News You Can Use:

The Spokesman-Review, “Lowering Standards a Disservice to Washington Students”: Noting that the Washington State Board of Education “promised to raise the standards … but it didn’t set a deadline,” the editorial says that “educators and political leaders” must stay strong through this “challenging transitional period” of new standards and assessments. The Smarter Balanced test is meant to replace two state assessments, but for now, students are feeling the pressure of a “pileup of exams.” Calling the opt-out movement a “mistake,” the editorial made clear the consequences of that action: “those scores are needed to measure progress, and high scores can enable students to skip some college courses (and save money).” The editorial also struck at the heart of the problems the Common Core is designed to remedy, saying, “it does students no good to seemingly excel in high school, then struggle in college or on the job. The standards need to be raised because about half of high school graduates require remediation in college, and employers in many fields can’t find enough qualified young workers.”

What It Means: The editorial makes clear the failings of Washington’s previous academic standards – which were replaced by the Common Core – as well as the consequences of not holding the line on the higher quality, more rigorous benchmarks many states have now adopted. Billions of dollars are spent each year on remedial education to teach students skills they should have learned in high school. Raising academic expectations is a significant challenge to both educators and students, and as is being seen in states that were early adopters of the Common Core, the efforts are bearing out.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, “30,000 Comments on Louisiana Common Core; Most OK the Standards”: Of the nearly 30,000 submitted to Louisiana education officials regarding a “wholesale re-examination” of the Common Core, “all but about 2,500 comments OK’d the existing guidelines.” Opposition from some parents and teachers led Education Superintendent John White to begin the review. “About 720 people contributed, which averages to 41 comments each. Sixty percent of the comments came from teachers, one quarter from parents.” Most of the negative feedback has been focused on “algebra I, algebra II and high school geometry.” The board’s standards review committees will meet for the first time Aug. 19 in Baton Rouge. The meeting will be shown live online.

What It Means: Louisiana has been a battle-ground for the Common Core, but the tide appears to be turning as teachers and families realize that the more rigorous standards will benefit students. Implementation has been a challenge in a number of states, and Louisiana had more than its share of difficulties, but with barely 8 percent of public comments against the standards and the majority of the positive feedback coming from teachers, clearly those who are most familiar with the Common Core recognize its importance. It remains to be seen whether anti-Common Core activists will continue to be vocal at the review committee hearing next week, but the overwhelming support from teachers and parents should be heavily weighed when considering the best course of action to prepare students for success.

Arizona Republic, “Arizona Students’ Results Plunge on Common Core Test”: “None” of the students in grades three through 11 who took the new standardized assessments in Arizona earned a rating of “proficient” or “highly proficient” on AZMerit, according to results posted on the Arizona Board of Education web site. Joe O’Reilly, executive director of research and assessment at the largest school district in the state, said the results were expected. “If you’re raising the standards and raising the expectations, initially, students are not going to do well,” O’Reilly said. The article compares this year’s assessment scores to the previous test, AIMS, but O’Reilly said, “Making a comparison to AIMS is simple, obvious and wrong.” After taking the new test, one student was quoted as saying, “I just need to try harder.”

What It Means: State education officials have cautioned that scores on the new assessments will appear lower than on previous tests, but that such comparisons are inaccurate because of the significant differences on the tests. The new tests assess students’ learning progress compared with the academic guidelines of the Common Core State Standards, which are more rigorous and of higher quality than what previously guided schools’ curriculum planning. It is significant that a student remarked on the need to work harder instead of calling for less rigorous material, and this comment shows that students understand the need for higher quality standards and more accurate measuring tools to prepare them for life after high school.


Correcting the Record:

Worcester Telegram (MA), “Common Core Ballot Initiative Poised to Ignite Hot Topic”: An anti-Common Core group in Massachusetts “launched an effort to get a question seeking a repeal of the standards on next year’s state election ballot.” The group is bolstered by vocal opponents like Sandra Stotsky who said the standards were created “by a small group of people who ‘had no qualifications to write them.’” The group will need 70,000 qualifying signatures to make the ballot, and Stotsky predicted there will be “relief” among teachers if the repeal effort is successful. The state’s education department deputy commissioner said the long tradition in Massachusetts of having a nonpartisan board decide on education matters means protecting students “as much as you can from the shifting political winds.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to opponents’ oft-stated protestations that the Common Core is a federal program forced onto states and disallows any modifications, more than 40 states voluntarily adopted the program and many have incorporated state-specific materials. Stotsky’s comment that the Common Core writers “had no qualifications” is equally wrong. The standards were developed by leading academics, education researchers, principals, and teachers, and were also vetted through a 29-member Validation Committee to ensure the benchmarks were rigorous and high quality. In fact, most states found that the Common Core State Standards were tougher than what was currently in place, leading to the overwhelming number of states adopting them. Repealing the Common Core State Standards would reverse the efforts that Massachusetts teachers have put in to implement the new, higher standards, and be detrimental to students.


On Our Reading List:

Associated Press, “Common Core High School Math Standards Adopted in Nevada”: A 12-member Legislative Commission “voted 11-1” to approve Common Core math standards for high school students, the “last piece needed to fully implement Common-Core aligned standards in high school.” Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer, an opponent of the standards, said “any efforts to stop them in the state had already been lost.”

KPCC, “A Public Release of CA Students’ Computerized Test Scores Now Expected Next Month”: The California Department of Education will publicly release assessment scores for 3 million students the first week in September, although parents will still receive reports on individual children’s scores this month. A department spokeswoman said it was not a delay but rather “a change taken in an abundance of caution.” “We’re still collecting data,” the spokeswoman said. Mark Ellis, a professor of secondary education at Cal State Fullerton who works with teachers in Orange County and focuses on math education, said “the new standards are changing things for the better.” “I think there’s a sense of optimism about where things are headed in terms of the teaching and learning of mathematics.” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has said that he expected students will do well, but that performance will be lower since students are learning a new curriculum and getting used to testing on computers., “Missouri Districts Prepare for Release of MAP Test Scores”: Scores for the Missouri Assessment Program will be released today, but some educators are concerned with how important tests have become. One school district superintendent said, “There is too much emphasis put on the test at one time,” and noted that some districts “try to assess academic growth every two weeks in other ways.” Still, it will not be possible to make accurate comparisons to this year’s test because “the MAP tests given next spring will also change because a majority of Missouri lawmakers don’t want the state using Common Core test standards.”

The Hechinger Report, “New York Experience Shows Common Core Tests Can Come at a Cost for Underprivileged Students”: The Hechinger Report provides an analysis of disparities in test scores among various socioeconomic groups of students in New York on the new aligned assessments versus the old state tests, both of which were given. Education consultant David Rubel “pointed out steep drops in the passing rate [on the new tests] among three particular groups: low-income students, English language learners and disabled students.” The article included “one big caveat to the New York data” in that the Common Core test “was only given once, in June, 2014, whereas the old exam was administered three times that school year, allowing retakers extra chances to pass.”