News You Can Use:

New America’s Ed Central Blog, “Why We Don’t Need to Get Rid of Common Core to Have Play in Kindergarten”: CCSS provide a frame to help teachers think about what students need to learn by the end of the school year” and to construct a “classroom environment [that] enables children to become excited about school and learning,” writes Shayna Cook, a program associate with New America. The Standards do not mean that every classroom is the same. “Teachers must read the standards and plan their lessons to facilitate how each individual student will learn and work towards his or her goals by the end of the year,” Cook says. “Broad variation of Common Core implementation at the kindergarten-level is a result of misinterpretations of the standards and a lack of understanding about how young children learn.” Cook adds CCSS can be implemented using “center-based play to facilitate learning,” which introduces young children to reading and early cognitive skills while maintaining time for play and socio-emotional development. “The Common Core standards are not the problem. They leave room for children’s developmental pace,” Cook writes. “School leaders need to know that there is a way to integrate intentional play back into the classroom while teaching the high-level literacy skills that are found in the Common Core.”

What It Means: CCSS set high academic expectations even at early grades, but contrary to accusations they are developmentally inappropriate and replace important time for play, Cook makes clear that the Standards can help bridge learning and social engagement. As experts like Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio have pointed out, it is false to suggest “we can’t have both play-based kindergarten and language-rich kindergarten.” CCSS establish a path from early grades through high school that ensures that at each step students are developing the skills to succeed at higher levels of learning, and they give parents and teachers the resources to help address learning needs when students get off track.

Post Star (NY), “Opting Out of Common Core Will Solve Nothing”: Calling efforts to encourage parents to opt their children out of assessments that support high standards “irresponsible,” the editorial board writes that concerns over CCSS are being politicized and fanned “into an inferno of fear and misinformation.” “We believe the Common Core standards have the potential to provide children a gateway to better education results. They are not something to be feared.” The piece notes that teachers’ concerns about linking test results to evaluations is warranted, but the Standards and evaluations “are two distinctly different issues that should never be argued in the same conversation.” A legislative deal last week eliminated that provision in New York, leaving it up to the State Department of Education. “We believe Common Core has enormous potential to raise the bar academically,” the editorial concludes. “Most of all, opting out of the test will solve absolutely nothing and cost taxpayers money.”

What It Means: Strong systems of accountability are an important tool to ensure that high standards prepare students for their futures, and to give parents and teachers an honest measure of student progress. In a recent survey, 79% of teacher participants said assessments that test to CCSS are more useful than their previous state assessments. As parents have pointed out, opting-out of assessments won’t resolve testing concerns and will reduce transparency about student development.

Committee for Economic Development, “To Boost U.S. Competitiveness, Leaders Endorse Rigorous Academic Standards”: A series of three videos from the CED featuring business and education leaders highlight the importance of college- and career-ready academic standards. “Each year, approximately one million [U.S. students] fail to graduate high school on time, and one in five needs remediation in college,” says Howard Fluhr, CED member and chairman of the Segal Group. “Rigorous educational standards will help students succeed in higher education and in their careers.” CCSS were developed to help provide greater consistency over the previous patchwork of standards from state to state, and to address the “mile-wide and an inch-deep” approach by focusing on “fewer topics with much more depth.” The Standards will also help promote quality and innovation across states, as implementation continues, the videos say. “We have great unevenness in schools and what we accept as quality,” says Pedro Noguera, professor of education at NYU. “That unevenness reproduces patterns of inequality in our society because it tends to be poor kids get an inferior education.”

What It Means: The videos underscore the value of rigorous academic standards like CCSS for both students and the economy at large. 88% of employers say workers need higher levels of learning and deeper knowledge to succeed in the workplace, and private companies spend more than $3 billion each year to train workers in skills they should have developed in high school. By setting a consistent, high bar, CCSS better ensure that more students will graduate with the critical thinking and reasoning skills to competently step into college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

Breitbart News, “Why We Should Eliminate State Boards and State Departments of Education”: State boards of education and state departments of education are guilty of “oppressing parents, local school boards, and local teacher unions” with “baseless claims” that CCSS and related tests are an improvement over those states used before, writes Sandra Stotsky. “Parents and teachers need to eliminate their misguided, if not incompetent, state boards of education and state departments of education – state by state.” Citing a laundry list of reasons, Stotsky says no state board is on record asking for a “cost-benefit analysis” of CCSS or for analysis of the Standards college-readiness standards. Stotsky adds that state departments of education “look chiefly to the U.S. Department of Education for guidance and do not advocate for the parents, teachers and administrators in their own state.”

Where They Went Wrong: Stotsky’s argument is little more than a call to subvert state and local education authorities – which have overwhelmingly supported CCSS – and a continuation of her widespread criticism of the Standards. After more than five years and two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use the Standards or some nearly identical version of them. The fact that so many states continue to stick with CCSS, and that early adopters like Kentucky and Tennessee have seen improvements under them, speaks to the strength of the Standards. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli writes, “It’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”


On Our Reading List:

Times Picayune, “59% of Louisiana’s High School Graduates Head to College; Up 1%”: Almost 23,000 Louisiana high school graduates entered college last fall, a record high for the state and a 6% increase from the previous year, the article reports. State Superintendent John White said the numbers are “positive, but not surprising,” attributing the gains largely to the states use of “more challenging standards.” “Our state should heed these results: we cannot afford to go backwards,” White said.

New Orleans Advocate, “New Push to Scrap Common Core in Louisiana Will Launch in a Few Days; So What’s Different This Go-Around?”: Even though two anti-Common Core bills failed in the Republican-controlled legislature last year, a new push to get rid of CCSS in Louisiana will begin when the 2015 legislative session begins on April 13. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he will make repealing the Standards a top priority. “In a replay of 2014, the House Education Committee likely will be the site of the initial showdown in this year’s debate,” the article states. “However, even if any anti-Common Core bill clears the House, chances are slim that it would emerge from the Senate Education Committee.”

Christian Science Monitor, “Bush v. Cruz in 2016: Why Jeb’s Lead May Be Real and Ted’s Rise, Just a Bump”: The latest national poll of likely Republican presidential candidates shows Sen. Ted Cruz has gained momentum, but former Gov. Jeb Bush remains the leader among voters. “It’s worth noting that Bush’s numbers are higher in this poll than they have been in any polling since the beginning of the year at the earliest,” the article notes. “The fact that he’s now hitting numbers above 20% tends to cast doubts on the arguments that have been made by some pundits, and by many conservatives inside the Republican Party, that Bush was somehow “too moderate” for the GOP or that his position on issues such as immigration reform and Common Core education standards were unacceptable to the base…For the moment at least, though, there really doesn’t seem to be much evidence for the idea that Jeb Bush is per se unacceptable to Republican primary voters.”

Education Week, “High Noon: The Showdown over High-Stakes Testing”: Noting that disagreements over student testing have reached a tipping point, the article says that issues around assessments are “far more complicated” than a two-sided debate. “True assessment should always be about providing effective feedback to teachers, students and parents. That feedback should be timely and come from assessments that are reliable. It should explain whether what we are doing in the classroom works…or doesn’t. State testing does not offer that, and many people do not think that good sound pedagogy is at the center of why we have the present testing system in NY.”