News You Can Use:

Educators for High Standards, “Happy New Year with Higher Standards”: Tricia Ebner, a middle-school English language arts specialist, writes that the upcoming new school year is an exciting time as teachers prepare to use Common Core State Standards to help students “stretch, learn and grow.” “I love how having the standards gives me a solid grounding and basis for work, and with that foundation, we can pursue all kinds of avenues of study,” Ebner says. “This gives me a great deal of freedom and allows me to be creative. I can tailor what we do to my students’ needs and strengths.” Noting that the standards’ emphasis on nonfiction material helps hone her students’ ability to apply classroom skills, Ebner adds the framework for learning ensures “I can address their weaker areas and keep pushing their stronger areas forward.” “My students and I are going to delve deeply into our learning, using the Common Core State Standards as the foundation.”

What It Means: Common Core State Standards set high learning goals and give educators the freedom to determine how best to meet them. As Ebner points out, that enables teachers to design lesson plans tailored to student needs and that develop strong fundamental skills. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core report an improvement in their students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, according to a Scholastic study last year. By setting academic expectations that provide a path towards college and career readiness, and holding schools accountable to them through high-quality assessments, Common Core State Standards and aligned tests ensure that more students will graduate high school fully prepared to take the next step, whatever path they choose.

Association of the United States Army, “Military Children’s Education Standards Affect Army Retention”: Inconsistent education standards in schools in and around military bases could threaten the military’s ability to retain qualified men and women, writes Jim Cowen, director of military outreach for the Collaborative for Student Success. A recent Stimson Center report finds members of the military consider access to quality education as part of their compensation for service, and because military families move frequently, discrepancies in academic expectations from school to school creates gaps in what they can expect when they relocate. “Soldiers facing moves to new school systems cannot be certain that the standards from one school will set their child up for success in a new school, in part because of gaps in education standards around the country,” the report notes. More than 240,000 active duty Army service members have children. “If [policymakers] want to keep the military in their communities, they better start paying attention to the schools that are outside and inside our installations,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said in 2013. “Because as we evaluate and as we make decisions on future force structure, that will be one criteria.” Common Core State Standards help address the issue by providing high education standards that are consistent between states and school districts. “Military base communities have much to lose if they can’t ensure high quality education for the children of service members and the Army pulls up stakes,” Cowen says, noting the military presence contributes a large portion of local areas’ economic activity.

What It Means: Cowen makes clear that rigorous, comparable education standards have a big impact on military families, which move two to three times more often than non-military families. By setting high learning goals that translate across state and district lines, Common Core State Standards help ensure students can more easily transition from one school to another without falling behind or sitting through material they’ve already learned. In 2010, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) adopted the Common Core for all 181 military schools. Students at these schools consistently outperform public school students on national assessments. Cowen underscores that implementation, both in states and military schools, better ensure children of military families are held to expectations that fully prepare them for college and career readiness.


Correcting the Record:

Breitbart News, “How to Hide the Flaws in Common Core”: Noting that the Congressional revamp of No Child Left Behind “will effectively cement the Common Core national standards” in public schools, Jane Robbins of American Principles in Action says proponents are “rearranging the educational furniture” to hide evidence that Common Core State Standards are “substandard.” “The central problem for the proponents is that students trained (not educated) under the minimal, non-academic, workforce-development Common Core State Standards will not perform as well on legitimate tests as did their predecessors…Making the SAT easier for Common Core victims (for example, by abolishing the writing section and the hard vocabularly words) helps them appear to be as prepared for college as were previous students.” Explaining that EXPLORE and PLAN tests threaten to expose the Common Core, Robbins notes those exams are being phased out. “So now the Aspire states can embark on years of testing with this new system, starting from square one in developing trend lines that were well established from the now defunct EXPLORE and PLAN tests…For the next several years, at least, states going in this direction will have no way to judge how Common Core students perform compared to their predecessors.”

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core State Standards and the high-quality assessments meant to measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness raise academic expectations in classrooms. As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, for too long states have systematically lowered the bar for students instead of providing an honest measure of student development. New assessments administered for the first time this year hold students to academic standards that ensure they are on a track for college and career. Contrary to Robbins’ claim, these new assessments and higher standards will give parents and teachers better information and ensure more students graduate high school fully prepared for college level work or a good career.


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Associated Press, “Analysis: Panel Buys Governor Time on Common Core Debate”: The Arkansas review committee that recommended the state continue to use Common Core State Standards while continuing to monitor their impact in classrooms “avoided a clear-cut answer on an issue that’s become a political minefield for [Gov.] Hutchinson and other Republicans.” Gov. Hutchinson has walked a fine line of appeasing establishment figures in his party and conservative activists by stressing the need for standards but vowing to take a look at the future of Common Core, the article reports. “I’ve consistently said whatever standards we resolve that we need to make sure they’re high standards and have high expectations for our students…and that they’re measurable,” Gov. Hutchinson said last year.

San Diego Union Tribune, “Teachers Share Common Core Experiences”: About 15,000 teachers convened in Southern California over the weekend to share their experiences, both good and bad, implementing Common Core State Standards. “We tried to create an agenda where part of the goal was to inspire, and part of it was to learn and network beyond your schools and districts,” explained organizer Kitty Dixon of the New Teacher Center. “This is really a call to action, to step up and stay connected because teachers don’t have to figure this out all on their own.” “With Common Core comes the need for innovation, and that should come from teachers,” said one participant. “This really shows how teachers are taking a more prominent place when it comes to who is driving what’s happening in the classroom.”