News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “A Big Legislative Win on Education”: The unanimous passage of the Senate HELP Committee rewrite of NCLB was the “most important legislative development recently,” writes columnist Jennifer Rubin. “The bill includes an extraordinary ‘get’ for conservatives that would allow states to create their own accountability systems and determine how much standardized tests should account for student and faculty evaluations,” the article says. “This may take the bugaboo of ‘national curriculum’ and unfounded criticism of Common Core off the table. It adds that the bill would alleviate concerns about “the federal government’s nose under the tent of state-led education” and fully sync up supporters by taking the issue of federal government involvement off the table. “If conservatives could get the feds out of Common Core and keep the conservative support for high standards, it would be a win politically and substantively,” Rubin concludes.

What It Means: The Every Child Achieves Act provides several important provisions by reinforcing that full control of education issues is in states’ hands while also upholding assessments requirements. As Rubin points out, such measures would help put to rest concerns about federal overreach, thereby syncing up supporters and alleviating criticisms that have overshadowed constructive debate.

Hechinger Report, “Parents Become Supporters of Common Core When They See It In Action”: In the latest of a series of open letters between Principals Jayne Ellspermann and Carol Burris, Ellspermann says her schools had no opt-outs, largely because they helped to engage parents about the transition to CCSS and related exams. “The objections voiced are in protest to high stakes testing, the loss of instructional time, and against using the test results to evaluate teachers,” the piece states. “But where is the evidence that Common Core is responsible for all this?” Ellspermann continues, “I support the Common Core because it challenges our students to think. My teachers support the Common Core because they have seen its positive impact on the performance of our students regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. The standards teach our students not to stop at the answer, but to continue to explain and justify it. It gives meaning to learning by giving students an opportunity to personalize their comprehension.”

What It Means: While the national opt-out movement has garnered a lot of attention, most parents are choosing to have their children participate in new assessments. The reason is that high-quality assessment provides parents and teachers with a strong tool to measure student development, and to identify and address learning needs before they become problematic. By setting high academic expectations for students, and holding schools accountable for helping them reach it, Common Core State Standards and aligned tests ensure more students will graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career.

Des Moines Register, “Why Standardized Tests Have Value”: A comprehensive assessment system is necessary to provide information for educators to improve classroom instruction and support learning, write Cheryl Werner, district coordinator for Dubuque Community Schools, and Todd Wessels, director of curriculum for Holy Family Catholic Schools. “This perspective, however, has been drowned out in the debate around assessments in Iowa and across the country, where anti-testing dialogue has overtaken the conversation,” the piece says. “But high-quality assessments should be used as part of a complete assessment system. We’ve seen their benefits.” A complete assessment system should include tools teachers need to improve instruction, show student growth over time and adapt to a student’s level of understanding, and be easy to understand for parents and educators, the piece concludes. Otherwise, time spent administering and analyzing exams will be wasted.

What It Means: Strong student assessments are an important tool to identify and address learning needs, and to help educators tailor instruction to address those needs. As Werner and Wessels point out, comprehensive assessments systems should be easy to understand and guide parents and teachers. New exams designed to test to higher content set forth by Common Core, like PARCC and Smarter Balanced, provide more constructive feedback to provide a better measure of student development, alleviate pressure to teach to the test, and gradually will allow schools to gradually scale back time devoted to testing.

New Orleans Advocate, “Common Core Worth Keeping in Schools”: Debate over Common Core State Standards “could really benefit from clear and accurate information about what the new standards are and what they are not,” writes Terrie Poehl, assistant professor of education at Northwestern State University. Encouraging parents to read the Standards, Poehl says Common Core math approaches will “help children become fluent in math rather than becoming calculator-dependent.” Using an example, the piece notes that problem-solving methods that encourage multiple techniques help “students gain a deeper understanding of math and numbers and solve problems quickly and accurately.” “Louisiana needs to stay the course and continue with Common Core,” Poehl says. “In addition to supporting students, the state needs to continue to support teachers in their knowledge and understanding of the standards.”

What It Means: Parents’ unfamiliarity with Common Core has opened the door to a lot of misleading and often flat-out false information about the Standards. Poehl points out that the Standards outline sensible learning goals and encourage learning techniques that help students develop a deeper understanding of basic skills. By setting high, consistent academic expectations, Common Core State Standards ensure that more students will graduate high school fully college- and career-ready.

Verde Independent, “The Truth about Common Core Standards”: Linda Lauten Spellman, a former California teacher, says she was surprised to hear legislators and some teacher criticize Common Core State Standards for inappropriate material and complicated techniques upon moving to Arizona, because she had a very different experience using the Common Core in California. “The question, then, is what exactly is Common Core,” Spellman writes. “It is nothing more than a list of skills to be either introduced or mastered at each grade level. It was developed and coordinated by teachers and parents across the country, not by the federal government.” Noting that the standards outline a logical progression of learning, Spellman adds, “What I’m most concerned about, though, are the absolute mistruths about the standards being expressed by state leaders and various political entities.”

What It Means: As an educator with experience across states, Spellman’s perspective highlights the fact that much of the criticism of Common Core State Standards is based on rhetoric and not the substance of the standards themselves. As experts like former Sec. Bill Bennett have pointed out, such attacks have largely drowned out constructive debate and risks putting students at a disadvantage.


Correcting the Record:

New Orleans Advocate, “Unicorns Have Far More Substance than Core Supporters”: Quin Hlilyer, a contributing editor for National Review, says Common Core supporters should “get a spine” and “repeatedly use the most egregiously hackneyed excuse by which most adolescents avoid critical thinking.” Hillyer criticizes supporters for failing to specify why they favor the standards, arguing that parents, “who, I guarantee you, will make the lawmakers pay at the polls this fall,” are not in support of Common Core State Standards. Hillyer challenges Louisiana lawmakers and business community to a debate. “Let them explain why it’s OK that children are brought to tears by simple arithmetic made needlessly complicated, while parents have no clue how to help them understand the new teaching methods,” Hillyer writes. “Let them explain why it’s OK to ask teachers to understand, much less apply, standards written in bureaucratic gobbledygook…If they can’t explain these things, then the bully-boys pushing the Core may find themselves on the very real unicorn horns of a dilemma.”

Where They Went Wrong: In criticizing supporters, Hillyer reiterates many of the fallacies that the Alliance for Better Classrooms set out to address. As experts have pointed out, misinformation and rhetoric have largely drowned out constructive debate about the Common Core State Standards. Lost in all of that is teachers’ and parents’ support for rigorous standards and high-quality assessments. A recent poll in Louisiana found more than two-thirds of parents support the principles of Common Core.


On Our Reading List:

Wall Street Journal, “Republican Hopefuls Focus on Religious Faith at Iowa Gathering”: At the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit on Saturday, Republican presidential candidates made little mention of Common Core. “In contrast to a Republican summit in New Hampshire last week, Saturday’s event was largely devoid of attacks on [CCSS],” the article reports.

Daily Caller, “New Bill Could Repeal Common Core in Tennessee”: A new piece of legislation in Tennessee, HB 1035, would require the state to replace its Common Core standards in two years but it does not specify new standards to replace them, leaving the door open to a continuation of Common Core. The bill would require the review committee set up by Gov. Haslam and state lawmakers to decide future standards. The legislation passed the state legislature nearly unanimously, the article reports.

Chicago Sun Times, “Bill Would Allow Illinois Students to Opt Out of State Tests”: A new bill introduced in the Illinois House by Rep. Will Guzzardi, HB 306, would allow students to refuse state exams if they have written permission from a parent or guardian. “They’re doing it right now today. The only thing that this bill will change is to create clear, concise rules about how that will happen,” Rep. Guzzardi said.