News You Can Use:

Huntsville Times, “Watch a 5th Grader Deliver the Common Core Speech that our Lawmakers Didn’t Want to Hear”: Last week Alabama fifth-grader Virginia Kate Brandt submitted testimony to the legislature supporting the state’s College and Career Ready Standards and urging lawmakers to oppose SB101, which would repeal the Common Core-based standards. “I have been positively affected by Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards,” Brandt says. “I love how I am being taught math. I am learning multiple strategies that I can choose from to help me with my work. Some people say the College and Career Ready Standards dictate the way teachers teach, but I don’t understand why they say that because my teachers find creative ways to customize our learning to meet our needs. Because of that, I feel empowered and challenged by education itself. I want to continue to feel this way.” Brandt describes a recent research project that required students to work together and drew on standards from across the curriculum. “Because my teachers have allowed me to have experiences where I can use strategies to think for myself, problem solve, brainstorm solutions, collaborate with others, and use my voice, I am able to stand in front of you today, with confidence, and share how my education has benefited from well-designed standards,” Brandt says.

What It Means: As the article notes, student voices have largely been absent from debate over CCSS, and Brandt’s testimony makes clear the value of high, comparable standards. An Achieve study last year found that 87% of recent high-school graduates would have worked harder in school if they had been held to higher expectations, and a similar study by the Center for American Progress found K-12 students who are held to high expectations are more likely to graduate from college. By setting rigorous learning goals, CCSS help ensure more students will graduate high school prepared for college or a career.

Times Picayune, “Long Review of Common Core Approved by Louisiana Education Board”: The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved in committee Superintendent John White’s plan to review and make changes to the state’s Common Core standards, and is expected to endorse the plan in a vote today. “All the key elements of the board’s Common Core fight with Gov. Bobby Jindal came up: contracts, budget cuts and who gets to decide,” the article reports. The board voted to establish a committee to review the Standards, which will be supplemented by three sub-committees focused on math, English and early childhood education this year and next. The committees are empowered to “change, adjust, augment” the Standards, White said, though he doesn’t want them to start from scratch. “At any point in this process the standards committee can come to you and say, ‘Look, this is obvious. Let’s just change this,’” White said. “What we’re striving for is a professional review process” run by “people who are really using the standards on a day-to-day basis.”

What It Means: Louisiana’s support for a steady plan to review its Common Core standards is a rational approach to ensure that the Standards meet students’ needs without putting students at a disadvantage or introducing greater uncertainty in classrooms. Unlike Gov. Jindal’s politically motivated agenda, the review process builds on the rigorous baseline established by CCSS and ensures that educators’ voices are considered. Like many other states including Arizona, North and South Dakota, and West Virginia, the move reflects parents’ and policymakers’ commitment to high, comparable education standards.

Leavenworth Times, “Dispelling the Myths about Common Core”: Many of the criticisms made against CCSS are built on “myths” and take away from constructive dialogue, writes Marti Crow, a member of the Leavenworth Board of Education. Contrary to claims that the “federal government will be leading the charge,” Crow points out that “Common Core is a state-led effort that is not part of NCLB or any other federal initiative.” “Every state also had its own definition of proficiency… This lack of standardization was one reason why states decided to develop [CCSS] in 2009,” the piece states. “Another myth is that the standards set a national curriculum for our schools…In Kansas, our curriculum is set in districts with some governance by state statute,” Crow adds. “[CCSS are] a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and other stakeholders will decide how the standards are to be met.” In response to recent article claiming that CCSS require sexual education, Crow notes the “standards are limited to two areas of learning, mathematics and language.” Crow concludes by encouraging parents to review the facts and make up their own minds.

What It Means: Like Crow, experts have raised the fact that much of the criticism about CCSS is structured on misleading information and often outright dishonesty. The Standards were developed free of federal involvement, and states voluntarily adopted them. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or some very similar version, and more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Arizona Daily Independent, “Common Core Advocates Used Questionable Tactics”: An opinion piece (“Stop Fighting Common Core and Focus on Issues,” Arizona Republic) penned by former Gov. Jan Brewer and Rebecca Gau is part of an effort to “preserve the technology based, data mining testing which is core of Common Core,” writes Loretta Hunnicutt. “Buzz words and phrases were key to the campaign against lawmakers who had hoped to defeat the federal standards adopted in 2010 during Brewer’s tenure,” the piece states. “Lawmakers were made to understand that the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core) dumbing down standards were superior to standards of the past.” Hunnicutt says CCSS supporters “tried to muddy the waters” around debate over the Standards and that “lobbyists and non-lobbyists were sent out to prey upon the unsuspecting and overwhelmed lawmakers” to prevent efforts to repeal and replace CCSS.

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the theory spun by Hunnicutt, CCSS have demonstrated strong resiliency because the public fundamentally supports rigorous education standards that prepare students for college and careers. A recent Arizona State University study found more than 70% of respondents support the principles of the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, even if they don’t like the term “Common Core.” As Gov. Brewer wrote this month, “To the detriment of constructive dialogue, distortion and often flat-out lies have become many critics’ go-to strategy.”


On Our Reading List:

Wilmington News Journal, “Test Scores Could Help Kids Get Out of Remedial Classes”: On Tuesday, leaders in Delaware announced the state will use results from Smarter Balanced assessments to determine whether students will need to take remedial classes if they attend a Delaware college or university. “Addressing the remedial crisis is one crucial step we have to take,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “Using these tests will help remove a barrier to make sure that more graduates go on to acquire that critical education they need to be successful.” In 2012, more than half of Delaware students required some remediation upon entering college. The arrangement will apply to the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wilmington University and Delaware Community College.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Jeb Bush’s Speech in Columbus: Five Takeaways”: Speaking before the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, former Gov. Jeb Bush reiterated his support for CCSS. “If you apply conservative principles in a way that is open, where you’re trying to build consensus, where you’re not focused on getting in a food fight but you’re trying to achieve a strategy, you can move the needle,” Gov. Bush said. He emphasized that the Standards raise the bar for students. “What I’m for are higher standards,” he said, and added that the federal role in education should be “very little.”

Wall Street Journal, “New Jersey Gov. Christie Distances Himself on Common Core”: Gov. Chris Christie said implementation of CCSS isn’t going smoothly in New Jersey and that he will likely address the situation in the coming weeks during an interview with the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader. Gov. Christie has voiced concerns about federal incentives for states to adopt the Standards at other events this year. His changing stance has been a cause of concern for many New Jersey educators, the article reports.

Washington Examiner, “Clinton Says Iowans See Value of Common Core”: In a roundtable discussion with students from Kirkwood Community College in Monticello, Iowa, Hillary Clinton defended CCSS. Clinton said it was “very painful” to see “really unfortunate” arguments around the Standards, which began as a “nonpartisan” effort. “It wasn’t politicized. It was about coming up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country, no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was. That there wouldn’t be two tiers of education,” Clinton said. “Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time. And you see the value of it. You understand why that helps you organize your whole education system. A lot of states, unfortunately, haven’t had that. So [they] don’t understand the value of a core, in this sense a common core. Of course, [then] you can figure out the best way in your community to try to reach.”

Politico, “Heritage Action to Score 2016 Candidates”: The political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation will evaluate presidential candidates in six categories: opportunity, growth, civil society, limited government, national security and favoritism. The organization hasn’t ruled out endorsing a candidate in the Republican primary. The ratings, which will be released in September, are the first time the Heritage Foundation has formally evaluated candidates. The broad categories will include specific questions on everything from Common Core to net neutrality, transportation funding and military spending, the article reports.

Chicago Tribune, “Firefighter, Chiropractor, Mayor Chat with Kids for Career Day”: Fourth-grade students at Pietrini Elementary School outside Chicago participated in a career day as part of a program to help emphasize college- and career-readiness. “With Common Core, now the bar has been set higher,” said Melissa Peterson, a teacher at the school. “We don’t want them to wait until high school. We want them to make connections in school and maybe understand the level at which we’re requiring them to work.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune, “Building a Community Block-by-Block”: At Tahoe Elementary, kindergarten students use miniature communities to help reinforce real-world application of basic lessons. “It is a pretty cool way of learning,” says Alison Riegel, the class’ teacher. The “Blocks” program put an emphasis on hands-on learning, verbal and physical interaction and creative expression. Riegel says the exercises use activities to develop word-based vocabulary and math skills. “It’s about learning how to lay the foundation,” Riegel adds.