News You Can Use:

Inside Sources, “What All Parents Should Know about Common Core Test Scores”: Even while some “ideologues on the left and right have poisoned the use of [the term] ‘Common Core’,” the public remains largely supportive of higher education standards and increased school accountability – the very foundations of Common Core State Standards. “Despite efforts by some politicians to defund or repeal higher state standards, Common Core is still largely in place across the country,” the article reports. “It is virtually impossible to rewrite high reading and math standards that are not Common Core.” The next wave of opposition, it notes, is set to come from teachers’ unions and other interest groups adverse to high-quality assessments. “Testing, however, is essential…And the new tests for Common Core will be an opportunity to see whether one state’s schools are providing an adequate level of education relative to another state…This is an opportunity to reset the inflated scores intended to distort the truth about student preparedness.” “We’re not only measuring what students know, we’re measuring what they can do with what they know, which is what the 21st Century world is really asking of them,” explains Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s state superintendent.

What It Means: The Honesty Gap analysis earlier this year showed that inconsistencies in states’ tests resulted in lowering the bar for students instead of adequately preparing them for higher levels of learning. New high-quality assessments administered for the first time this year provide a more accurate measure of how well students are developing fundamental skills, a necessary first step to begin improving student performance. A Teach Plus study this spring found nearly 80 percent of teacher participants believe new tests aligned to higher standards are better than those their states used before. These new tests will provide parents and educators with better information about student progress to help them meet students’ needs.

Alliance for Excellent Education, “Core of the Matter: Using the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards to Take the Classroom Experience to a Broader, More Authentic Audience”: North Carolina National Board Certified Teacher Rod Powell writes that the Common Core “provides students authentic ways to express their learning.” As he continually looks to make classroom lessons “more meaningful” for students, “particularly those from low-income families and those of color,” Powell writes that the standards let him go beyond “simply transmitting information [because my] students must learn how to learn.” Powell also notes that before the Common Core, standards “tasked my students with memorizing the basics of history … but their learning stayed in the classroom.”

What It Means: The Common Core State Standards have given educators flexibility to develop and implement lessons that go far beyond classroom walls. Instead of focusing on the memorization of facts, the standards instead emphasize the application of learning to real-world situations to prepare students to succeed after they graduate. Powell wrote that students are “bombarded” with information from countless digital sources; the trick is learning to filter out what’s important from the cacophonous noise distracting them from goals.

Think Progress, “People Like Common Core Better Once They Know What It Is”: New polling indicates that while the Common Core brand has “taken a hit in popularity” – due largely to the “fact that the public holds a lot of misconceptions about the voluntary state standards” – a study by the Center for American Progress finds that 79 percent of voters support high education standards in English and math, and 78 percent favor high-quality assessments for the same subjects. Ninety percent agree the nation’s education standards should be raised to compete with other countries, “which was one of the original reasons for implementing Common Core in the first place.” Yet, as “political opposition to Common Core has grown, misinformation has spread in terms of how the standards were created, what is in the standards and how they are implemented.” As a result, support for the Common Core fell this year to less than half of respondents, according to an Education Next poll. A majority of participants in the study believe the standards were created by the U.S. Department of Education, and almost half thought the Common Core specified a curriculum. By contrast, only four percent knew that teachers were involved in developing the standards.

What It Means: Despite targeted attacks against Common Core State Standards over the past two years, which have perpetuated a great deal of misleading and inaccurate information, the public continues to support the principles of the standards: rigorous academic expectations and high quality assessments. Contrary to public perception, the Education Next poll shows strong support amongst African American and Hispanic respondents, with only 27 percent and 23 percent respectively, opposing the standards. As Karen Nussle wrote, one reason the public continues to fundamentally support the Common Core is that it is impossible to create college- and career-ready standards that look nothing like the Common Core, because the standards incorporate the best evidence of what students need to know to succeed at high levels of learning.

Charleston Gazette Mail, “Why a New Testing Baseline Is Good for West Virginia”: Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia, writes that for many years states “relied on inadequate expectations – or standards- to measure academic performance.” “That meant our kids weren’t getting the real-world skills they needed to be successful – and we had no way to know because we were using out-of-date tests.” By adopting Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments, states like West Virginia are helping ensure that more students graduate high school ready for college and career. Noting that while the West Virginia students beat projections on new Smarter Balanced exams, Gov. Wise says the results “reveal a strong need to focus even more on mathematics instruction.” “[The results] simply mean that improved tests have become more accurate in measuring the new skills that our students need to know in the 21st century…We’re finally taking steps to honestly and accurately measure where our kids are on their path to college and career readiness and what they need to succeed.”

What It Means: As Gov. Wise points out, new assessments designed to measure against higher academic expectations hold students to levels that fully prepare them for college or a career. For a long time, states systematically lowered the bar for classrooms instead of doing the hard work of improving student achievement, a reality made clear by the Honesty Gap analysis. By implementing high standards and tougher assessments, states are providing educators and parents with better information, and raising expectations to help students graduate college- and career-ready. Early adopters of the Common Core, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have achieved steady gains in proficiency scores and college-readiness rates over the past three years, and more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the standards report an improvement in their students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Huffington Post, “The Real Failure Of Common Core”: According to Ted Dintersmith, an education strategist and documentary funder, “no one is asking the right questions” about the Common Core, which include “will they increase or diminish students’ motivation to learn” and “how do we assess student performance against these standards.” Dintersmith claims that high school students will be limited to writing essays “on the assumption that … is what is required for writing.” The column claims that the aligned assessments will not test the “so-called soft skills that matter” since the only standards developed are for math and English. He also claims that teachers are “supposed to just stick to the text” when teaching instead of developing creative lessons plans.

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Dintersmith’s claims, the Common Core was developed because U.S. students were failing to achieve academic milestones in the core subjects of math and English. Research shows that the longer students are exposed to the Common Core, the better their learning progress. This Spring, hundreds of thousands of students took new assessments aligned to the standards that were designed to measure how well students are learning. Fourth graders in West Virginia, who have had the longest exposure to the standards of any students tested in that state, exceeded national expectations. Furthermore, teachers have found that the standards actually give them more flexibility in creating innovative lessons that will help students understand how what they are learning applies to the real world. Dintersmith incorrectly says that Common Core has led to less time on other subjects – but one of the primary objectives of the Common Core was to reduce the number of math standards so that there could be greater focus on the core components that matter most in mathematics. Moving away from the mile-wide, inch-deep approach of the past, the standards allow for teachers to spend more time on fewer standards and are designed to provide fewer, clearer expectations in each grade, while encouraging a stronger alignment across disciplines.

Breitbart News, “Wurman: Common Core’s Claim of ‘College Readiness’ Invalid”: Writing on the most recent Institute of Education Sciences (IES) comparison of state proficiency standards, Ze’ev Wurman, a former U.S. Department of Education official and an outspoken opponent of Common Core State Standards, says the goal of improving college-readiness rates is misguided. Noting that “many states have been raising their proficiency cut-scores over time,” Wurman says there is little to no correlation “between NAEP scores and state effective cut-scores.” “In other words, there seems to be little to no connection between cut-scores and achievement… Even if we accept that NAEP ‘proficient’ cut-scores represent college-readiness, we also know that only about one-third of our high school graduates are truly college-ready…Should we really label two-thirds of our cohort as ‘failures’ because they are not ‘college ready’?” Wurman says Common Core pushed college-readiness onto states, and concludes, “High school was always about preparing young people for life, not to serve only as college prep.”

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core State Standards establish clear benchmarks for each grade level to ensure students have a path to graduate from high school fully prepared for college or a career. A study last year found that 81 percent of students that entered the workforce reported at least some gaps in one or more subject areas and most would have worked harder in school if they had been held to higher expectations. By setting rigorous, consistent standards for all students, the Common Core ensures more students will complete high school with the skills to succeed in a good job or in college-level work. Evidence suggests the standards are working. Early adopter states like Kentucky and Tennessee have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country over the past three years since implementing Common Core Standards.


On Our Reading List:

Politico, “GOP Slate Confronts K-12 Education”: For the first time in this presidential election cycle, six Republican candidates will address education issues during a New Hampshire summit today hosted by American Federation for Children and the Seventy-Four. Govs. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will participate in the event. Each candidate will answer questions in succession beginning with Gov. Bush at 9am and ending with Gov. Christie in the afternoon. Campbell Brown, founder of the Seventy-Four, says she hopes to keep the conversation broad, focusing on national issues like Common Core State Standards, the article reports. “If not Common Core, then what’s your plan?” Brown said she would like to ask the candidates, adding she hopes participants will go beyond popular rhetoric about repealing the standards.

Bloomberg, “Jeb Bush Says ‘Fewer, but Higher’ Education Standards Needed”: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the first to speak at the New Hampshire education forum today, said education standards shouldn’t be “federally driven.” “There should be no federal involvement in curriculum or standards to be sure, either directly or indirectly,” Gov. Bush said, The Hill reports. “Higher standards along with real accountability and school choice and ending social promotion and teacher effectiveness plans, and rewarding teachers for continuous improvement in student learning, all of that together yields rising student achievement.”

Miami Herald, “In South Florida, Rethinking the Computer Game as a Teaching Tool”: Instead of telling students to turn off the games, educators “increasingly see digital games as a language that many students seem to intuitively understand, so they’re trying to use that language to make playing facilitate learning.” Popular mainstream games like World of Warcraft and Minecraft are being factored into curricula and pushing the development of other games “designed to teach subjects such as math, vocabulary and AP history without relying solely on textbooks and pencils.” The article also notes that game designers in Miami are “exploring possibilities outside the classroom by creating digital games that teach players about social issues — so-called serious games.”

Associated Press, “Panel Revising Common Core Standards: Change Requires Money”: The North Carolina subcommittee tasked with making changes to the state’s Common Core standards reported Monday that schools will need more money for new teaching materials, including textbooks and support for teachers. “While teachers expect to provide some differentiation to students within a class, having students arrive with wide learning gaps who are also expected to learn and master too many standards is not leading to student success,” the report states. “There are simply too many unidentified prerequisite skills to be covered in the allotted class time. The obvious ripple effect is less critical thinking and weaker command of the basic skills needed to succeed.”