News You Can Use:

Collaborative for Student Success, “Every Student Succeeds Act: Reversal of Bush-Era Education Law Restores Local Control”: Yesterday the U.S. Senate approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, sending the legislation to the White House for the President’s signature. “The new legislation substantially reduces federal control over K-12 education for the first time in three decades, instead handing back decision-making power to states and school districts,” Karen Nussle writes. “It’s particularly encouraging to supporters of the Common Core State Standards because it forever ends what has long been an Achilles Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.” The ESSA “permanently ends Washington interference with Common Core, thus restoring Common Core to its original intent – a state-initiated, state-led effort to raise student achievement through voluntary K-12 standards in math and English that are comparable across state lines.”

What It Means: The Every Student Succeeds Act, which Republican leaders have called a “huge win for conservatives,” puts to rest allegations that Common Core State Standards have become a federal initiative by ensuring states and school districts will have full control over education standards. In an interview with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, reiterated that the legislation should alleviate concerns about federal overreach. “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.”

Educators for High Standards, “Teachers + Legislators = Success”: In partnership with America Achieves State Educator Voice Fellowships, Educators for High Standards has helped facilitate over 30 “Bring Your Legislator to School Day” events, which provide an opportunity for elected officials to observe and participate in classroom instruction aligned to high education standards. “The experience was beneficial to all involved,” says Kim Hardwick, a principal in New York. “Relationships are being established so we can all serve as successful supports to one another as we all work toward meeting the same goal – strengthening education for all students.” Jenny Bigbey, a Colorado teacher, shares the same sentiment. “Sen. Scheffel was able to get a glimpse into the amazing learning and rigorous expectations happening in our building,” she says. In Michigan, Principal Matt McCullough adds, “Education has change immensely…regarding the increasingly higher expectations…We are excited to share our story with our legislators and share how our instruction and assessment are changing to meet higher expectations.”

What It Means: As schools implement college- and career-ready education standards, teachers have stepped up efforts to communicate the importance of these changes. Outreach to public officials like that conducted by the America Achieves State Educator Voice Fellows underscores the support educators have for rigorous academic expectations and high-quality assessments. Too often teachers’ voices have gone unheard, and efforts like these serve as a reminder of the importance of ensuring all students are held to levels that prepare them for high levels of learning, and ultimately for college and careers.

America Achieves, “To the Test: Teachers Grade New York State Assessments”: New York Educator Voice Fellows released the results from a study in which state educators analyzed material from New York’s assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards. “Overall, Fellows concluded that New York is moving in the right direction,” the findings state. Half of teacher participants believe assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards are of higher quality than those the state used before; only five percent felt they were of lower quality. The participants also conclude new assessments do a good job measuring student reading and writing skills and focus strongly on content needed most for success at high levels of math. Ninety-five percent of participants say more professional development focused on how to use the results to inform instruction would be useful.

What It Means: The analysis by the New York Educator Voice Fellows reaffirms educators’ strong support for high-quality assessments aligned to rigorous academic expectations. Like other educator-led studies, including the research conducted by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, the findings underscore that new assessments better measure the skills and knowledge students need to succeed at high levels of learning. The findings come as most states pass an important milestone to provide parents and teachers with more accurate information about student preparedness. Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains that the results from new assessments has been “sobering,” but 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:

Harvard Crimson, “Keep the Common Core”: Writing on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education decision to develop a PARCC-MCAS hybrid test, the Crimson staff says the state “has abandoned the Common Core State Standards and instead will develop its own set of standards.” (Note: Massachusetts officials did not vote to replace the state’s Common Core standards.) “In scrapping the Common Core, Massachusetts…[is] turning back on its legacy as a pioneer in education.” The article notes, correctly, that misrepresentations of the Common Core have created concerns that are “misguided and troubling.” It concludes, “The Common Core is a good policy that furthers Massachusetts’ long-held goal of equal education. The state’s decision to scrap it is a grave disappointment.”

Where They Went Wrong: While the article makes a strong case for the importance of rigorous education standards, it completely misreports the decision in Massachusetts. State officials did not vote to get rid of or replace the Common Core. Instead, the BESE voted to develop a hybrid student assessment aligned to the state’s Common Core standards that will incorporate material from both PARCC and MCAS tests. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester made clear the state has “not abandoned” its Common Core Standards or PARCC, and Massachusetts continues to implement Common Core State Standards.

Polizette, “Common Core’s Messy – and Moronic – Math”: Several years into implementation, Common Core State Standards are damaging instruction, which “is increasingly visible,” the article states. “Most critics contend it diminishes competition and holds the most talented student down to the level of the most struggling student. Examples of the kinds of curriculum designed to meet Common Core State Standards defy common sense. Students are being taught that there is only one way to approach a problem and anything else is ‘wrong.’” The piece cites a recent viral math problem and concludes, “You think the Chinese are doing math this way? Think again.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the article’s claim that Common Core State Standards limit students to rigid ways to solve a problem, the standards actually encourage them to learn multiple problem-solving approaches. A Collaborative for Student Success blog, which includes several math experts explaining the transition to new techniques, explains: “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.”

On Our Reading List:

Associated Press, “U.S. Senate Approves Bill to Give Schools More Control of Testing and Accountability”: On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 85-12 to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Senate’s approval will send the bill to the White House for President Obama’s approval, which he is expected to sign. The bill keeps in place annual testing requirements, but returns more control to states to determine how to grade and improve schools. It also prevents federal authorities from incentivizing particular education standards.

Politico New York, “Common Core Panel to Call for Teacher Evaluation Moratorium, Test Overhaul”: The Common Core Task Force launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will likely release its report of recommendations today or tomorrow. An initial draft of the committee report calls for “an overhaul of the state’s testing system, the creation of new state standards and transparency on those standards’ rollout,” Politico New York reports, based on a copy obtained. The draft also includes space for the task force to weigh in on the impact of student assessments on teacher evaluations, which may be used to recommend up to a four-year moratorium.

Chicago Sun-Times, “New PARCC Scores: Only One in Five Students Can Do Enough Math for College”: Only one in five Chicago Public Schools students have the math skills to be ready for college, according to results from PARCC assessments administered for the first time in Illinois this spring. Statewide, 37.7 percent of students earned a proficient score on the English language Arts test and 28.2 percent on math, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Eighteen schools reported a zero percentage of student proficient in math, and 15 had a zero percentage in reading.