Common Core Standards Daily Update // December 23, 2014

This is the last Daily Update this week. The Collaborative for Student Success wishes you a warm and happy holidays.

News You Can Use:

Shreveport Times: “Common Core Is Still the Way to Go”: Although implementation of CCSS has not always been smooth, it is irrational for state leaders to call for repeal “just as our education system begins seeing positive results from working with tougher standards,” the editorial board writes. Citing Gov. Jindal’s and Sen. Vitter’s reversal on the issue, the piece says, “Their call might have more impact if it weren’t almost completely based on the irrational notion that Common Core is some type of federal government takeover program.” It goes further to add that abandoning the time and resources teachers, parents and taxpayers have invested is “not a fiscally sound decision.” “If there is a problem with our Common Core implementation, fix it. But we don’t need to toss the whole thing out and start over. That defies logic.” It cites the Council for a Better Lousiana, which wrote recently, “The states developed these high-quality standards, there is no federal curriculum…Political winds blow in differing directions. But Louisiana’s children should not pay the price for that in ways that limit their opportunities and leave them even further behind students in most other states.”

What It Means: As the editorial board points out, disrupting the hard work that teachers, parents and students have made to prepare for CCSS because of political tides would do a great disservice to Louisiana’s schools. States like Kentucky and Tennessee, which have fully implemented the Standards, have seen steady increases in student outcomes, and other states move forward with CCSS they will undoubtedly replicate the same success. A recent Scholastic study shows that more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with CCSS have seen an improvement in students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.



Grand Forks Herald (ND): “The Truth about Common Core: It’s Right for N.D.” Although critics of CCSS are passionate, they are not entitled to “rewrite history,” a coalition of supporting the Standards writes. The group notes CCSS were developed and reviewed by experts from across the country, including governors and state superintendents from nearly every state. “In North Dakota, 60 teachers spent two years vetting the standards to ensure their successful integration and respect for our history and cultural heritage,” they add. “The whole time, this process was open and transparent; to say otherwise is to attempt to revise history.” They go on to say the Standards increase expectations of students and teachers, better preparing high school graduates for college-level work or a career. “As colleges and employers expect more, we all have a role to play in helping students master the knowledge and skills that they need to succeed. Under our new standards, we are accomplishing those goals; why break what we just fixed?”

What It Means: CCSS were developed by experts from across the country after states acknowledged education systems were producing high-school graduates unprepared for college level coursework or a competitive career. Since then, states that have fully implemented the Standards have seen some of the biggest improvements in student proficiency and college-readiness rates. As states continue the move to higher standards and better assessments, correcting for a bar that was set too low, new proficiency baselines will be set, and more states will achieve equally impressive results as they continue to move forward with the more rigorous standards.



Correcting the Record:

Washington Post: “A Primer on the Divisive Issue that May Cost Jeb Bush the Republican Nomination: Common Core”: Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s support for CCSS may emerge as evidence among Republican voters that he is not “conservative enough” to win the party’s presidential nomination, writes Max Ehrenfreund. “Many conservatives are strongly opposed to the standards, saying that they interfere with the right of local school districts to develop appropriate educational standards for their students.” Ehrenfreund correctly identifies that there were huge discrepancies in academic standards from state to state prior to CCSS, but then inaccurately states that the Standards were “coordinated with the Obama Administration.” The article correctly identifies that the Standards do not specify what or how teachers should teach, but also links to “the most ridiculous CommonCore questions,” as though the Standards prescribe lesson plans. Finally, Ehrenfreund quotes several Tea Party conservatives that oppose CCSS, including Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Bobby Jindal, but makes no mention of Republican leaders who support it, many of whom The Washington Post has called “the future” of the party.

Where They Went Wrong: For nearly two years opponents of high education standards have said support for CCSS will be a litmus test for candidates, but those warnings failed to materialize in the midterm elections. At least 12 incumbent governors who publically supported the Standards won reelection, most by strong margins. Many of the arguments against CCSS have been based on faulty or misleading information, including that the Standards represent a federal overreach. As these continue to be debunked, voters will continue to reward leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to rigorous academic expectations.



Daily Caller: Common Core Supporters Can’t Demonstrate Its Effectiveness. Are They Counting on a Christmas Miracle?” Cato Institute’s Neal McClusky writes, “[W]hile we can always count on a miracle on 34th Street, the children who go to school there – or anywhere else – deserve real evidence the Core will work.” McClusky says a recent op-ed by Harold Ford, Jr., “cite[s] no research on the quality of the Core, or the effect of academic standards generally.” He then turns to a piece by Donna Shalala, saying, “Shalala offer[ed] no evidence supporting the notion that the Core would fix inequities.” Finally, McClusky criticizes Bill Bennett, saying, “[Bennett is] suggesting that since centralized standards and testing has so far failed (see No Child Left Behind), we should centralize even further. The illogic is almost self-evident, but more important is that he again failed to offer any actual evidence the Core would improve outcomes.”

Where They Went Wrong: States that adopted and have fully implemented CCSS have shown some of the biggest academic improvements in the country. In Kentucky, the first state to fully align curricula to the Standards, college-readiness scores have steadily increased over the past three years, from 52 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2013. Tennessee, another early adopter of the Standards, made the biggest improvements in ACT scores in the state’s history last year and became the fastest-improving state in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In New York, incremental gains in student math scores led the Daily News to write “the chorus of ‘can’t’…was wrong.”



Huffington Post: “A Fifth-Grader Discusses Common Core”: Hofstra University’s Alan Singer, an outspoken critic of CCSS, discusses a conversation with his fifth-grade niece, in which she describes why she dislikes the Standards. “I think the Common Corestandards are way too high. They expect kids to know way too much,” the young girl says. “We had to learn about algebra in third grade. Even the teachers think the standards are too high.” Mr. Singer includes several questions about science and social studies, even though they are not covered by the Standards, including whether his niece had discussed Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS set high expectations in math and English at an early age so all students have the resources to develop the building blocks to tackle higher level learning. Sadly, many high-school graduates say they wish they had experienced higher expectations in order to better prepare them for college or a career. A recent Achieve study found 87% of recent high-school graduates say they would have worked harder if their schools had set higher standards and raised expectations of course work, and 72% say they would have worked harder if they knew the challenges of post-secondary coursework. Even high school students recognize that high standards are important to prepare graduates for life after high school: “Last year in March, I took the practice ninth grade ELA/Literacy portion of the test, and while I found it very challenging and the material dense, I think it is necessary to keep pushing these rigorous standards.”



Huffiington Post: “PARCC Attrition from 2011 to 2014: Not Looking Good for Pearson”: Mercedes Schneider, a public school teacher, writes argues that the fact that fewer states are using PARCC tests is a bad sign for the Pearson testing consortia (she does not address its impact on states using the tests). In 2011, 24 states and the District of Columbia opted to use CCSS-aligned PARCC exams. This year that number had fallen to 11 states, including DC. “Surely PARCC’s diminished membership as a CCSS-testing customer base for Pearson is among Pearson’s notable woes,” writes Schneider. “It’s difficult to be a consortium if the consorters won’t stick around and consort.” “That must be a real bummer for a Pearson CEO with no Plan B,” she concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: Under CCSS, states retain control to pick what tests to use to measure how well standards are helping students achieve. The value of having comparable tests is that they allow schools to assess how well they are performing relative to those in other districts and states and to better collaborate on how best to help students achieve their full potential. While the number opting to use PARCC exams has fallen, those decisions are left up to states. However, Schneider’s criticism would be more constructively aimed by discussing the merits of such decisions instead of insinuating pushing for higher standards is a covert financial scheme.