News You Can Use:

Collaborative for Student Success, “Common Core Alive and Well in Massachusetts”: Opponents of Common Core State Standards have heralded reports about Massachusetts’ decision to develop a hybrid student assessment as evidence that states have reached a tipping point that will lead to the fall of the Common Core. But simply repeating a lie doesn’t make it so, writes Jim Cowen. “Let’s set the record straight once and for all: Common Core is very much alive and thriving in Massachusetts.” Cowen points to an opinion piece in the New York Times and a statement in Politico by State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester clarifying that the state’s decision does not mean it is abandoning PARCC or Common Core Standards. “[The national media has] inaccurately described Massachusetts as ‘abandoning’ the Common Core and PARCC. We have not abandoned either one,” Chester stated late last month. Massachusetts will remain a member of the PARCC consortium, will administer PARCC tests next year, and will include PARCC assessment items in its hybrid test. “This unnecessary politicization of the Common Core and PARCC assessments only hurts our students,” Cowen concludes. “Let’s turn our focus back to what matters: ensuring all students in Massachusetts, and across the country, are receving a high quality education.”

What It Means: Fanned by opponents, some media reports have mischaracterized Massachusetts’ decision to develop a hybrid test as evidence it is abandoning Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments. That’s simply not true. As the state’s education commissioner points out, PARCC material will remain a “substantial component” of state tests and will ensure educators have the resources to meet student needs. Likewise, Massachusetts will continue to implement Common Core State Standards, as nearly all of the 45 states that initially adopted them are. In a recent memo Karen Nussle explains, Massachusetts “will have 21st century, high quality tests focused on the skills that matter for success in life that are not only comparable across states but also provide honest, accurate information to parents and educators.”

Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, “Interview with Congressman John Kline, Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce”: Discussing the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, Rep. John Kline says the bipartisan agreement reached in committee is a “huge win for conservatives.” NCLB was “just a mess,” but lawmakers “hammered out” a compromise that “fulfills all the principles we were trying to get on this side of the aisle,” Rep. Kline explains. “We have to empower parents with choice, we have to reduce the huge federal footprint in education.” “If anyone had a problem with Common Core being dictated by the federal government, does this bill solve that?” host Bill Bennett asks. “That is exactly correct,” Rep. Kline says. “The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt. If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.” After Bennett points out that states have not been “honest” in reporting how well students are doing, Rep. Kline says that standards under NCLB were “phony from the beginning” and the reauthorization bill requires states to assess students and publish the results. He adds that the bill is authorized for only four years instead of the usual six to encourage the next president and Congress to reconsider the state of education in the near future.

What It Means: As Bennett and Rep. Kline make clear, the NCLB reauthorization bill puts to rest claims that states were coerced into adopting Common Core State Standards. Across the country, states have overwhelmingly signaled that Common Core State Standards are the best choice for ensuring students are held to high expectations that fully prepare them for college and careers. After more than five years and two national elections, only one state, Oklahoma, has replaced its Common Core standards with a set of distinctly different standards. Instead, implementation remains a state-led, voluntary effort, and most states are building on the framework laid by the Common Core. Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains that is largely because “Common Core, though not perfect, represents a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed” in college and careers.

Denver Post, “What Colorado’s First PARCC Scores Mean”: Last month the Colorado Department of Education released the results from the first administration of student assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards. While scores were low, “it is important to stay focused on why Colorado is using a new tool like PARCC,” writes Jessica Moore, a Weld County teacher. “Colorado’s public schools have made big strides in implementing rigorous new academic standards over the past several years…These bold new standards also require a different approach to student assessment to make sure our youth are making the mark.” PARCC tests “break the mold” by asking students to think critically and apply knowledge. “As a teacher, I support these assessments because they accurately measure how my students are performing against these new and more rigorous expectations…[The] data will reveal how students are performing right now in comparison to the expectations for what they need to know and must be able to do.” The results do not mean students are not progressing, Moore adds. “Let’s appreciate these results for what they are: Colorado’s new baseline from which to grow.”

What It Means: For a long time, states inflated measures of student readiness by lowering the bar for classrooms—a reality laid bare by the Honesty Gap analysis. Like Colorado, most states have begun to address the problem by implementing rigorous education standards and honest assessments. While the results from tests that reflect what students really need to know and be able to achieve may be “sobering,” Mike Petrilli explains, “parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests.”

Correcting the Record:

The Hill, “Conservative Group: Common Core Dooms 2016 GOP Governors”: Failure to come out against Common Core State Standards is weighing down some Republican governors running for president, according to the American Principles Project. Common Core has received very little attention so far in the election cycle, but it is an issue that resonates grassroots conservatives, says Emmett McGroarty, education director of the APP. “Support for the Common Core national education standards has often become intertwined with [some candidates’] decline,” McGroarty writes. Because of Common Core’s “top-down ideology, a candidate’s acceptance or rejection of the Core now serves as a leading indicator for determining whether he or she will ultimately have a chance at the nomination…[Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker is a prime example of how quickly an inconsistent stance on Common Core can kill a campaign.” McGroarty adds that “fake-outs” will not appease voters. “As the record has shown, candidates who continue to propagate the falsehoods and weasel words surrounding Common Core, even while disowning the name, will not survive for long.”

Where They Went Wrong: While the term Common Core may still serve as a rallying cry for a subset of conservative activists, polling indicates parents, teachers and the public continue to strongly support high, consistent education standards and honest assessments. Opponents have claimed for years that support for Common Core State Standards would be a “litmus test” for true conservative candidates, but the issue has drawn less than a percent of discussion time during the Republican debates. At the state level, many of the most conservative-leaning states in the country have rejected efforts to replace the Common Core. Instead, leaders are building on the framework laid by the Common Core and moving forward with rigorous standards and honest assessments, indicating Common Core State Standards are here to stay.

Daily Caller, “Common Core Forces Fiction from U.S. Classrooms, Lowers Test Scores”: Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on nonfiction texts has pushed English teachers to forego teaching classic literature, poetry and other fiction material, education editor Eric Owen extrapolates from a recent Brookings Institute report. “There is little evidence that the shift toward nonfiction has had any positive effect on the collective reading ability of America’s public school students… As far as test scores, scores under the National Assessment of Educational Progress have failed to increase – and possibly decreased – since the implementation of Common Core.” The percentage of nonfiction reading has climbed to 45 percent for fourth graders and 32 percent for eighth graders, up from 36 and 25 percent, respectively, according to the Brookings Institution analysis.

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core State Standards encourage the use of nonfiction material, across all subjects, alongside classic literature and other fiction texts to help students develop stronger critical thinking, analytical and reading skills. The standards do not dictate what texts teachers use or how they lead their classes. Overwhelmingly, teachers express that Common Core State Standards empower greater creativity and flexibility in the classroom. As Ohio English teacher Tricia Ebner explains, Common Core State Standards “give me a great deal of freedom and allow me to be creative…I’ll get a good look at how my students work with a variety of texts at a variety of reading levels…to decide how best to approach our work for the next unit, so that I can address their weaker areas and keep pushing their stronger areas forward.”

On Our Reading List:

Wall Street Journal, “No Child Left Behind Replacement Plan Shifts Power to States”: A group of bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers released a bill on Monday to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. Called the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bill would put significant control back in the hands of state officials and curb the authority of the U.S. Secretary of Education. Supporters expressed optimism that, if passed, the legislation would provide greater flexibility and stability to states. The bill maintains federal requirements that states test students annually in reading and math in grades three through eight, and once in high school. But it would end federal guidelines for defining school quality and require states to establish their own accountability systems. The bill also prevents the federal government from giving incentives to states to adopt particular education standards. Each chamber of Congress is expected to vote on the bill this month.

Washington Post, “A Quarter of D.C. Students ‘On Track’ for College, PARCC Test Results Show”: On Monday, education officials in the District of Columbia released results from the District’s first tests aligned to Common Core State Standards. Twenty-five percent of students in third grade through eighth grade met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks in English language arts, and 24 percent met proficiency targets in math. “These results are sobering,” said Kaya Henderson, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. “But we know our students can meet the new, higher standards we set for ourselves.” Earlier this fall, D.C. officials released results for high school students; about 10 percent of those students met proficiency benchmarks in Geometry, and 25 percent in English.