News You Can Use:

Associated Press, “Obama Signs Education Law Rewrite; Power Shift to States”: On Thursday, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. “This is a big step in the right direction, a true bipartisan effort,” President Obama said. The legislation holds gives states full control to set high standards and dedicates resources “to our most vulnerable children.” The law maintains annual testing requirements and prevents federal authorities from requiring states to adopt certain education standards. By turning more control over to states, the law will “end more than a decade of what critics have derided as one-size-fits-all federal policies,” the article adds. “You’ll see states taking the opportunity to serve kids better, meaning it’s not just a conversation about labeling schools but also a conversation about when a school’s not doing right by kids,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

What It Means: In what Republican lawmakers have called a “huge win for conservatives,” the Every Student Succeeds Act will ensure states are free to implement college- and career-ready education standards. In a memo this week, Karen Nussle explains the legislation will finally put to rest concerns of federal involvement. “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.”

Asbury Park Press, “Don’t Freak Out over PARCC Scores”: Results in New Jersey from student assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards show more than half of students in grades three through eight are not performing at proficiency levels, but the scores are not a reason to lose sleep, writes Debbie Tyrell, president of the state PTA. “We’re seeing lower scores because we’re holding our children to a higher standard. In my mind, that is a good thing, and stressing out myself and my child is both impractical and unnecessary.” “The transition to high-quality standards and aligned state assessments is crucial to improving education throughout our state. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to holding our children to higher standards,” the piece states. Old tests provided inaccurate measures of student readiness, and as a result about 70 percent of New Jersey community college students required remediation. “For the first time, we have in-depth and objective information that reveals exactly where our students are struggling and excelling,” which will help to improve student outcomes.

What It Means: High-quality assessments give parents and teachers one of the best tools to identify and address learning needs. Tests aligned to college- and career-ready standards, like PARCC, measure students to levels that reflect the skills and knowledge they need. In a recent memo, Karen Nussle explains, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career,” and for parents and teachers, “that should come as a welcome change.”

Raleigh News & Observer, “Wake Ed Partnership Urges Keeping Common Core Math Standards”: The Wake Education Partnership, a business oriented non-profit organization, is urging North Carolina policymakers against repealing the state’s Common Core standards. In a letter to the Academic Standards Review Commission, the group says, “Any recommendation to change or replace current standards must be supported by significant research demonstrating the superiority of the resulting product.” The review committee is expected to vote on December 18 on its final report. The WakeEd letter adds educators have “expressed their desire for stability,” and keeping the state’s Common Core standards will give teachers more time “to grow their skills and better implement North Carolina’s high standards.”

What It Means: The WakeEd letter reiterates the business community’s support for rigorous academic expectations that fully prepare students for college and careers. Common Core State Standards were developed to ensure all students, regardless of where they grow up or go to school, are held to levels that help them develop the skills and resources necessary to become college and career ready. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities, and recent polling reaffirms parents and the public overwhelmingly support high college- and career-ready education standards.

Correcting the Record:

New York Times, “Cuomo Panel Calls for Further Retreat from Common Core Standards”:  On Thursday, the task force launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to review the state’s education standards called for changes to the state’s academic expectations, including to how assessment are used to measure student progress. “The report is the latest step in the state’s retreat from the Common Core school standards,” the article reports. “It comes in the wake of a rebellion by parents against testing; one-fifth of students did not sit for the state exams this year, a fourfold increase from the previous year.” If New York is to develop new education standards, it’s “unclear” how different those would be from the Common Core. The committee’s report says new standards should “maintain the key instructional shifts set forth in the Common Core.”

Where They Went Wrong: The Task Force recommends revising the standards, not ending or withdrawing from them. The report is very clear that the current standards are the baseline for this revision and the process will take a substantial amount of time. As Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains, “The basic problem is that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.” New York’s revised education standards must be based on the high academic expectations it has now in the Common Core, and must serve to ensure all students are held to levels that prepare them for colleges and careers.

FiveThirtyEight, “How Arne Duncan Lost the Common Core and His Legacy”: The President’s signature of the Every Student Succeeds Act “will undo many of [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan’s signature policy changes and scale back the role that the Education Department plays in overseeing schools,” the article reports, including wide implementation of Common Core State Standards. Initial support for the standards began to erode in 2013 as states leading implementation first administered assessments aligned to the standards. “As the backlash grew, Duncan himself began to back away from his connection to the standards…The new federal education law will go even further, preventing the federal government from requiring teacher evaluations linked to test scores and from providing any incentive to states to adopt the Common Core or any other particular set of standards — a direct rejection of two of the signature policies of Duncan’s Education Department.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the article’s suggestion, states overwhelmingly continue to voluntarily implement Common Core State Standards. After more than five years and two national elections, all but one state, Oklahoma, continue to use the Common Core, or a very similar set of standards. And, contrary to the article’s implication, Common Core State Standards were never Secretary Duncan’s to lose—they began as and remain a state-initiated, state-led effort.

Albany Times Union, “The Common Core Ship Is All but Sunk”: Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act “should effectively kill Common Core and teacher evaluations linked to student testing,” writes John Metallo, a retired teacher. “The Common Core ship is all but sunk. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the federal and state plan to improve public schools has wasted billions of dollars while resulting in no improvement.” School improvement efforts at the “federal and state level” are “exercises in futility,” the piece states. “Research indicates that improvement must be made on the local level. The political approach was destined to fail.”

Where They Went Wrong: Metalio ignores the fact that implementation of Common Core State Standards is occurring at the local and state level. Across the country, even the most conservative states are rejecting efforts to repeal the Common Core. Of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said, “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.”

On Our Reading List:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “New Test Raises the Bar for Illinois Schools”: In Illinois, 28.2 percent of student met or exceed proficiency in math, as did 37.7 percent of students in reading, according to results from the state’s PARCC assessments. Statewide, fewer students took the state exams, but Illinois still met the 95 percent participation rate. “These initial results are simply a new baseline from which we can move forward,” says State Superintendent Tony Smith. “I do not want anyone to use these results to shame teachers or schools.” “These results do not mean our students know less or are less capable,” adds Lynda Andre, a local superintendent. “The bar has been raised for the type of skills and knowledge students must possess before moving onto the next grade level.”

The Economist, “Why America Overhauled Its Main Education Law”:  The No Child Left Behind law, which was recently amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act signed by the President on Thursday, “gave the federal government unprecedented sweeping oversight of education,” the article reports. It required all students be proficient in math and reading by last year, but “the well-intentioned deadline was perhaps unrealistic.” “It became obvious, despite some early progress, that students were not making the needed strides,” and some states “set appallingly low standards” to meet requirements. Of the rewrite, Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, says the new law may encourage states’ implementation of the Common Core because “it no longer will be perceived as a federal mandate.”

Newsday, “Long Island Opt-Out Leader on Changes: ‘We’ll Believe It When We Actually See It’”: In response to the recommendations put forth by the Common Core Task Force initiated by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which suggest revising the state’s Common Core Standards and providing greater transparency, a Long Island opt-out movement leader parents will “believe it when they actually see it.” “The first reaction we have is that, if in fact they follow through with all these recommendations made here, it’s a huge step in the right direction,” says Jeannette Deutermann, organizer of Long Island Opt-Out. “All the work we put into this over the last three years wasn’t for naught.”

NPR Buffalo, “WNY Catholic School Leader Embraces Common Core”: The Diocese of Buffalo “has no plans to cut back” on use of Common Core State Standards even though other Catholic schools have. “We have embraced the Common Core Standards, however, we continue to use our own curriculum, because our curriculum is faith based,” says Sister Carol Cimino, superintendent of Catholic Schools in Western New York. “The standards are clear, they’re real, they’re genuine and they’re rigorous, so who wouldn’t want to follow the standards, we just have not embraced the curriculum.”