News You Can Use:

Leadership Conference Education Fund, “Survey on Common Core Finds Strong Support for Consistent Standards”: A study of nearly 1,400 Americans found strong public support for high, comparable education standards, even though many were unfamiliar with CCSS. Ninety-seven percent of respondents said students need to be able to think critically and apply analytical skills to real-world situations, 92% believe that where a child grows up, family income and race should not determine the quality of their education, and 71% said academic expectations in the U.S. are set too low. About a quarter (24%) had not heard about CCSS.

What It Means: The study adds to the evidence that indicates the public strongly supports high, consistent education standards, regardless of what label is put on them. After more than five years of preparation and two national elections, most states continue to implement CCSS in large part because the public fundamentally supports rigorous academic standards and strong systems of accountability.

Kennebec Journal, “Readfield and Wayne Math Teachers Learn from Each Other”: The Wayne and Readfield Elementary Schools in Maine are using CCSS to help teachers collaborate together and share best teaching practices. Twice a month, teachers and administrators visit classes to watch instruction and later engage with teachers to share views about what’s working. The educators who have led the effort have been invited to present at the annual National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics conference this year. “I think it’s good to have that additional layer, feeling like you’re being held accountable for what you’re doing,” said Abby Shink, a third-grade teacher. “You start asking yourself questions,” added Jennifer Tweedie, a second-grade Readfield teacher. “How did she get all those kids to do that, sit down and talk? What other types of questions is she asking that I’m not?”

What It Means: One of the hallmarks of CCSS is that they allow for greater collaboration across schools, districts and even states. By sharing best practices and information, teachers are better able to unlock students’ full potential, and to ensure that students are held to consistently high academic expectations, regardless of where they grow up or go to school.



Correcting the Record:

Cincinnati Enquirer, “Kick Feds Out of Our Classrooms”: Jim O’Conner, an Ohio parent and high-school teacher, says assessments related to CCSS, like those used in Ohio, are “unconstitutional” and violate the “spirit of the 10th Amendment” and the “purpose of the federal Department of Education.” “The feds are in our classrooms, and we need to get them out,” O’Conner claims. “The current federal/state consortiums of testing, grouping, labeling and evaluating students, teachers and school districts were rolled out with the clarity of the IRS, the efficiency of Amtrak and the cost-effectiveness of the U.S. Post Office. Congress, it’s time to rewrite this wrong.”

Where They Went Wrong: O’Conner makes an important point that control of education issues must lie with state and local officials, but he is wrong to suggest CCSS, or the assessments that support them, violate that control. By setting high learning goals and giving full control to local educators on how to meet them, the Standards provide greater flexibility and control in the classroom, as experts like Chester Finn have pointed out. High-quality assessments are a critical tool to provide parents and teachers with a constructive measure of student progress and to address learning needs.



On Our Reading List:

CNN, “Rand Paul: ‘I am running for president'”: Sen. Rand Paul is expected to formally announce a presidential bid at a rally in Louisville, KY, today followed by a swing through New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada. Sen. Paul has been an outspoken opponent of CCSS and has repeatedly mischaracterized the Standards as a federal intrusion into local education. An Associated Press article notes, “[Sen. Paul] sees Common Core as a ‘hodgepodge of education theories’ and ‘bureaucratic group think’ that would collect massive amoungs of data on school children for the government’s ‘social indoctrination.’” Kentucky, Sen. Paul’s home state, was the earliest adopter of CCSS, and has experienced some the largest academic gains in the country since implementing the Standards.

Columbus Dispatch, “First Year of PARCC Testing Was No Picnic for Ohio Schools”: Public outcry in Ohio over concerns about over-testing has prompted some state lawmakers to propose scaling state assessments and allowing districts to choose which test to use. According to a recent poll, about 80 percent of more than 16,500 Ohio superintendents, principals and teachers “disagree” or “ strongly disagree” that the time spent to administer the new assessments was appropriate, and roughly 77 percent “disagree” or “strongly disagree” that the implementation of the new tests went well. A review committee will offer recommendations this spring about whether the state should consider alternative assessments, modify the current tests or scrap them altogether.

TIME, “GOP Candidates and the Educational F-Word’: Republican presidential candidates will likely feel pressured to criticize the federal role in education, but the party may be “on the cusp of another historic shift,” writes Adam Laats of the History News Network. “If dominant educational experts embrace conservative ideas, might conservatives become once more the party of federal leadership in education? If conservative thinkers like Bennett and Petrilli can be in charge instead of lefties like Ayers and Darling-Hammond, could conservatives change their tune? If so, it won’t happen in 2016.”

Wall Street Journal, “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.”