News You Can Use:

Hechinger Report, “Oklahoma Gave Common Core an ‘F,’ but Its Teachers Still Give It an ‘A’”: More than half a year after Oklahoma’s decision to repeal CCSS, many teachers in the state continue to use the principles of the Standards, if not the brand name. “The idea is that you learn it and retain it longer if you discover the mathematical relationship yourself,” says Heather Sparks, the state’s 2009 Teacher of the Year. “I saw Common Core as very much a social justice issue.” About 60% of students who enroll in Sparks’ school move by the end of the year, and the Standards helped to provide consistency for the highly transient student population. Rick Cobb, an assistant superintendent, adds that CCSS provided a framework “taking students beyond recall and asking them to think and write.” Oklahoma teachers now face the question of whether that state’s new standards will help teachers move beyond the requirements of teaching to a test.

What It Means: The article underscores the disconnect between teachers and lawmakers in some states where political motivations have driven policy. Despite targeted attacks over the past two years, educators continue to strongly support CCSS. A Scholastic study last fall found more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Standards support implementation, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

New York Times, “Some Parents Oppose Standardized Testing on Principle, but Not in Practice”: Despite reports of opt-out movements gaining momentum, many parents who are concerned about over-testing are still having their kids take state exams. “I would like to think that I have the courage of my convictions,” says Nicolas Gottlieb, a New York father who has participated in opt-out rallies. “But can I really do that when it means I’m gambling with my kids’ future?” Less than one percent of New York City students refused state assessments last year. “We don’t refuse to go to the doctor for an annual checkup,” said Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York Board of Regents. “Most of us don’t refuse to get a vaccination. We should not refuse to take the test.” Lilia Fung, mother of an eighth grade student, called assessments a “useful diagnostic tool, among many others,” and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña underscored in a letter that the exams provide value to “students, families, school staff and the city as a whole.”

What It Means: Despite concerns about over-testing, parents recognize the value of strong assessments to provide a measure of student development and to identify and address learning needs. Assessments designed to support rigorous education standards provide constructive feedback for schools, and because they require students to demonstrate their work they reduce pressure to teach to the test. A recent Teach Plus study found 79% of teacher participants said new PARCC exams are an improvement over their states’ former assessments.

Auburn Citizen, “SUNY chancellor on upcoming state tests: ‘If kids opt out, we risk them being left behind'”: Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, writes that standardized tests have become a “pawn in political debates,” which has obscured their importance for measuring student development. “For too long, our education system has failed to track students’ progress toward college and career readiness,” the piece states. “Parents need to know these assessments are just one of our tools to support college readiness, not the whole toolbox…[but] we will have no way to track our progress and improve our tools without annual assessments.” Fewer than 40% of New York high school graduates are considered college-ready, and remediation in the states costs $163 million each year. Zimpher concludes, “Opting out is not a choice that leads to success – not in college, not when it comes to finding a job, and not in life.”

What It Means: Zimpher underscores the fact that opt-out movements undermine one of the strongest tools schools, teachers and parents have to ensure students are developing the skills they need to succeed at higher levels of learning. Strong assessments designed to support rigorous college- and career-ready standards help identify and address learning needs, helping ensure that more students are on a path to ultimately graduate high school prepared for college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

The Federalist, “Mitch Daniels Contradicts Common Core Documents He Signed”: Author Joy Pullmann says Indiana Gov. Mike Pence “parrots false talking points in support of Common Core” in a recent interview with Real Clear Politics. In the interview, Gov. Pence says, “[CCSS] began, not as a project of Washington, but as a project of governors and states, so at the outset it seemed to me like a worthy endeavor…especially when it was going to be controlled by the states and governors.” Pullmann disagrees, perpetuating the myth that the Standards are the product of big business and big government. “The truth is, governors and states did not create Common Core,” Pullmann says. “Private trade organization did. There is no legal avenue for governors to get together and make national policy…In almost no case did Common Core become law through a bill that any legislature duly passed.” Instead, Pullmann says CCSS were developed by private business “in meetings closed to the public.” “Federal involvement was part and parcel of Common Core from the very beginning.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS were developed free of federal involvement and voluntarily adopted by states through the proper education channels. Experts like former Sec. Bill Bennett have pointed out that the Standards began as and remain a state-led effort. Although the Obama Administration included the adoption of college- and career-ready standards in the scoring for its Race to the Top initiative, having these standards accounted for only 10% of states’ application for funding and states that did not adopt CCSS have still qualified for NCLB waivers. In Indiana, state leaders reviewed and replaced the Standards with a nearly identical version, which speaks to the content strength of CCSS.


On Our Reading List:

Times Picayune, “Common Core through May 2017? Louisiana Board Debates Tuesday”: The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will meet today to discuss superintendent John White’s proposal to tweak CCSS, which would keep the Standards in place for at least two more years. Under White’s plan, the BESE would not be asked to vote on the revised standards until December 2016 at the earliest. White’s proposal is competing with Gov. Jindal’s announcement earlier this year that he’ll support legislation seeking to dismantle CCSS in the state, which he underscored again in his annual speech at the opening of the legislative session. White’s plan would establish a 26-member standards review committee and three sub-committees made up of teachers, parents, and higher ed and business representatives.

USA Today, “Fact-Checking Marco Rubio”: Examining several controversial comments by Sen. Marco Rubio, the article notes that he inaccurately described CCSS as a “national school board that imposes a national curriculum on the whole country” in a February speech. In fact, state leaders developed the Common Core standards, and local school officials set the curriculum, the article corrects. At a speech at the Heritage Foundation in January, Sen. Rubio said, “We need to repeal Common Core. We need to get the federal government out of the business of dictating educational standards. Education is far too important for it to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington.”

Roll Call, “Bipartisanship on Display on No Child Left Behind Replacement Effort”: Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are moving ahead today with a markup of legislation to revamp No Child Left Behind. “We keep…the important measurements of student achievement, but we restore to states the responsibility for deciding what to do about the results of those tests,” Sen. Alexander told Roll Call in an interview. “[We] have put together a bipartisan bill to fix some of the provisions of No Child Left Behind so that we can actually help our students succeed in a more positive way,” Sen. Murray said.