News You Can Use:

Daily Caller, “Making Good on Our Commitment to High Standards”: “More than five years after the introduction of the Common Core Education Standards, states’ allegiance to high, comparable education standards remains strong,” writes former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. “Even in many of the most conservative pockets of the country…which conventional wisdom said would lead a national movement back to the status quo, Republican-controlled legislatures have rejected efforts to return to their old patchwork of education standards.” Gov. Brewer notes polling finds strong support for high academic expectations, and many states have launched reviews to ensure their Common Core State Standards fully meet student needs. “Unfortunately, to the detriment of constructive dialogue, distortion and often flat-out lies have become many critics’ go-to strategy,” the piece says. “Unable to find fault with the standards themselves, opponents have already turned to subversive backdoor tactics. It will take strong leadership to guard against them. But we owe it to everyday hardworking families not to buckle. Rigorous education standards are too important to renege on the good work we’ve started.”

What It Means: Gov. Brewer, who oversaw Arizona’s adoption and initial implementation of CCSS, makes a strong case for the importance of rigorous college- and career-ready standards. As the piece notes, most states continue to move forward with CCSS because the public strongly supports high, comparable academic expectations. Despite targeted attacks, often based on misleading information, the Standards are having success. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopter of CCSS, student proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have made some of the biggest improvements in the country.

Huntsville Times, “Common Core Is Hard, but That Doesn’t Mean We Should Quit”: Beth Kramer, a parent of a military family with three children in Alabama schools, writes that the state’s College and Career Ready Standards set a high academic bar, which is especially important for military families that move often. “Military kids spend their lives with parents who are defending our nation, and the least Alabama can give them is a solid education that will keep them competitive if they move to other states,” Kramer says. “This means an education that promotes critical and creative thinking, giving students the ability to reflect, assess and judge, as well as be innovative.” The state legislature will hold a public hearing on a repeal bill today, at least the third hearing in as many years. “Enough is enough,” Kramer writes. “The College and Career Ready Standards are working, and my children’s improved performance is proof.” Noting the Standards are challenging, Kramer says it is a necessary adjustment and that they are helping improve student outcomes. “[CCSS] for math and English are working, why not continue to give them the best chance at success?”

What It Means: CCSS set high academic expectations to better ensure that more students graduate high school fully prepared for college- and career-level work. As Kramer highlights, the increased continuity they provide between states is especially important for military families, who move on average 6-9 times during a child’s K-12 career, to ensure that students don’t fall behind or have to sit through material they already learned. CCSS challenge students to think more critically and develop deeper content understanding, which better prepare them for their future.

Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Poll: Most Georgians Support Common Core”: A poll conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund finds 55% of Georgia residents support CCSS. 35% of respondents say they oppose the Standards to some degree, and 10% are unsure. An overwhelming 71% say they agree all states should have comparable education standards at each grade level in math and English. Despite increased debate over CCSS, one in five individuals polled had never heard of Common Core, and 18% say their child’s school does not use the Standards.

What It Means: Despite targeted attacks over the past two years, the public remains committed to rigorous, comparable education standards. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or some similar version. As Karen Nussle wrote last fall, one reason is that “fundamentally, the public support higher education standards and increased accountability that prepare students to be successful after high school.”

WKMS, “Report: Students With More Exposure To Common Core Standards Learn Faster”: A study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found that Kentucky students with more exposure to CCSS “made faster progress in learning” than peers who followed the state’s former standards. Kentucky was the first state to adopt CCSS. While the report is careful not to attribute the gains solely to CCSS, it concludes that “fears about [the standards’] impact on student outcomes may be overstated.” “Kentucky implemented the Common Core and within the first couple of years, it overcame the challenges associated with the transition and its student college-readiness improved,” said Zeyu Xu, one of the lead authors of the report. “While the reasons for this require further study, it is significant that student achievement experienced a net gain the early years of Common Core rollout.” Although scores on assessments aligned to the higher standards dropped initially, the article notes that college-readiness scores increased in groups that took ACT tests after CCSS were implemented. The AIR report says students exposed to CCSS, in both high- and low-poverty schools, made “faster progress in learning than similar students who were not exposed to the standards.”

What It Means: The AIR study adds to the evidence that student outcomes are improving in states that have fully aligned teaching to the higher Common Core standards. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopter of CCSS, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements. In New York, steady gains in math scores following implementation led the Daily News to write, “The chorus of ‘can’t’…was wrong.” By contrast, states like South Carolina and Oklahoma, which have gone the opposite direction, have experienced serious setbacks trying to replace CCSS with equally rigorous education standards.

Center for American Progress, “What Nevada Teachers Think about the Common Core”: Noting that the Nevada legislature is considering a bill to eliminate the state’s Common Core standards, the video highlights local teachers’ support for and experience with the Standards. “I’m willing to do the work with Common Core because I believe in it, I trust in it, I’ve seen it, my colleagues do it, and it wasn’t a mandate that I was told to do or how to do it,” says Marcia Motter, a Reno middle-school teacher. “That’s part of the reason why so many of us here in Washoe have bought into what we’re doing.” “When we really liberate teachers and honor their professionalism, great things happen in our classrooms,” adds Aaron Grossman, a special assignment teacher. “That happens through the Common Core State Standards.” “It has allowed me to gain a lot of freedom in what I teach my students, and it’s brought a lot of relevance to the teaching I do in my classroom. I think my students have seen the value of that,” Mario Fitzpatrick, a local high school teacher, says.

What It Means: The video highlights the strong support educators who work closely with CCSS continue to have for the Standards. A Scholastic study last fall found that more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with CCSS support their implementation, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. Another recent study found 79% of teachers said new assessments aligned to the higher education standards are better than those their states used before.


Correcting the Record:

Washington Times, “Common Core Ties to Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia”: Attributing numerous unrelated controversies to CCSS, Bethany Blankley writes, “Common Core is but one of many parts of an intricate plan to infiltrate every area of American society with Islam.” “Globally, Common Core originated from the ‘One World Education’ concept, a global goal orchestrated by the Connect All Schools program,” the piece claims. Blankley says the Libyan Investment Authority, with shareholder ties to “terrorist-related activities” is the “largest financial contributor” to Pearson Education, a company that develops assessments designed to support the Standards. In states like New York, Blankley claims, private companies, “whose primary investors fund terrorism and propagate Islam,” are responsible for teacher evaluations. The piece says parents should refuse to let their children participate in state assessments and that lawmakers should reject federal funds and reverse implementation of CCSS. “Parents can also take their children out of public schools altogether.” Federal funds, Blankley concludes, are “being wasted on violating the First Amendment, by the federal government instituting a religion through the teaching of Islam in public schools.”

Where They Went Wrong: Blankley’s claims are as misleading as they are outrageous. Experts and objective analysis has roundly rejected claims that CCSS are an attempt to “indoctrinate” children with social, political or religious beliefs. In 2013, PolitiFact wrote, “There is no legitimate proof that Common Core standards are being used to force students to conform to a certain way of thinking politically, or to follow a pre-determined religion.” Another fact-checker gave such claims a “Pants-on-Fire” rating. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett has written that this kind of charge “is a bold-faced lie.” “These myths and lies spread throughout the media like wildfire, and opponents of the Common Core know they can fan the flames of opposition far more effectively with these sensational and scurrilous accusations rather than engaging in an honest, intellectual policy debate.”

Forbes, “Rand Paul on Education: 5 Things the Presidential Candidate Wants You to Know”: Profiling several of Sen. Rand Paul’s positions on education issues, the article notes he has called for states to repeal CCSS. “[Common Core] is a hodgepodge of educational theories, bureaucratic group-think, massive data collection and pure secular statist propaganda,” Sen. Paul has said. “Just imagine the next generation of Americans after years of Common Core’s progressive indoctrination in the classroom. Just imagine how government bureaucrats will choose to wield the massive amounts of data they collect from American school children and their families. My hope is to create a massive groundswell against Common Core that can sweep the country.”

Where They Went Wrong: Sen. Paul’s claims perpetuate the misleading information that has distorted honest, constructive discussion about college- and career-ready education standards. As numerous experts have pointed out, CCSS were developed free of federal involvement, and objective analysis has repeatedly rejected claims they introduce political or religious ideology into classrooms. The Standards and the high-quality assessments that support them introduce no new data collection requirements on schools, as Sen. Paul alleges, and studies indicate teachers strongly believe the new exams are an improvement over those states’ used before.


On Our Reading List:

National Review, “Conservative Education Reform That Conservatives Misunderstand”: Former Reagan education official Jeanne Allen writes that the Student Success Act is a “noble effort” to get “Washington out of the classroom” and return “responsibility for delivering a quality education to states and school districts.” “The Student Success Act swings the pendulum back to minimal federal intrusion in state affairs. It restores power to the states to implement current federal programs, gives local school districts more leeway on accountability and testing, ensures that reporting and accountability for federal funds are transparent, and provides incentives for states and schools that offer choices to parents,” Allen says. “The Student Success Act represents precisely the right kind of balance that can once again ensure achievement-focused education reforms.”

Wall Street Journal, “Senate Panel Leaders Agree on Overhaul of No Child Left Behind Law”: Members of the Senate Education Committee announced a bipartisan agreement Tuesday to revamp NCLB, which would maintain annual testing requirements and reinforce that there is no federal role in setting education standards. The deal, reached by Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, marks the biggest step forward in a prolonged effort to rewrite the education law, the article reports. In February, the House pulled back a similar bill that Democrats said rolled back the federal role too significantly and Republicans said didn’t go far enough, but the agreement reached Tuesday stands to fare better. “We have found remarkable consensus about the urgent need to fix this broken law, and also on how to fix it,” Sen. Alexander said in a statement.

Huntsville Times, “Bill to Repeal Common Core Set for Hearing in Alabama Senate Committee”: The Alabama Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing today on a bill that seeks to repeal the state’s Common Core standards, which was introduced by State Sen. Rusty Glover. Sen. Glover says the bill is a response to complaints from parents that can’t help their children with homework, and that teachers have not been able to voice criticism because of “pressure from the up top not to.” State Superintendent Tommy Bice remains a strong supporter of CCSS, and the State Department of Education said reverting back to Alabama’s old standards would be “moving backward.” “Former standards contributed to our low ranking in national assessments such as NAEP and to high remediation rates,” a spokesperson said. One of every three college students from Alabama public schools required remediation last year, the article reports.

Chalkbeat Colorado, “Testing Opt-Out Bill Gets Final Senate Approval”: The Colorado Senate voted 28-7 on Tuesday to approve a bill designed to protect parents’ decisions to opt students out of state academic assessments. State Sen. Chris Holbert, a sponsor or SB 15-223, said, “This bill is not about gutting assessments and evaluations, this bill is not about getting rid of report cards for schools and districts. This bill is about honoring the rights of parents.” Others warned about the bill’s impact on school accountability. State Sen. Mike Johnston called support of the bill “a vote against transparency and a vote against accountability.” The legislation would require districts to allow parents to opt-out of state or local tests and prevent penalties on students, teachers or schools for low test participation. The article reports the bill could face greater opposition in the State House, and that it could be held up or bypassed as lawmakers consider more comprehensive testing measures.