News You Can Use:

Times Picayune, “Oct. 24 Elections Seen as Key for Common Core Education Reform”: Business leaders and educators stressed the importance of continuing implementation of Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards during the first in a series of education talks on Wednesday. “Graduation rates are higher than they’ve ever been here in the state. The drop-out rate is going down,” said Barry Erwin, a member of the Council for a Better Louisiana. “You can pull a lot of those back to the standards themselves if you want to get right down to it.” Participants noted that state elections in October will impact the future of the Common Core in Louisiana. Robert Richardson, a Washington-based consultant, doesn’t believe the state will turn back because of the importance of high education standards. “I don’t think we are going to go back. Even with those states that have gone through a review process, we are coming out at 85 percent, 90 percent of the standards.”

What It Means: High, consistent education standards are necessary to ensure that students are held to expectations that fully prepare them for college and career. As the business community has repeatedly argued, high standards are needed to fully equip young people to succeed after high school and prepare them to enter the workforce. A study last year found that two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. This year, zero states passed legislation to repeal the standards despite a 75 percent increase in bills aimed at doing so. Instead, as Richardson points out, states are reviewing and tailoring the standards to ensure they meet student needs.

Washington Post, “ACT President: ‘Relax. Tests Don’t Define Us, Nor Do They Determine Our Future”: In an interview about the role of student assessments, ACT President Jon Erickson, who will retire on September 1, says proper testing can inform “career planning, academic advising, admission decisions, student retention and equal opportunity,” and that students shouldn’t stress out over exams because “classroom achievement and dedication will overcome a poor test showing.” “The assessments models that hold the most promise are those that look at the whole person, and not solely at academic achievement,” Erickson says. “You hold the power, not the tests; you control your learning.” Erickson notes that eliminating testing won’t address opportunity gaps, “it will just prevent us from seeing it.” Of Common Core State Standards, he highlights the importance of holding all students to college- and career-ready expectations, but notes that the “mistaken perception that it was federally mandated and takes away local control” has created needless controversy.

What It Means: While certainly not the only tool educators and parents use to measure student readiness, high-quality assessments provide an important way to accurately determine a child’s grasp of knowledge and skills necessary to succeed at higher levels. As Erickson explains, new assessments draw on the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to work towards college- and career-readiness. Honest assessments are particularly important for communities of color and low-income communities to ensure all students are held to standards that prepare them for success. Recent polling confirms that while parents may be wary of over-testing, they continue to support high classroom expectations and increased accountability to ensure their child is on track to meet the demands of high-level learning and ultimately graduate prepared for college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

Medium, “I Hate to Say It, but We Told You So”: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, writes that for years she has been amplifying “horror stories” from teachers and parents about the effects of over-testing, but lawmakers “either paid lip service to the concerns or out and out rejected them.” “Instead, they listened to the billionaire hedge fund managers, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs and wealthy foundations that pedaled a combination of austerity and testing, arguing that teaching can be boiled down to an algorithm,” Weingarten says. The latest PDK/Gallup poll findings, Weingarten argues, confirms such concerns are widespread. “In no uncertain terms, Americans are saying it’s time to end the obsession with – and misuse of – testing… Another victim of the testing mania? The Common Core State Standards, which have seen their popularity tank as they’ve become inextricably linked to poorly made high-stakes tests that don’t even align with curriculum.” Weingarten concludes, “We need to cultivate curiosity, a love of learning, and the persistence and grit that really lead to lifelong success. Obsession with bubble tests and austerity budgets won’t do any of that.”

Where They Went Wrong: In lamenting assessments that accurately measure development against what students need to know and be able to do to succeed at high levels of learning, Weingarten ignores the fact that new, high-quality tests are one of the best tools teachers and parents have to ensure that their children are on track to succeed. As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, for a long time states inflated proficiency measures to paint a rosier picture of student achievement. New assessments administered for the first time this year raise the bar to reflect how well-prepared students really are, a necessary first step to begin improving performance. As Karen Nussle wrote, the latest polling reinforces that the public continues to strongly support high academic standards for all students. In the past, Weingarten has applauded the Common Core for championing those principles, saying, “these standards have the ability to transform the DNA of teaching and learning to ensure that ALL children, regardless of where they live, have the critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork skills and experience they need to succeed.”


On Our Reading List:

Alliance for Excellent Education, “College- and Career-Readiness Assessments: The Results Are (Coming) In”: On September 9, the Alliance for Excellent Education will host a webinar focused on new state assessments that measure student performance against college- and career-ready standards, how they are different from previous assessments, and how parents and teachers can interpret results. The educator-led discussion will center on PARCC and Smarter Balanced exams, and feature Marti Shirley, an Illinois math teacher, Stacie Kaichi-Imamura, a Hawaii math coach, Anitra Pinchback-Jones, a Washington principal, and Loretta Holloway, a Massachusetts district vice president. Panelists will field questions from submitted from viewers across the country. More information and registration details are available here.