News You Can Use:

CORElaborate, “Messaging the Common Core: My Three Rules”: Teacher voices have largely gone unnoticed in the debate about education standards, but it’s important they be heard, writes Mary Moser, an educator in Washington State. Her three messages: Testing and standards are not the same thing; Teachers should take control of messaging, and; Don’t “throw everything out” but do make changes. “The more that I, and others, can insert the difference between testing and standards into the conversation, the better chance that clarity will take hold in the narrative,” Moser says. She encourages teachers to speak up about the importance of high standards and high-quality assessments and to “share the rationale of how and why these changes are taking place.” And finally, “find a way to keep some of your older practice, but also recognize that it’s healthy to not always teach the same thing in the same way with the same content.”

What It Means: Like Moser, educators are increasingly speaking up in support of high education standards and high-quality assessments. 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 skills, and more than 80 percent support implementation. One reason is that the standards create flexibility for educators and better ensure all students are held to levels that fully prepare them for high levels of learning. Likewise, recent polling demonstrates that public support for “high, consistent standards, by any name, remains strikingly strong.”

Greater Greater Washington, “Lower Test Scores Aren’t Necessarily a Sign We’re Heading in the Wrong Direction”: Results from tests aligned to Common Core State Standards, which were recently released in Washington, DC, show that a smaller percentage of students met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks, but that “doesn’t mean DC schools are on the wrong track,” writes Natalie Wexler. “The tests have gotten harder,” the article notes. “That’s something that needed to happen. The old tests were so easy they didn’t mean much. As in other cities, students in DC—especially poor, minority students—were graduating from high school without the skills they needed to enroll in college courses or embark on career training, even if they’d scored proficient on the tests.” New tests like PARCC require students to demonstrate their understanding and do a better job of measuring students’ abilities. “Some DC schools are on the right track. A number of educators in DC, in both the charter and traditional public school sectors, have grasped the importance of building knowledge, especially for students who are disadvantaged…Whether and when that knowledge shows up in their test scores should be a secondary consideration.”

What It Means: While “sobering,” the results from assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards provide parents and educators with an honest measure of how well students are developing the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed at high levels of learning. As the Honesty Gap analysis shows, for a long time states inflated student-readiness indicators by lowering the bar for classrooms. But, like DC, most states are addressing the problem by implementing rigorous education standards and high-quality assessments. As Fordham Institute President 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 the associated tests.”

Correcting the Record:

Worchester Telegram, “Anti-Common Core Group Collects 80,000 Signatures for 2016 Ballot Question”: On Wednesday, the group End Common Core Massachusetts, led by Worchester resident Donna Colorio, submitted the 80,000 signatures necessary to add a ballot question during the next election to repeal Common Core Standards in Massachusetts. The signatures will still need to be certified by the secretary’s office, which would then send the measure to the Legislature for approval. The group seeks to replace the state’s Common Core standards with those previously used in Massachusetts. “[Common Core] is dumbing down our kids,” Colorio said. “Overwhelmingly, teachers and parents have come up to us and thanked us, because they feel we’ve reached the point of insanity.” Linda Noonan, director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, disagreed, saying reverting back to the old standards would involve “a lot of backtracking.”

Where They Went Wrong: Massachusetts, a national leader in education, voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards because they promise to better prepare more students for college and careers and offer parents, educators and policymakers the ability to compare progress to states and districts across the country. The adoption of the standards by the Massachusetts State Board of Education was based on extensive analysis, outreach to stakeholders, and discussion. Massachusetts found the Common Core comparable in every way to the updated standards they were developing, but ultimately chose the Common Core because it had additional benefits. Reverting back to the state’s old education standards, as the ballot initiative seeks to do, would walk back the investment teachers and students have made and put students at a disadvantage. Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute explains states are overwhelmingly sticking with the Common Core because the standards “represent a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed” in college and careers.

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Associated Press, “No Child Left Behind Changes Win House Support”: In a 359-64 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to revamp the No Child Left Behind Act. The legislation would scale back federal authorities’ role in education issues, but retain annual testing requirements. It would also prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from incentivizing states to adopt certain education standards and return the decision-making power to states to determine how to use test results to measure teacher and school performance. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill early next week. “Today, we turn the page on the failed status quo and turn over to our nation’s parents and our state and local leaders the authority, flexibility and certainty they need to deliver children an excellent education,” said Rep. John Kline, who led the House-Senate conference committee overseeing the legislation.

Portland Press Herald, “New Assessment Tests for Maine Students to Be Rolled Out”: Education officials in Maine will announce today the details about a new test developed by Measured Progress, which will replace the Smarter Balanced assessments the state currently uses. Last spring the state legislature voted to replace the Smarter Balanced exams. The new tests will take less time and like Smarter Balanced will be administered on computers. Prior to Smarter Balanced, Measured Progress developed Maine’s student assessments. Under the agreement, Maine will use the SAT as the annual state test for high school juniors.

Asbury Park Press, “PARCC: Young NJ Students Outperform Peers; Older Ones Don’t”: New Jersey students in grades three through seven were among the top performers on PARCC tests this year, though students in higher grades did not do as well. Fourth-grade students in New Jersey outperformed students in Colorado, Rhode Island and Arkansas in math and English Language Arts, and came in second to students in Massachusetts, according to the New Jersey Department of Education. The article notes that opt-out rates were higher among middle- and high-school students than in lower grades. Officials are currently reviewing the state’s Common Core standards and will provide recommendations early next year.