plan. Under the proposal the general education fund will increase about five percent with much of the increase earmarked for K-12 and community colleges.