News You Can Use:

Collaborative for Student Success, “Polling Reinforces Support for High Standards”: Four major national education polls released over the past two weeks offer consistent evidence that public support for high, comparable academic expectations remains “strikingly strong,” Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, says in a new memo. Noting that communities of color especially continue to endorse rigorous standards – support for Common Core Standards among Hispanic respondents was 34 points higher than opposition in an Education Next poll, for example – the analysis states: “Communities of color value the information provided by assessments and know that comparable standards provide their community schools with important information to help close gaps in achievement.” At the same time, the polling indicates misconceptions about the Common Core abound. One study found that nearly 60 percent of participants didn’t know whether their district used Common Core State Standards, including 39 percent of parents. “False or misleading information… published by trusted sources is detrimental to the important work that so many educators, administrators and state education officials have undertaken over the last five years.” The memo directs users to the fact-checker site for more resources.

What It Means: Recent polling confirms that despite years of targeted attacks based largely on distortion and hyperbole, support for high, comparable education standards remains strong. Misinformation peddled by opponents has been successful in damaging the Common Core brand, but as parents and voters experience and learn more about the standards they are more likely to embrace them. That may be why this year zero state legislatures passed legislation to repeal the Common Core State Standards and most states are instead building on the framework laid by the standards. Civil rights groups have made clear that consistent learning goals are particularly crucial for low-income students and students of color, to ensure they have access to a quality education no matter where they grow up or go to school.

Burlington Free Press, “Vermont Gets First Report Card under Common Core”: On Monday, Vermont announced it is releasing individual results from assessments aligned to the state’s Common Core standards administered earlier this year. Fewer students obtained proficient scores compared to the state’s previous New England Common Assessment (NECAP), but scores still exceeded expectations, the article reports. The results show that students performed better in English language arts than in math across all grade levels except third grade, where the same percentage of students scored proficient in both subjects. “The academic ambitions and aspirations of the Common Core are much more rigorous than most state standards, including Vermont’s,” State Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said. “What we’re focused on is what can we learn from this test, and how can it be helpful to kids in the classroom?” Teachers in the state also voiced strong support for Common Core State Standards and the new assessments. “What I like about Common Core in math is it makes students really be deep thinkers,” explained Paul Lasher, a sixth-grade math teacher.

What It Means: By administering high-quality assessments that hold students to levels that fully prepare them for higher levels of learning, Vermont – like most states across the country – is providing parents and educators with better information to help students succeed. The Honesty Gap analysis made clear that for a long time states systematically lowered the bar instead of focusing on improving performance. Now states like Vermont are setting a new, more rigorous baseline for students that will ensure they are on track to complete high school college- and career-ready. As State Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe points out, the new tests will help better inform instruction and empower parents and teachers to address learning needs and build on their children’s strengths.

New Orleans Advocate, “It’s Time for an Honest Review of Common Core”: An honest review of Louisiana’s standards will help put to rest the misinformation perpetuated by “conspiracy theories and irresponsible political statements by Gov. Bobby Jindal,” the editorial board writes. While the Common Core label has become a political “hot potato,” the standards were developed to raise the state’s academic benchmarks, which were in “desperate need” of improvement. “We think, by and large, schools are better off for adopting them,” the piece states. “What is important is that the honest review be based on honest evidence…[It] is actually part of what the state Department of Education and Secondary Education should responsibly do every four or five years – look at the standards and make sure they are what students need to be learning in each grade.” The piece concludes, “A judicious review of the standards led by educators, not politicians…that is what we hope Sanford and her colleagues deliver.”

What It Means: Instead of the mass exodus predicted by opponents of Common Core, states have taken the level approach of reviewing and building on the framework laid by the standards. This year zero states passed legislation despite a 75 percent increase in bills aimed at doing so, and at least three, including Louisiana, launched reviews to ensure the standards fit students’ needs. As the editorial board points out, states have a responsibility to regularly review their education standards, and such efforts will likely root out the misinformation propagated by critics.


Correcting the Record:

Cato Institute, “Another Poll: Core Getting Clobbered, Keep the Feds Out, and More”: Neal McCluskey, director of education policy at the CATO Institute, writes that findings from the latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll indicates Common Core State Standards are “hemorrhaging support over the last few years.” “It is unquestionably true both that an intended effect of the Core is to guide what is taught, and that this is more bad news for the Core,” McCluskey says. The piece also emphasizes participants’ aversion to federal control, noting only about one in five respondents want Washington in charge of education policy. Of the testing opt-out movement, the piece adds, “Constant standardized testing, the Common Core, federal strong-arming, and possibly numerous other irritants have seemingly spurred a revolt against standardized testing.”

Where They Went Wrong: While targeted attacks based on misleading and often downright false information have left some wary of the term “Common Core,” the public continues to strongly support rigorous education standards – the very principles Common Core State Standards are built on. That conflicts with McCluskey’s claim that the Common Core State Standards are “hemorrhaging support.” As Karen Nussle points out in a memo yesterday (see above), the series of polls released over the past two weeks indicate the public has a strong appetite for high education standards that fully prepare students for college and careers. The more accurate the information parents have about the Common Core, the more likely they are to support it, which is one reason why states continue to move forward with implementation.


On Our Reading List:

Politico New York, “Education Commissioner Begins Plan to Combat Opt Outs”: New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has begun efforts to curtail the opt-out movement that had high numbers of students sit out tests earlier this year. “We’re trying to pull together a tool kit, if you will, to support superintendents in how we can communicate in a much more effective way to people across the state,” Elia said. “It’s important for them to be able to say, ‘Listen, it’s the law.’” Elia added that she has begun meeting with education leaders across the state and plans to launch a review to get more feedback about New York’s Common Core standards. “As you get more people involved in the process, you have more people understanding what’s going on and why you have assessments,” Elia said. “I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of communication and we have to do it at multiple levels.”

NPR, “How the U.S. Is Neglecting Its Smartest Kids”: Education reform over the past several decades has focused almost exclusively on getting poor-performing students over a minimal bar while ignoring high achievers, says Chester Finn, author of the upcoming book Failing Our Brightest Kids. “High achievers are being neglected in all sorts of ways by schools that had no incentive to push them farther up,” Finn says. “There’s almost no incentive to boost a smart kid up the scale or take someone who’s ‘proficient’ and push them to ‘advanced.’” In his book, Finn advocates for accountability targets that emphasize growth for all students. He supports Common Core State Standards for their rigor, but acknowledges they are strictly sequenced, which could make it harder for students to skip ahead.

Politico Florida, “Lawmakers Look to Ditch State Exams, Adopt National Tests”: Some Florida lawmakers are seeking to require the State Department of Education to use national exams like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the SAT entrance exam in place of the Florida Standards Assessment, which is aligned to the state’s Common Core standards. “One of the things that the Senate education appropriations committee will be considering this year is legislation to require the Department of Education to use existing, respected, already proven reliable forms of assessment,” said State Sen. Don Gaetz. After technical problems this spring, Gov. Rick Scott and the legislature ordered a review of the state’s current assessments, due by September 1. “The one big negative is that the state has already invested a lot of money in the FSA exam,” said a spokesman for the Sentinel County School District.

Associated Press, “Nevada Settles with Common Core Test Maker for $1.3 Million”: Measured Progress, the New Hampshire-based test administrator, reached a nearly $1.3 million deal with Nevada officials to reimburse the state for technical problems that prevented large numbers of students from completing the tests. The settlement notes that Measured Progress relied on a fully functional base program from Smarter Balanced, the article reports.