News You Can Use:

Education Next, “What Explains Success at Success Academy?”: At Success Academy, a network of New York City charter schools with 64% proficiency rates in English and 94% in math (the state average was 29% and 35%, respectively), what separates performance “is a laser focus on what is being taught, and how,” writes Charles Sahm. “At Success, content is king,” the article says, noting both the math and ELA curricula “are well aligned with Common Core Standards.” Eva Moskowitz, founder of the schools, says, “Success was doing the Common Core before there was a Common Core.” “Besides encouraging student-generated strategies to solve math problems, Success devotes considerable effort in the early grades to honoring students’ arithmetic skills,” the article notes. “Its ELA curriculum focuses on getting students to read more (especially, challenging nonfiction that builds background knowledge).” In response to criticisms of Success, and by extension Common Core State Standards, create a “test-prep factory,” Sahm notes flex periods in which students participate in a range of arts and music classes. Moskowitz adds that preparing students for assessments doesn’t crowd out authentic learning. “If you look at the scope and sequence of our curriculum, it is very, very robust,” she says. “You cannot ace these Common Core tests with test prep. Our kids can interpret the meaning of a poem because they’ve read so much poetry…When we are prepping for math, it’s open-ended math questions.”

What It Means: Success Academy provides a paradigm of curricula well aligned to the rigorous learning goals of Common Core State Standards and demonstrates the impact that high academic expectations can have on student outcomes. As the article notes, by introducing students to multiple learning techniques in math and encouraging greater engagement in reading, particularly with nonfiction texts, the schools have helped improve proficiency rates to among the top percentiles in the state.

Real Clear Education, “Five Questions with John Engler”: The rollout of assessments designed to test to Common Core State Standards has forced policymakers and educators to face tough questions like, are our schools good enough, and are the new standards and assessments helping to make them better? Former Gov. John Engler says, “Today, the blue collar job has become the ‘blue tech’ job and requires skills and competencies that someone doesn’t just pick up by showing up in class. You actually have to learn things. And that means higher standards.” Noting between 4 and 5 million U.S. jobs go unfilled because workers lack the necessary skills, Gov. Engler says, “We’re strong supporters of higher standards…we have to get our efforts in schools and training aligned for the workforce of the modern economy.” He adds college-bound students should be able to do so without remediation. Of testing, Gov. Engler says, “There needs to be accountability, everybody gets measured: Everyone in the workforce is evaluated, certainly we should do the same in our schools.” He adds that states should be able to compare results to see how they “stack up.” “That kind of transparency matters a great deal.”

What It Means: Gov. Engler makes clear the importance of rigorous, comparable education standards that prepare students for college or a career, high-quality assessments and greater collaboration among schools and educators. CCSS establish a framework that empowers schools to achieve those goals, and preliminary results from states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of the Standards, suggest they are working. By setting high learning goals and allowing educators decide how best to meet them, Common Core State Standards ensure more students will finish high school fully prepared for college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

USA Today, “155,000 New York Kids Boycott Standardized Tests”: Several school districts in New York suburbs report high percentages of students who refused to take assessments designed to test the more rigorous content of Common Core State Standards. In at least two districts, opt-out rates exceeded 50%, according to polling, though the state Education Department notes official numbers won’t be available until this summer. “I do believe this is a historic day in New York state, as we try to regain local control over the education of our kids,” said one Lakewood parent. “These refusals are meant to protest a system that is currently failing our children and educators…In the process we are teaching our children a valuable lesson – to stand up for what they believe in.” “You could see this coming, and the folks that are working in the field realize that this is a real issue,” said J. Thomas Morton, a district superintendent. “I’m not so sure that the folks that are sitting in their offices in Albany understand that.” A spokesperson for the New York Department of Education cautioned about the impact. “Test refusal is a mistake because it eliminates important information about how our kids are doing. Those who call for opting out really want New York to opt out of information that can help parents and teachers understand how well their students are doing.”

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments are an important tool to help parents and teachers gauge student development, and to identify and address learning needs before they impede a student’s success. As both parents and experts have pointed out, opt-out efforts undermine school accountability and risk putting students at a disadvantage. Assessments designed to support Common Core State Standards provide educators with more constructive feedback, and because they require students to demonstrate their understanding, they reduce pressures to teach to the test.


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New Hampshire Union Leader, “House: State Can’t Require School Districts to Adopt Common Core”: The New Hampshire House approved a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit the state from requiring school districts to adopt education standards, including Common Core State Standards. In response, Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office said lawmakers should be focused on helping schools transition to the new standards, not passing unnecessary bills. Gov. Hassan will talk with stakeholders before deciding whether to veto the bill. “There is no law that says adopt Common Core,” says Rep. Barbara Shaw. “This is locally controlled and developed.” “Local school districts are already free to choose whether or not to implement standards like Common Core, making this legislation unnecessary,” said a spokesperson for Gov. Hassan’s office.

Associated Press, “Common Core Testing Problems Continue with Money at Stake”: Technical problems disrupted testing in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota this week. On Tuesday, the New Hampshire-based administrator’s server crashed due to capacity, causing spotty access and logistical problems. On Wednesday, Montana offered waivers from the assessments, which could put millions of dollars of federal funding at risk, the article reports. “We don’t know, until everyone’s done testing, what the participating rate will be, but it will be high,” said Montana State Superintendent Denise Juneau.

Education Week, “Senate Education Committee Unanimously Passes Bipartisan ESEA Rewrite”: Members of the Senate education committee approved a “calculated and largely fireworks-free markup of a bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act rewrite” by a vote of 22-0 on Thursday. In clearing the bill out of committee, Alexander and Murray overcame a major legislative hurdle that now readies the measure for prime-time debate in the Senate chamber. But that process, in addition to eliciting a much-more partisan debate, may prove challenging to even schedule, the article reports. The approved version would allow states to decide how schools should be held accountable for student performance, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “John Kasich Preparing to Launch National Political Committee as He Ramps Up Presidential Exploration”: Ohio Gov. John Kasich will soon launch a political action committee to raise money for a presidential run in 2016, according to sources close to the governor. “Kasich will continue doing what he has been for months – touring the country to gauge interest, test a message and test his own appetite for the grind of another national run,” the article reports. Gov. Kasich has been a vocal supporter of Common Core and has resisted calls to change his position. Last year he said he has a right to “shape what conservative philosophy means.” Gov. Kasich will appear on Meet the Press on Sunday.

Wisconsin State Journal, “Scott Walker Approval Rating Makes ‘Significant Drop’ in Wisconsin”: Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating hit its lowest point in three years, 41%, according to a poll by Marquette Law School. The statewide poll shows the public overwhelmingly opposes Gov. Walker’s proposed cuts to K-12 education and the University of Wisconsin System, the article reports. The survey found 48% oppose Gov. Walker’s plan to stop funding for state assessments designed to support the state’s Common Core standards.