News You Can Use:

Collaborative for Student Success, “Common Core in the First Republican Presidential Primary Debate”: In what was called a “raucous” first GOP primary debate, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush agreed on the importance of rigorous education standards in the only question focused on education reform. “I’m for higher standards, measured in an intellectually honest way,” Gov. Bush said. Sen. Rubio added that high academic expectations are “critically important” and that education policy belongs at the state and local level. “While the term ‘Common Core’ may still rally a subset of political activists…tonight’s Republican presidential debate reinforced that high, comparable education standards is a principle conservatives endorse,” the memo released by the Collaborative states. “In the end, one candidate defended the Common Core State Standards by name and the other candidate disparaged the brand, but both strongly supported the underlying fundamental principles of the Common Core: higher standards and local control.”

What It Means: Both candidates to speak on education reform during the first Republican presidential debate emphasized the importance of college- and career-ready standards and local educational control – the principles that Common Core State Standards are built on. That the candidates agreed on the issues further underscores that while some conservatives may dislike the term “Common Core” they continue to strongly support what it stands for. As the memo points out, their answers indicate that debate over education reform is moving past the rhetoric and half-truths that have defined the national dialogue over the past several years and focusing on improving student outcomes.

Educators for High Standards, “Ask Melissa: Are Children Learning Better Than Before the Change to Common Core?”: In a new series in which former high-school teacher and education advocate Melissa Stugart fields online questions, Stugart says while it is too early to quantify the impact that Common Core State Standards are having, “anecdotally, I hear from teachers every day who see success in their classrooms and know their students are learning better.” “When we look at early implementers like Kentucky and Tennessee, we see dramatic improvements over the past few years, with steady gains in both proficiency and graduation rates. I anticipate similar trends as other states continue with their implementation,” Stugart says. In response to another question, Stugart adds, Common Core State Standards “allow teachers across the country to participate in a common professional dialogue and share which parts of their curricula have been successful in teaching the standards.”

What It Means: As Stugart points out, evidence from states that have led the way implementing the Common Core indicates that the standards are working. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements over the past three years. And as the Honesty Gap analysis demonstrated, states have taken strides to give parents and teachers better information by implementing college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments.


Correcting the Record:

Huffington Post, “Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush Lock Horns on Common Core”: Reporting on Sen. Marco Rubio’s and Gov. Jeb Bush’s response to the only question about Common Core State Standards during the first Republican debate, the article says the candidates “exchanged barbs.” A Vox article similarly describes the responses as a “fight” that “divided [Gov. Bush] from the rest of the Republican field.” Yet, as a Politico headline – “Bush, Rubio Say They’re Pro Standards” – made clear, both men agreed on the principles of the Common Core, even if they disagreed on the label. “I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in standards directly or indirectly,” Gov. Bush said during the event. Likewise, Sen. Rubio said, “Education policy belongs [at the state and local level] because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to the local school board or the governor and get it changed.”

Where They Went Wrong: As emphasized in a post-debate analysis, during Thursday’s debate both candidates articulated similar values: local education control and high academic standards – which is what the Common Core State Standards advocate. While some naysayers may still hope to see candidates go after one another over the issue, it seems to be settled – states are moving forward with the Common Core and conservatives are supporting the principles that it stands for. Karen Nussle summarized it well in a recent memo: “The efforts of Common Core opponents to derail the standards en mass have failed to take root in state after state…With higher standards in place across the country it’s time to ensure that parents have real information about how students are performing and that all parties are held accountable to ensuring the high school diploma actually means graduates are ready for all the choices and opportunities available to them.”

The Atlantic, “When Parents Are the Ones Getting Schooled by the Common Core”: In the article, Alia Wong discusses how some grownups are hitting the books to familiarize themselves with Common Core State Standards. “Amid all that handwringing, another curious and perhaps amusing phenomenon has emerged: Parents are going back to school (or somehow continuing their education) just to try and make sense of it all,” the article says. While some worry the emphasis on new problem-solving techniques and increased rigor is “creating distance” between parents and their children, others explain that the standards offer a more practical approach to critical thinking. But the article highlights a piece from middle-school math teacher and writer Anthony Cody, who argues that this engagement “risks widening socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement.”

Where They Went Wrong: Efforts to help parents familiarize themselves with the Common Core State Standards emphasize the outreach districts are undertaking to provide support during the transition to higher education standards. In addition to traditional problem-solving methods, like memorization and drilling, Common Core Standards introduce students (and parents) to a range of techniques to develop deeper conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. However, while Wong does a good job painting a picture of parent frustration and how we as a country haven’t measured up in math, she overlooks an important point: why students need these standards. By helping students hone stronger building blocks, the standards help them get and stay on a path that adequately prepares them for higher levels of learning and ultimately for college or a career.


On Our Reading List:

NPR, “Who Is ‘Good Enough’ In A Common Core World?”: Following last week’s PARCC Performance Level Setting meeting in Denver, NPR’s Cory Turner posted a recap from the event. This past spring, 5 million students from third grade through high school took new, end-of-year tests in math and English developed by PARCC. Turner notes that this is a “big deal” because these tests are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and are harder than many of the tests they replaced.

The Seventy-Four, “What Is the Common Core?”: Education advocacy site is out with a series of digital “flash-cards,” one of which articulates what exactly the Common Core State Standards are. “The Common Core is a set of K-12 academic standards in math and English language arts that set out what students should know and be able to do,” the card notes, providing several examples of the actual standards. “The standards can be understood as academic goals for students to aspire to at each grade level.” For more, see here.

Des Moines Register, “Iowa Education Board Adopts New Science Standards”: The Iowa Board of Education voted Thursday to start the rule-making process that would allow for the state to replace its current year-end tests, the Iowa Assessments, with Smarter Balanced exams. The rule-making process includes a public comment period and two hearings in front of the legislative Administrative Rules Review Committee, the article notes. If adopted, the Smarter Balanced assessments would be implemented in the 2016-17 school year for grades 3-11.

Chalkbeat New York, “Make Way for the Test-Score Punditry: State Scores Coming Next Week”: New York education officials say the state will release the results as early as next Tuesday from tests administered this spring. The announcement is likely to get more attention following the state’s large opt-out movement, the article reports. This is the third year the assessments were given since the state transitioned to exams aligned with Common Core State Standards.