News You Can Use:

Education Week, “Traction Limited in Rolling Back Common Core”: Although opponents of Common Core touted this year as a time when momentum would lead states to abandon the Standards, with the clock ticking on many legislative sessions “opponents have little to cheer about so far,” reports Andrew Ujifusa. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have considered bills to repeal CCSS this year, but none has adopted such legislation. “There was a lack of understanding on the basic knowledge of what people were trying to repeal,” says West Virginia superintendent Michael Martirano. While most legislative sessions are still active (13 have or are due to adjourn by mid-April), efforts to fully replace the Standards are unlikely to have wide success this year experts say. “If victory is something that looks completely different than Common Core, I think some people are going to be disappointed,” says Fordham Institute’s Mike Brickman. Analysis indicates bills are more likely to call for review of the Standards rather than repeal. In Arizona, for example, the “year’s most notable anti-Common Core push” was voted down after Gov. Doug Ducey called for review rather than repeal. Still, opponents remain active. “You have to look at the social movement that is opposing Common Core as primarily a real grassroots movement that is still just beginning,” says Anthony Cody, an education blogger.

What It Means: Despite targeted attacks over the past two years, many of which have been based on misleading information, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use the Standards or some nearly identical version of them. As the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle wrote, one reason is that “policymakers intent on repealing Common Core invariably are confronted with the reality that the public fundamentally supports higher standards.” And as Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli pointed out earlier this year, “It’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Denver Post, “Common Core Is Better than Predecessors”: Michael Logan, a Denver sixth-grade teacher, writes that from experience Common Core is capable of helping students achieve deeper content understanding and “also deeply satisfying for them to engage with difficult material.” Like many teachers, Logan says he was initially skeptical of CCSS. “Now, five years later, I can safely say that my perception of the Common Core has changed; these standards are not only better than their predecessors, but the rigor and careful design of the new standards has changed my perception about what students are capable of…Among the key shifts in the new standards are their increased rigor and improved coherence from grade level to grade level. CCSS ask students to understand procedures, concepts and computational fluency with equal measure, and they are crafted such that the learning at each grade level forms understandings that are foundational at the next grade level.” Logan adds the Standards better equip him to identify and address learning needs. “While pundits and politicians seem mired in arguments about whether CCSS should be implemented or not, I for one, am ready to move past this debate.”

What It Means: Logan articulates what many teachers have discovered with the Common Core: that the Standards provide rigorous academic expectations that help improve student learning. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities. Similarly, a Teach Plus study this year found 79% of teachers believe new assessments designed to support the higher standards better measure student development. Together, Common Core Standards and high-quality exams provide educators a tool ensure more students are prepared for high levels of learning and ultimately college or a career.

Redland Daily Facts, “Yes, Common Core Adds Up!”: Common Core math standards cover fewer topics in greater depth and require student to “think their way through math problems,” writes Bonnie Adama Britt, a California elementary teacher. “The Common Core standards are a solid improvement on what most states, including California, had before,” Britt says. “The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (of which I am a member) praises them for following a more logical track in building math skills. The standards are also more closely aligned with how the top-scoring nations in international tests teach math.” By putting a greater emphasis on understanding the concepts of traditional processes, like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, the Standards better prepare students for higher levels of learning and helps to apply instruction to real-world situations. Instead of covering a wide range of topics every year, CCSS focus learning so that “students wind up with more mastered concepts after many years.” “In the past, math has been a bunch of memorized rules that don’t make much sense,” Brett adds. “Under these circumstances, analytical thinking consists only of figuring out which rule to apply.” With CCSS, “math is based on a collection of ideas that do make sense,” and rules come from these ideas, driving computational fluency. The piece concludes, “The challenge of Common Core is not in the standards but in the application,” and educators need support to properly implement the new learning goals.

What It Means: In addition to traditional techniques, Common Core math standards emphasize multiple problem-solving methods to help students develop deeper content understand of numbers and functions. This in turn promotes computational fluency and helps student apply learning. A 2013 study found 87% of math teachers said CCSS were more rigorous than their states’ previous standards, and in a Scholastic study last fall more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Standards said they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Albany Times Union, “Educational Testing Must Move into the 21st Century”: Disagreeing with New York teachers’ unions over calls to boycott state assessments, Rachel Gerson Rourke says policymakers “should listen to classroom educators before attempting to do away with one of the most important tools we use to ensure our students are learning.” “I have found testing is crucial to guide effective teaching,” Rourke says. “The data from the check-ups let me know where to focus my teaching (or re-teaching), and help my students know where they need to re-examine the information necessary for skill mastery.” Noting old assessments required students to memorize and regurgitate information, the piece says teaching has evolved with the focus on teaching 21-centurty skills. “The Common Core has created a platform for all students across our country to have unilateral expectations of skill mastery for each grade level…Twenty-first-century assessments that are aligned with the new, more rigorous standards, coupled with fair teacher evaluations that measure student growth, will help educators across the state become more effective.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are an important tool to ensure rigorous standards prepare students for college or a career. As Rourke points out, “Assessing is a necessary part of schooling – so that teachers and parents can understand how their students are progressing toward college- and career-readiness. But our tests must match the high expectations we’re setting for our students through the Common Core State Standards.”

Decatur Daily, “Educators Stand by Common Core”: Despite being vilified by opponents, CCSS “has the potential to positively change our children’s education,” the editorial board writes. Noting those who denounce the Standards as a federal agenda “have been misled,” the piece says “educators both locally and nationally still stand by Common Core. And they understand education in ways lawmakers and most parents never could.” Much of the opposition to CCSS has focused on the volume of testing in schools, the piece notes, though bulk of exams stem from district and state requirements. The editorial concludes, “If [CCSS] is to fall apart, we should make sure we are doing the right thing – not taking a foolish political position or simply avoiding change that could lead to educational progress.”

What It Means: As the editorial notes, educators across the country continue to support CCSS. A study last year found more than 8 in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Standards support implementation. The public too supports high, comparable education standards, even if they dislike the Common Core brand. More than two-thirds of participants said they support the principles of CCSS when not labeled “Common Core” in a poll this month. As outcomes in states like South Carolina and Oklahoma demonstrate, it would be a mistake for lawmakers to ditch the Common Core for political purposes, especially as the Standards are beginning to take root and demonstrate success, as seen in states like Kentucky and Tennessee.


Correcting the Record:

WND Education, “Common Core’s Real Goal? ‘Dumbing Down People’”: In a recently released book, author Alex Newman says CCSS are part of a government effort to “dumb down the American people.” The article reports that the Standards are so “complicated and obtuse” that “many parents can’t even help their children with math homework because they can’t understand the problems, either.” “Basically, it’s to violate the law and Constitution by having a federal gang decide what kids learn and what they don’t learn,” the article quotes Phyllis Schlafly, a Common Core critic, as saying. “The people behind it want to make our kids internationalists and globalists and think they’re citizens of the world instead of being proud of America as an exceptional and wonderful country.” “The problem with public education was never a lack of uniformly horrible standards, so imposing such a scheme on the entire nation will not fix the crisis,” Newman says. “Instead, it will make it much harder for anyone to fix as Common Core’s tentacles spread into every school district and major textbook publishing house in America.”

Where They Went Wrong: Educators, experts and objective analysis agree the Common Core Standards are a big improvement over the patchwork of standards most states used before. A majority of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS say the Standards will have a positive effect on student outcomes, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. As experts like former Sec. Bill Bennett have pointed out, opponents have sought to conflate confusing math problems with the Standards and to portray the Common Core as a federal program, both of which are inaccurate. Instead, the Standards set clear learning goals and give control to schools and teachers on how to achieve them, thereby setting up more students to ultimately graduate with the skills to succeed in college or a career.


On Our Reading List:

Center for American Progress, “Teacher Leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success”: Started as a “local, collaborative effort,” politicization of the Common Core has muffled the voices of those tasked with the work of implementing the standards – teachers. On Tuesday, April 28, the Center for American Progress will host a conversation about a new report that highlights school districts across the country that are empowering teachers to lead successful implementation of the Standards. AFT president Randi Weingarten will speak at the event, and will be followed by a panel discussion. RSVP and information event available here.

Daily Caller, “Common Core Repeal Falters in Louisiana”: The Louisiana legislature voted down a measure to move a bill that seeks to repeal the state’s Common Core standards past the Education Committee and straight to the Senate floor. The 61-37 vote “bodes ill” for the bill’s ability to pass, the article reports. “It is the perception of the parents. They have lost faith in the process,” Rep. Brett Geymann said of the effort to circumvent the Senate Education Committee.

Associated Press, “Tenn. Senate Sends Bill to Rebrand Common Core to Governor”: On Tuesday the Tennessee Senate voted 27-1 to approve a bill to rename and review the state’s Common Core standards. The state House passed the bill by a vote of 97-0 a day earlier. Gov. Bill Haslam has said he plans to sign the measure into law. Gov. Haslam has said that his primary concern is that the review proceed “in an orderly way, so our educators [know] what to prepare for.”

Washington Post, “Sen. Jon Tester Seeks to End Annual Standardized Testing”: On Tuesday, Sen. Jon Tester said he will try to amend the bipartisan NCLB revamp bill that was unanimously approved by the Senate HELP Committee last week. The bill as approved would retain annual assessment requirements. “Students shouldn’t be spending most of their time in schools filling out bubbles,” Sen. Tester said. “High-stakes testing is an expensive way to judge school districts and a bad way to prepare children for their future.” On the same day, Sec. Arne Duncan said the federal government has “an obligation to step in” if states fail to address rising numbers of students opting out of assessments.