Common Core Standards Daily Update // December 17, 2014

News You Can Use:

Vox: “Common Core Won’t Sink Jeb Bush’s Presidential Run”: CCSS may not be a big factor in Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential run despite opponents already raising it as an issue, the article reports. “[W]hile Common Core has a lot of symbolic political potency, it doesn’t carry a lot of policy weight.” The story notes Bush is not the only CCSS supporter among the pack of likely GOP candidates, and the next president will have little impact on the success of the Standards. “At this point, the reality of the Standards matches a popular talking point from their supporters – they really are a state issue.” Finally, it adds education has largely been a “backwater policy issue” for Republicans. Just 52% of Romney voters said education was a “very important” issue compared to 84% of Obama voters.

What It Means: As the midterm elections demonstrated, CCSS may be a rallying cry for the poles of both parties, but warnings it would be a political litmus test failed to materialize – especially among moderates. In fact, supporters of the Standards who were able to articulate the importance of high education standards largely won election and reelection. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt CCSS still use them, or a rebranded version of them, and only six governors and four superintendents in those states have indicated they want to replace CCSS.



Educators for Higher Standards: “Arizona Teachers at Heritage Elementary SupportCommon Core”: Several teachers from Arizona’s Heritage Elementary School describe why they support CCSS and how the Standards have helped them improve classroom instruction. “With these new standards, my students are able to challenge themselves and think creatively as they respond to what they read,” says Lashawna Cox. “I can push them to think outside of the box to provide an answer that doesn’t just scratch the surface of the text.” Fifth grade teacher Ellen O’Loughlin adds, “Students are learning in a variety of ways and being taught how to think more critically about their lessons…We are teaching life-long learning instead of treating education like a passing phase in life.” “Thecommon core standards have changed my teaching by providing flexibility to teach a concept in more than one way,” third-grade teacher Tamara Morris says. “Instead of just making the students memorize facts…the student then understands how we came up with the solution and are able to solve on their own by using a method that works best for them.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional problem-solving techniques, CCSS introduce students to a range of methods to provide a better conceptual building blocks in math and reading. Because the Standards put as much emphasis on how students arrive at an answer, rather than on simply getting the answer, they encourage students to think critically and explain their reasoning. The Standards eschew the “mile wide and an inch deep” approach of the past and focus on fewer, clearer goals to help students develop knowledge-based understanding.



Wisconsin State Journal: “Common Core Controversy Is Bogus”: In a letter to the editor, Wisconsin resident David Cole says opposition to CCSS is largely based on faulty or misleading arguments. “The Common Core standards were developed by professional educators, not politicians. They are ideology free. They are not a federal takeover,” Cole writes. “They do not require teachers anywhere to teach or refrain from teaching particular lessons or particular books.” The Standards will help better prepare students for college-level work and competitive careers, Cole notes, which is why school districts have led the implementation process. If lawmakers interrupt the work teachers and parents have done, “we will all lose educational accountability while new standards are prepared, new materials are ordered, and new tests are developed. We will all lose time and tax dollars,” he concludes.

What It Means: As Cole points out, much of the criticism leveled against CCSS has been based on unfounded and easily refuted arguments. As these claims continue to be disproved, and as states continue to see success under the Standards like Kentucky and Tennessee have, parents will reward those leaders who are willing to support high education standards. And as Cole notes, to reverse course now would undo the work teachers, parents and students have invested into implementing the Standards.



Beckley Register-Herald (WV): “State Superintendent Comments on Common Core”: West Virginia state superintendent Michael Martirano told lawmakers Tuesday the state’s use of CCSS had been evaluated by at least 100 teachers within West Virginia and that the Standards are overwhelmingly supported by county superintendents. “Standards are the ‘what,’ “Curriculum is the ‘how.’ Teachers are in charge of that at the local level,” Martirano said. Martirano added that the Standards require students to demonstrate evidence of learning and to rely less on basic recall. He also reassured lawmakers no student information can be shared with third parties and CCSS add no new data collections.

What It Means: Like Martirano points out, CCSS do not dictate what teachers must teach or how they should lead their classrooms. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards believe they will improve student outcomes and say they have had a positive impact on students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.



Correcting the Record:

Politico: “Education Legacy Could Become Albatross for Bush”: Stephanie Simon writes Gov. Jeb Bush’s weakness as a GOP presidential candidate can be summed up in two words: Common Core. “[H]is opponents now have good reason to hope [his support] could become an albatross, as many of the policies he is most closely associated with have come under fire from both conservative activists and moderate suburban parents.” Simon notes “much of the criticism [against the Standards] is off base,” but “the discontent has stuck nonetheless.” Bush’s support of higher systems of accountability could be an obstacle as well, Simon says, as uneasy over increased student testing has grown. The article notes several elements of Bush’s education record do “have strong appeal to conservatives,” including his support for school choice. “No state in the country showed larger gains for poor and minority children than the Sunshine State under Bush’s tenure,” said Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli. Time magazine notes Bush’s candidacy “means the Republican party is going to have to sort out where it stands on this tinderbox of an issue.” “Bush can continue to embrace Common Core, but work with the Republican Party to rebrand it as an essentially Republican, states rights issue. Or he can walk back his support for the standards, which would be seen by many moderate Republicans, as well as…the education reform community, as a shameless cop-out.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the message pushed by opponents over the past 18 months, CCSS are not a political liability among conservative voters. As the midterm elections showed – in which at least 12 incumbent governors who publically support CCSS won reelection, most by strong margins – for those who are able to clearly outline the importance of high education standards, support for CCSS is actually an asset. And as more states achieve successes like Kentucky and Tennessee, that strength will continue to grow. Bush’s own priorities on education issues may help him in the primaries as well. “Education should be a national priority, not turned into a federal program,” he said earlier this year.