News You Can Use:

US News & World Report, “There’s No Revolt against Common Core”: Don’t buy the attention-grabbing headlines; a closer look at national polling reveals parents and teachers alike broadly support rigorous education standards and a balanced approach to testing, writes Carmel Martin, vice president of the Center for American Progress. While the PDK/Gallup poll showed “anxieties about the transition to Common Core” and over-testing, it “appears to be an outlier.” “The goals of the Common Core – i.e. raising standards so the United States is more competitive with other countries – are even more popular than specific standards, with nine in 10 voters expressing their support in a recent poll by Public Policy Polling,” Martin writes. She notes that support is strongest among groups that would benefit the most from raising standards, like low-income communities and communities of color. The piece notes that the PDK poll also shows almost 60 percent of respondents believe tests are very or somewhat important to measure school effectiveness. “The majority of voters support higher expectations for students, but without accurate information about what the Common Core is and does, they’re uncertain about the standards. At the same time, while many believe our education policy puts too much focus on testing, they don’t want to see testing abandoned altogether.”

What It Means: Martin’s message drives home the same point Karen Nussle wrote about earlier this week: contrary to some headlines, recent polling taken in aggregate indicates the public continues to support high education standards and honest assessments. Measures to raise classroom expectations for all students are especially important for and embraced by communities of color, which continue to face educational equity issues. By setting rigorous learning goals and ensuring local control over how best to teach to the standards, Common Core helps more students get on and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness, an objective the public overwhelmingly supports. Last week’s Center for American Progress poll also underscored the amount of misinformation being circulated about Common Core – as displayed in this new infographic on the Common Core Fact Checker site – which has led to confusion around the goals of the standards and caused some people to oppose the Common Core State Standards.

East Oregonian, “Testing Opt-Out Will Ultimately Hurt Taxpayers”: The editorial board writes that parents who allowed their children to refuse state assessments “did their kids no favor,” and if opt-out numbers grow “they could cause problems for all school-age children in Oregon.” Noting that many districts fell below the federal 95 percent participation rate requirement, the editorial says, “Those numbers matter because there’s money at stake. If participation drops too far, Oregon could lose some $344 million in federal education funds…Neither Common Core nor Smarter Balanced will end education as we know it nor damage our children…Yet state lawmakers bought into the negative buzz this spring and passed a bill making opting out of exams arguably easier…They apparently did so without thinking seriously about the matter.”

What It Means: Student assessments are one of the strongest tools parents and teachers have to accurately measure student development, identify and address learning needs, and ensure that students are on a path of college- and career-readiness. Opt-out efforts undermine states’ ability to give parents honest information, ultimately putting students at a disadvantage and potentially costing taxpayers, as the editorial makes clear.

Modesto Bee, “The Hard Work, Tears of Common Core Are Worth It”: April Martignetti, a parent and president of her local PTA, explains that while changes under Common Core State Standards have been difficult at times, “none of the short-term challenges outweigh what our children stand to gain.” “Common Core sets a higher bar for students by focusing on real-world skills such as critical thinking and problem solving – skills our kids will need to be successful in college and in their jobs,” Martignetti says. “That’s the reason the math assignments aren’t just about getting the right answer. By making children explain why the answers are correct, the new homework is helping them learn how to think critically and apply what they’ve learned in new ways…I’m feeling more confident that any ‘growing pains’ they have as they’re adjusting will pay off in the end.” “I want my kids to have every competitive advantage possible,” the piece ends. “It’s worth a few tears over math homework today if my children are getting the kind of education that will help them succeed in the future.”

What It Means: While Common Core State Standards ask more of students, the purpose is to ensure they develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed at high levels of learning. In math, for example, Common Core State Standards introduce multiple problem-solving techniques, in addition to traditional practices like memorization and standard algorithms, to help students gain a deeper conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw improvement in their students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. And early adopter states like Kentucky and Tennessee have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Corvallis Gazette Times, “Oregon ACT Scores Show Improved College Readiness”: Statewide results from the ACT college entrance exam in Oregon show improvement in college-readiness rates among graduating high school seniors. Thirty-one percent of the test-takers scored proficient or higher across all subjects, and the composite scores for black, white, Latino and Native American students increased. A recent study tracking 100,000 Oregon high school students found 75 percent required remedial coursework upon entering college. “For the past five years, Oregon teachers have been implementing higher standards designed to better prepare students for life after high school,” explains Salam Noor, Oregon’s state superintendent. “These results indicate that their hard work is paying off with improved outcomes for some of our most historically underserved students.”

What It Means: The results in Oregon add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that high education standards coupled with honest assessments are helping improve student outcomes. Early adopters of the Common Core State Standards, like Kentucky, Tennessee and New York, have achieved steady, and in some cases significant, academic improvements since adopting the standards. As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, by implementing high learning goals and high-quality assessments, states have begun to provide better information to parents and teachers, which is a necessary first step to improve classroom performance.


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Jackson Clarion-Ledger, “Feedback on State Standards Mostly Positive, Ed Officials Say”: Public feedback about Mississippi’s Common Core State Standards has been overwhelmingly supportive, state education officials report. “Since the Feedback Forum launched on June 15, participants have provided close to 7,000 items of input on the English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics standards,” a release notes. “Thus far, more than 90 percent of participants have indicated their approval of the state’s academic standards.” The public comment period is open until Sept. 15, and input will be used by review committees to provide recommendations to the State Board of Education.

National Review, “Jeb’s Salutary Nod to Federalism”: Gov. Jeb Bush’s “drawing a clear contrast” between federal and state responsibilities in remarks about free community college initiatives is “encouraging,” writes Charles Cooke. “Whether Jeb really believes that higher education is a state issue I do not know. That he feels compelled to say that he does, however, is a good sign indeed.”

Vacaville Reporter, “New State Test Scores Likely Released September 9”: California education officials will release scores from assessments aligned to the state’s Common Core standards on September 9. During a webinar Thursday, Bill Ainsworth, a spokesperson for the State Department of Education, cautioned parents against comparing the scores to previous years, noting that the exams set a new “baseline for future growth.”

Associated Press, “North Dakota to Be Compensated for Student Testing Problem”: The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will forfeit some membership fees for the last academic year and provide a discount for the upcoming year to North Dakota, amounting to $316,000, after technical problems affected the administration of tests this spring. North Dakota is one of 17 states participating in the consortium, and one of three that contracted with Measured Progress to give the exams this year.

Ravalli Republic, “Montana OPI Withholds $118K Payment to School Test Company”: Montana’s Office of Public Instruction decided to withhold $118,000 in payment to Measured Progress, the company responsible for the software used to administer Smarter Balanced exams earlier this year, following technical problems that have delayed results from the test. “They tell us that within the next several weeks we will have our test results,” said Ritter Saunders, a spokesman for OPI. More than 80 percent of Montana students completed the exams this spring despite technical problems. “That’s a success given the schools had the flexibility to choose whether to test,” Saunders added.