News You Can Use:

Vox, “Common Core Math, Explained in 3 Minutes”: Despite numerous viral videos of confusing math problems, “there’s a reason the new math is complicated,” the article says. “One goal of Common Core is developing number sense: an understanding of how numbers can be broken down into units of smaller numbers…But learning math like a recipe, a series of steps you have to go through to get a result, doesn’t always do that…The new method of teaching math tries to help students understand how numbers are put together. But kids still have to learn the standards algorithm – the basic, familiar, and usually fastest way to solve math problems.” An accompanying video notes that new techniques are unfamiliar to most individuals over the age of 20, but the “quick and easy way” didn’t fully show students the concepts behind functions and numbers. Common Core better helps children understand math properties by introducing exercises to demonstrate ideas like “numbers are flexible things made up of other numbers.”

What It Means: The article and video do a good job of putting parents’ and others’ frustrations with Common Core math approaches into perspective. Unfortunately, the term “new math” is a misnomer; the math strategies suggested under Common Core have been employed in high-performing schools across the country for decades. Although some Common Core math strategies may be unfamiliar to some individuals, CCSS introduce students to more, and more creative, problem-solving techniques to help develop a conceptual understanding of numbers and how they work. By building that strong base understanding of the “why” and “how,” the Standards help ensure more students are able to reach and succeed at higher levels of learning.

Great Falls Tribune, Common Core Repeal Bill Likely Dead”: Montana’s Senate education committee voted 7-3 to table a bill that sought to repeal the state’s Common Core standards, “effectively killing its chances of getting passed this legislative session.” HB 377 called for a stop to implementation of CCSS and would have required parental authorization to “opt-in” students to Smarter Balanced assessments. The vote to stop the bill drew support from both Republicans and Democrats. State Sen. Bob Keenan said he was initially opposed to the Standards, but voted to stop the repeal bill after learning more about CCSS. Others, including state Sen. Taylor Brown, worried the bill would strip control over education standards away from the board of education. The bill could possibly “be blasted onto the Senate floor,” but that seems “highly unlikely” this late into the legislative session, the article reports.

What It Means: The vote in Montana, one of the most conservative states in the country, demonstrates the strong public commitment to high, comparable college- and career-ready standards – and the fact that lawmakers are seeing through the lies perpetuated by opponents. Since January, similar repeal efforts have fizzled out in at least 12 other states, most of which are squarely Republican controlled. “Some three months into the 2015 legislative calendar, virtually none of the repeal threats have materialized,” Nussle says in her latest memo. “Based on how resilient the Common Core State Standards have proven to be in the first three months of 2015, we’re unlikely to see any kind of mass movement away from this critically important initiative.”


Correcting the Record:

Dubuque Telegraph Herald, “Common Core Trying to Control Children”: The purpose of CCSS is to control children’s behavior and pressuring Catholic schools to relinquish discipline, respect and accountability responsibilities to the “secular progressive government,” writes Les Feldmann, an Iowa resident. Citing opposition from individuals including Phyllis Schlafly, James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky, Feldmann says the Gates Foundation gave “enormous grant money to train teachers to implement Common Core in Catholic schools,” and that the Standards were developed in Washington. “Wake up!” Feldmann writes. “The federal government wants control of your children.”

Where They Went Wrong: Faith leaders – including the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference – have endorsed the Common Core State Standards, which set rigorous learning goals for states and schools that adopt them. In a Christian Post op-ed, Dr. Antipas Harris wrote, “The Common Core sets high, clear learning goals at each grade level to create a path of college and career preparedness.” He continues, “The content is not sinister; it is straightforward and aligned with what any mother or father would want for their children.” Moreover, CCSS were developed free of any federal involvement, and experts and objective analysis have repeated made clear that the Standards do not push religious or ideological perspective on students, or “control students,” as the piece suggests. In fact, teachers overwhelmingly agree the Standards help students develop stronger critical thinking and reasoning skills.


On Our Reading List:

Orlando Sentinel, “Florida Legislature Oks Scaling Back of School Testing”: The Florida House approved a bill (HB 7069) to curtail student testing in public school by a vote of 105-6 yesterday, adopting a version that previously cleared the Senate. The bill will go immediately to Gov. Rick Scott. Among its provisions, the bill would eliminate some exams, reduce how much weight test scores have in teacher evaluations, and limit the amount of time students can spend on testing to 45 hours during the academic year. It leaves intact the state’s main assessments for math and English. “Florida lawmakers have shown it’s possible to achieve fewer, better tests while continuing to measure student success,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future. The state teachers’ union said the legislation doesn’t go far enough and pledged to continue to work with lawmakers. A PolitiFact report finds students in the state currently spend an average of about 45 hours per year on assessments.

Denver Post, “Colorado Senate Education Committee Approves Testing Reduction”: After earlier attempts to pare back state standardized tests stalled, the Colorado Senate Education Committee approved more sweeping legislation on Thursday that opens the door to local tests and puts off a requirement to tie teacher evaluations to student growth, the article reports. The committee voted 8-1 to advance the bill, SB 257. It’s prospects are “cloudy” in the Democrat-controlled House, which is working on a narrower test-reduction plan, the article adds. “We need more than anything to have tests that we trust and we see the value in and respect the results,” said Sen. Owen Hill, one of the bill’s sponsors. Separately, the Post’s editorial board writes, “It’s time for Gov. John Hickenlooper to lay down a marker in the greater standardized testing debate” by pledging to veto any effort to get rid of the requirement for all ninth-grade assessments (as SB 257 would do).

Huffington Post, “States Are Pretty Confused about What Happens When Students Opt Out of Tests”: The student assessment opt-out movement has states like Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and New York reviewing policies and procedures for dealing with such instances. NCLB requires at least 95% of students take exams or schools risk losing Title I funds. The article reports that opt-out numbers are difficult to gauge, but at least one state – Colorado – has requested flexibility from the mandate. The federal participation requirement also runs into state and district policies, which range from allowing parents to withhold their children from testing to requiring that all students take state tests. The myriad opt-out policies have led some states, like Alaska, New Jersey and West Virginia, to seek guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. The agency’s response indicates its options range from increased monitoring to withholding federal funding.