News You Can Use:

Idaho Press-Tribune, “Don’t Panic Over SBAC Scores”: The editorial board of the Idaho Press-Tribune weighs in to caution parents not to panic over lower Smarter Balanced test scores because “this was expected.” While the decline is “likely to add fire to the call from some policy makers to ditch the core standards and the SBAC,” the board stresses that such efforts should be resisted. Noting that the Common Core was developed to “get students thinking critically” instead of memorizing facts to “ace” a test, the piece says the state is laying down an appropriate baseline upon which to build a solid educational foundation. The piece states that it may prove to be a good thing that scores do drop “because it means standards are more rigorous, and students need to be challenged in order to grow.” The editorial board also points out that many of the criticisms against the Common Core “aren’t grounded in fact.”

What It Means: The well-reasoned editorial helps parents understand the long-term strategy of aligned assessments, which test students on what they are learning instead of which bubble they fill in on a multiple choice test. Assessing learning progress and identifying more quickly where students need extra help from teachers are fundamental components of the aligned tests. These new tests, which are computer-based and ask students to show their work, eliminate the potential for good guesses to be counted the same as right answers. In these ways, the aligned tests help fulfill the promise of the Common Core State Standards, which is to better prepare students for success after high school in either college or career. This first year of testing will create a new baseline against which future scores will be compared to get a more accurate picture of student progress.

KCUR, “Missouri MAP Scores Come Out Tuesday, But Do They Mean Anything This Year?”: Missouri state officials say that because of changes in standardized testing, “year-to-year comparison would be almost useless,” which leaves two “provisionally accredited” school districts in limbo on a decision about obtaining full accreditation. According to the article, “This year’s test was aligned with Common Core standards. Missouri lawmakers didn’t like that so the test will change again next year.”  Hickman Mills Superintendent Dennis Carpenter says it’s tough when what they have to teach keeps moving. “And if what we teach continues to be a moving target then we struggle in terms of the training we’ve provided, the training we’ve invested in,” he says.

What It Means: More mayhem in Missouri as the consequences of politicized meddling with education is starting to be realized. The Governor’s Council on Common Core Review has recommended jettisoning the Common Core standards and replacing them, something that other states have found most difficult. Completely changing education standards year after year creates chaos in the classroom as teachers, parents, and students struggle to understand what is expected of each of them and whether the education being provided will truly prepare students for success after high school.


Correcting the Record:

Bluefield (WVa) Daily Telegraph, “Common Core Not Good for Students”: West Virginia “jumped on board” the Common Core train “without intensive critical review” of it and testing requirements, according to this error-ridden opinion piece that regurgitates the usual tropes of federal overreach and teachers being forced to “teach toward a test.” State legislators are also doing students a disservice by “allowing the time to ‘run out’” on a bill to repeal the standards. What’s more, students are at a disadvantage because tests are “computer based and no longer provides multiple choice options” and students “are not provided a typing or keyboarding class.”

Where They Went Wrong: In a twist on the usual complaints about Common Core being a federal overreach and tests being developmentally inappropriate, this opinion piece complains that students are forced to think for themselves by writing complete answers rather than being able to make good guesses. The assessments aligned to the Common Core force students to demonstrate critical- and analytical-thinking skills, which will be required of them in life after high school. Moving the tests to computer rather than paper-and-pencil follows the enormous shift in the real world where more and more jobs require basic digital knowledge and experience. Contrary to what the piece claims, students cannot be individually identified through any data reported to the federal government nor are students “lab rats” for unproven academic standards. Research shows that the longer students are exposed to the higher standards of the Common Core, the better their learning progress.

BuzzFeed News, “Chris Christie: I ‘Encouraged’ Common Core As Governor, But Federal Government Hijacked It”: In an interview with conservative radio host and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennet, Gov. Chris Christie said he initially “encouraged” Common Core but that it was “hijacked by the Obama administration.” Despite four years of effort put into implementation and training, Christie said “nobody here in New Jersey was buying in. Teachers were opposing it, parents were opposing it, and students were speaking out against it.” Christie wrapped up by saying that the “’the right way’ to go about education is to have locally developed standards.”

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Christie was correct in saying that the Common Core standards began with the nation’s governors, but he is wrong to say both that the standards are not local and were “hijacked” by federal officials. The more than 40 states that voluntarily adopted the standards have always been able to adapt the standards to fit their own individual needs. And while the federal government did allow states to use Race to the Top grant dollars to help with the implementation of Common Core, there were other programs to which states could apply those same dollars. A memo released by the Collaborative for Student Success after last week’s GOP debate notes that “the debate over whether the standards will survive appears firmly settled: the efforts of Common Core opponents to derail the standards have failed, and Common Core, or something very similar, remain the math and English language arts standards most states choose.” The reasons for this are varied, but among them is strong support from educators who recognize the promise of the Common Core to better prepare students.

Washington Post, Why New Yorkers Shouldn’t Hold Their Breath for Real Education Change”: In Valerie Strauss’ blog, former NYC principal Carol Burris, a vocal opponent of Common Core, blogs about a recent meeting with MaryEllen Elia, New York’s new education commissioner, a supporter of the standards. Burris says Elia “describes the Common Core as teaching practices aligned with cooperative learning and constructivism” and that “few if any educators would disagree with Ms. Elia’s opinion regarding good instructional practice.” Burris complains that while Elia will conduct a legislator-ordered review of the standards, “there is no evidence” Elia has ever thought they are not “developmentally appropriate.”

Where They Went Wrong: Burris’ opposition to the Common Core is well known, as is her condescension for anyone who supports it. The fact is, research shows that the longer students are exposed to the higher standards of the Common Core, the better their learning progress. What’s more, the few states that have attempted to develop new standards that bear little to no resemblance to the Common Core have found it harder than they reckoned. Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, recently outlined the failure of Common Core opponents to achieve their goals, writing in a memo that “across the 50 legislatures this year, there was a 75% increase in the number of bills filed related to college and career readiness” yet not a single state in 2015 passed a full-scale repeal.


On Our Reading List:

Manteca (San Joaquin County, CA) Bulletin, “Answering the Bell”: Two longtime kindergarten teachers “believed a change was necessary given the implementation of Common Core State Standards. Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills necessary for students to be successful.”

Breitbart, Former New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan Joins Achieve Board of Directors: A press release from Achieve states that, “By joining the board, Governor Hassan will help to guide Achieve’s work to lead and support state efforts to improve systems of standards, assessment, accountability, and graduation requirements so that all students are prepared for postsecondary education, work, and citizenship.”

The (Allentown, PA) Morning Call, “School’s Out But Not For Teachers”: Putting to rest comments about teachers taking the summer off, about 200 teachers from Lehigh Valley, PA, school districts attended a two-day summit as part of professional development focusing on “how to integrate technology … to how to connect more with students.”, “Bush Campaign Raves Over How He Handled Common Core At Debate”: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s campaign emailed donors and surrogates following the debate noting that he knocked the Common Core question “out of the park.” “I’m for higher standards, measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion,” Bush said to applause in Cleveland, while also highlighting voucher programs he created as governor.