News You Can Use:

Military Times, “Common Core Helps Military Parents”: Measuring achievement and learning about strengths and weakness is critical to military success, and those same principles should be applied in classrooms, writes retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks. “Each time my family moved because of my career, my wife and I wondered how our girls would compare academically with their new classmates, essentially asking if they would be ahead or behind because there were no common education standards from state to state…The Common Core State Standards resolved that for so many military families,” the piece says. Maj. Gen. Marks points out that new assessments given this year are “more thoughtful and more focused on what matters most in education: the development of critical- and analytical-thinking skills, problem solving and writing.” “The scores from this year’s assessments will create a baseline against which future years will be compared. This will give parents and educators a comprehensive picture of how each student is progressing academically.”

What It Means: By setting high, consistent learning goals, Common Core State Standards provide greater assurance to families that if they change schools, their child won’t fall behind or be forced to sit through material they have already learned. High-quality assessments administered for the first time this year ensure that students are being taught to high standards. For military families, which move three times more frequently than non-military families, that peace of mind is important. A Stimson Center report this year found access to consistent quality education affects the military’s ability to retain talented individuals and could impact base-closure decisions.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “How to Keep the Army in Missouri: Improve the Schools”: To guard against military base closures in Missouri and around the country, policymakers should “pay very close attention to the quality of schools in and around military installations, because the Army certainly is,” write Jim Cowen and Joe Driskill. Yet, for a long time discrepancies in education standards made it “impossible to determine how schools are faring relative to schools outside the state.” “This is a particularly pointed problem for members of the armed forces, who typically move every two to three years,” the authors note. “One solution for ensuring a quality education in Missouri schools while remedying the dilemma of inconsistent state standards is use of the so-called Common Core State Standards…Common Core is a set of academic benchmarks that a student must master at each grade level to be on track to graduate high school ready for college or a career.” Quoting Patty Barron of the Association of the U.S. Army, the authors conclude, “It shouldn’t take a threat of losing a military installation to raise academic standards.”

What It Means: Army officials, including Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, have made clear that access to quality education will affect decisions about military unit placements. The goal of the Common Core State Standards is to provide families with the promise of high-quality schools by setting rigorous, consistent learning goals. That comparability better ensures that children in military families, which move on average six to nine times during a child’s K-12 career, will face fewer obstacles when transitioning between schools and have less of a chance of falling behind or being forced to sit through material they’ve already learned.

Times Picayune, “Common Core Likely to Be Tweaked, Not Thrown Out, in Louisiana”: Three committees tasked with reviewing Louisiana’s standards indicated Wednesday that they will likely tweak the state’s education standards, not throw them out. Judging from the initial meeting yesterday, the committees’ exploration might not come up with more than a light edit, the article reports. The state Board of Secondary and Elementary Education plans to weigh the recommendation in February. More than 80 percent of the nearly 30,000 comments submitted during the public input period, most of which came from teachers, supported keeping the standards. “My students are doing way more than I expected they could possibly do at that age,” one educator and committee member said. The three committees will reconvene in October.

What It Means: The decision in Louisiana demonstrates states’ efforts to review and build on the framework established by the Common Core – exactly as the standards were designed. This year, zero states passed legislation to repeal the Common Core despite a 75 percent increase in bills aimed at doing so. Instead, three states, including Louisiana, initiated reviews which will likely reaffirm the value of Common Core State Standards. As Karen Nussle wrote earlier this year, even the most conservative-leaning states continue to implement the Common Core because the standards incorporate the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to graduate college- and career-ready.

Wall Street Journal, “Christie’s Shift on Common Core Turns Off Some Donors”: After New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walked back support for Common Core Standards earlier this year, many donors are reconsidering backing his presidential campaign. “You should like people who stand up for their principles,” says Mike Lilley, who identified Gov. Christie’s denunciation of the Common Core as a reason he is now backing another candidate. “Business leaders have always been for higher standards and comparable standards,” explains Chester Finn, a former assistant secretary of education to President Reagan. “If those are the same people that Republican candidates are turning to for campaign funding, there is going to be an issue.” At an education forum hosted by the Seventy-Four on Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both ardent supporters of the Common Core, continued to endorse the standards. “I’m not going to change my position because there’s four people in the front row yelling at me,” Gov. Kasich said. “I’m looking at all the facts and not getting all my information from the Internet.”

What It Means: The article underscores the fact that high education standards and honest assessments are important to conservatives who see past the anti-Common Core rhetoric. Republican leaders that have courted the small but vocal group of activists set on repealing the Common Core risk losing their base, which supports academic expectations that set students up to succeed. Even while changing their message, leaders like Gov. Christie have only called for measures that don’t change policy, likely because they recognize Common Core Standards incorporate the best evidence about what students need to know and be able to do to graduate ready for college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

The Hill, “Bush, Kasich Get F Grades on Common Core, Group Says”: American Principles in Action released a report card grading presidential candidates’ positions on Common Core State Standards, giving Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush failing grades for their support. Other candidates were given grades from ranging from A- to D+, with those who have consistently opposed the standards earning higher marks. “Common Core is a touchstone for Republicans, and they should be making a bigger deal of it,” the authors write. “People are fed up with the Common Core and the terribly expensive and overbearing Common Core tests. They view the federal government’s involvement in education policy as a colossal failure that has harmed, not helped, children.” The report ranks candidates based on whether they have acknowledged “the standards are of low-quality…and contain language that controls curriculum and instructional methods,” whether they “understand how the federal government intrudes onto state decision-making,” and whether they have made efforts to “protect student and family privacy interests.”

Where They Went Wrong: While the American Principles in Action report card may appeal to a small subset of activists with its accusation of federal intrusion, it ignores that most conservatives voters have gotten past the rhetoric and embrace rigorous education standards and honest assessments. This year, zero states passed a full-scale repeal of the standards despite a 75 percent increase in the number of bills filed related to college- and career-readiness. Instead, three states launched reviews to refine and build on the standards, exactly as they were designed. One reason even the most conservative states in the Union continue to implement the Common Core, as Karen Nussle wrote recently, is that it is impossible to draft college- and career-ready standards that look nothing like Common Core Standards because the Common Core employs the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to succeed at high levels of learning.


On Our Reading List:

The Associated Press, “Common Core Standards Divide Republican Presidential Candidates”: At an education forum in New Hampshire Wednesday, six GOP presidential candidates – Govs. Jeb Bush, Chris Chistie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Scott Walker and businesswoman Carly Fiorina – focused heavily on Common Core State Standards. “The whole objective needs to be about raising student achievement to deal with [this] skills gap we face where a third of our kids end up not being college- or career-ready,” said Gov. Bush. “So in my mind, the debate needs to be broader. It needs to be about real accountability, school choice, high standards.” “I want high standards. I just want them set by people at the local level,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “The states adopted it on their own, and they were incentivized to do so because money flowed with it,” Ms. Fiorina said. “Sounds like a bit of a racket to me.” Gov. John Kasich refused to walk back his support for the standards, saying, “I’m looking at all the facts and not getting all my information from the Internet.” Gov. Christie defended his decision to review New Jersey’s Common Core State Standards. “When something doesn’t work that we try, we then have to change it.” Following the event, Politico reports “Common Core Standards [are] not quite the bogeyman you’d expect…To embrace or reject the Common Core remains a political decision.” The New York Times adds that some candidates’ “effort to distance themselves from the Common Core Standards poses a challenge for Republicans to assure voters that the party has a vision for how to improve the education of their children.”

New York Times, “Jeb Bush Uses Caution on Dicey Subject of School Standards”: Speaking at the New Hampshire education forum, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been a longstanding supporter of Common Core State Standards, reiterated his position that even if states choose not to use the Common Core they should adopt equally rigorous academic expectations. “If people don’t like Common Core, fine,” Gov. Bush said. “Just make sure your standards are much higher than they were before.” Gov. Bush also stressed again the importance of limiting federal involvement and implementing high-quality assessments. “If you don’t measure, you basically don’t care. We should make sure there is at least some way of measuring student progress.”

Connecticut News, “Common Core SBAC Test Results ‘Embargoed’: A Violation of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act”: On Wednesday, the Connecticut Department of Education informed school superintendents they could access their district’s results from the Smarter Balanced student assessments administered last spring. School officials were prohibited from sharing the information, which is embargoed until August 31. “It is critical that districts do not make embargoed results public before the embargo is lifted,” the State Education Department said in a memo. Columnist Jonathan Kantrowitz calls the embargo “inappropriate and offensive” and calls on state officials to make the data public.