News You Can Use:

Asheville Citizen Times, “What’s Next for Common Core?”: North Carolina teachers, like Jeff Andrews of Asheville High, want “solid, consistent standards,” not “another major overhaul.” “Teachers after several years have been able to figure out the best way to teach what we have now,” Andrews says, “so more change would just be more confusion and more gaps.” The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission, which is reviewing the state’s Common Core standards, will submit its report this month to state lawmakers and the Board of Education. Angela Mace, another North Carolina high school teacher, says Common Core State Standards have been misunderstood. “They are not a set of prescribed teaching practices. Each teacher is free to teach them in the way that she feels benefits her students.” Susanne Swanger, an associate superintendent, adds, “[Students] still practice mathematics fluency. We still have to know our facts, but we also want to make sure that [students] have conceptual understanding so there’s long term and deep understanding.” “[Common Core State Standards] are stronger than old standards we’ve had. They are more specific and give you more direction,” says Jan Caldwell, a grade-school teacher. “And they certainly are not in opposition of anything that I’ve taught in the past.”

What It Means: This article demonstrates the overwhelming support for Common Core State Standards among educators. A Scholastic study last fall found more than 80 percent of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core were enthusiastic about implementation, and more than two-thirds saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. One North Carolina educator in the article explains, “[Teachers] are beginning to see the fruit of some of this labor…and they feel like they’re just beginning to see the results of Common Core…We don’t want it to be a guessing game.” Policymakers should resist political pressures and hold students to academic expectations that fully prepare them for college and careers.

Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Notice Who Opposes Common Core”: Much of the criticism about Common Core State Standards has focused on political issues, not classrooms, and comes from groups that “know little about” education, writes William O’Brien. Public input on West Virginia’s academic expectations was overwhelmingly positive—95 percent and 97 percent of participants approved of the math and English standards, respectively—but the state legislature is poised to “bury them once and for all.” “Common Core is dramatically different, principally because it focuses on skills not content…The key skills in question here are critical thinking and problem-solving, both essential to success in college, today’s workplace, and life itself.” These new standards are “student-centered” and will help students develop creativity, innovation, adaptation and flexibility.” Assessments aligned to them will help educators “track the academic growth and progress of every student” based on levels that prepare them for college and careers. “There is evidence in West Virginia that the Common Core has become entangled in politics, and that parents who want the best for their children…are in line to be short-changed once again for reasons totally unrelated to education.”

What It Means: Years after voluntarily adopting Common Core State Standards, states like West Virginia continue to lead implementation, passing an important milestone this year by giving tests aligned to the standards. Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains before Common Core, most states set the bar very low for students and “juked the stats” by inflating readiness indicators. “The most important step to fixing this problem is to stop lying to ourselves…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.”

PARCC Online, “A Teacher’s View on PARCC’s Score Reports”: Results from student assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards, which were administered in most states for the first time this spring, provide “easy to read” and “useful information for students, teachers and parents,” writes Marti Shirley, an veteran Illinois educator. “In the classroom, my students will be reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses, and identifying their personal needs…For my own students, I anticipate needing to focus more on mathematical reasoning, as historically my students haven’t had to justify and explain their answers in math.” When students fall short of proficiency benchmarks, Shirley says there are resources for teachers and parents to help them get back on track. “While these results are an important measurement of their student’s ability, we must remind parents of the many ways the district and classroom teachers are preparing their students for success…We have raised the bar for our students and it will take time for all the transformations needed in our classrooms and in student learning to occur.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to accurately measure student development, which is a necessary first step to identify and address learning needs. In a recent memo Karen Nussle notes, “States have weighed the evidence, seen past the rhetoric, and overwhelmingly embraced high, comparable education standards…[They] are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career…For parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”

Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Cheyenne’s Anderson Elementary Teachers Try to Foster Parental Involvement”: Two Laramie County school teachers, Rachel Crawford and Sarah Holle, have launched an outreach effort to inform parents about changes in classrooms, including those related to Wyoming’s Common Core standards and other more broad issues. Their program, called Parent University, seeks to educate parents about their kids’ education, and includes a series of seminar materials that parents can check out. Crawford and Holle began the initiative because they see “value in connection” and hope parents will take a more active role in their children’s education. As part of the project, the teachers will seek feedback from parents and may expand to other schools in the area.

What It Means: Like Crawford and Holle, educators across the country have launched programs similar to Parent University to help inform families about the transition to higher education standards and high-quality assessments. Recent polling indicates that parents strongly support academic expectations that prepare students for college and careers, but there a lot of misinformation has permeated public debate. “Misunderstandings and misconceptions continue to color opinions about [Common Core] standards,” Karen Nussle explains in a memo earlier this year. “It’s important that news coverage of the standards, assessments and their implementation is accurate.” Largely, that work to correct the record has been led by educators, who remain firmly behind the push for education standards that prepare students for college and careers.

Correcting the Record:

NBC 13 Albany, “Rep. Gibson Calls for End to Common Core with New Bill Passing”: New York Congressman Chris Gibson used the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in the U.S. House of Representatives to call on New York lawmakers to get rid of the state’s Common Core standards. “With the right leadership in Albany, we can now completely get rid of Common Core,” Rep. Gibson said. “It doesn’t make any sense for somebody in Washington DC to be telling us how we’re going to have teachers accountable. The best accountability is from somebody eyeball to eyeball.” “One size does not fit all. What students are learning in Upstate New York may be a lot different and should be a lot different from what they’re learning in the inner cities,” added David Halloran, a district superintendent. The Every Student Succeeds Act maintains federal testing requirements and prohibits federal officials from requiring states to use certain education standards.

Where They Went Wrong: Like New York, states across the country adopted and continue to implement Common Core State Standards voluntarily. The requirement of college- and career-ready education standards accounted for less than 10 percent of states’ application for federal funding and nearly half of states implementing the standards were never awarded Race to the Top funds. The Every Student Succeeds Act empowers states to move past the anti-Common Core rhetoric and continue to build on the standards. In a recent interview with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, noted, “We have to empower parents with choice, we have to reduce the huge federal footprint in education…If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”

Heartland Institute, “Where a Wrong Answer Can Be Right and the Right Answer Can Be Wrong”: Writing on a recent viral math problem, Lennie Jarratt says new approaches to math have complicated basic procedures to the point where a right answer can be marked wrong, while an incorrect answer can be given credit. “These math methods have been around for more than two decades, under names such as New Math, Fuzzy Math, Everyday Math, and Chicago Math…As this math problem shows, many Common Core teachers want only one method to be taught for calculating the correct answer, regardless of the critical thinking utilized by the student.” Jarratt says the recent decline in NAEP scores indicates the Common Core is not working. “Teachers who use Common Core-aligned math are similar to those who attempt to build a house without a foundation; the house is destined to crumble…It doesn’t take much critical thinking to realize Common Core-aligned math is a disaster.”

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core math standards encourage the use of multiple problem-solving techniques in order to help students develop a conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. “Math education today is designed to help all children, regardless of their background, develop a stronger understanding of math, so they are prepared for college-level coursework and, if they choose, advanced [STEM] careers,” a recent Collaborative for Student Success blog notes. “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.” But make no mistake, Common Core still requires students to know their basic math skills, like subtraction and multiplication, and requires them to learn traditional learning techniques, like standard algorithms.

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Tampa Bay Tribune, “Proposals Aim at Return to Electing State Commissioner of Education”: A growing number of Florida voters are calling for a change to make the State Education Commissioner an elected Cabinet-level position. “If the Board of Education and commissioner are all appointed by the governor, then they will feel little responsibility to represent the people,” says Sue Woltanski, a local education activist. “Parents are sending thousands of letters to policymakers and getting cookie-cutter replies. Those same policymakers then state they are only hearing from people who support their views.” “The way the system is structured right now, there is no accountability,” adds State Rep. Debbie Mayfield. “Parents should have a say in who is selected.” The issue has garnered more attention as parents feel the State Board of Education has not reflected their views on issues like Common Core State Standards and testing, the article reports.