News You Can Use:

Tennessee Org. of School Superintendents, “Letter to the Members of the Tennessee General Assembly Supporting Common Core Standards”: Leaders of Tennessee’s education community are urging lawmakers to stand up for CCSS in the face of growing efforts to repeal the Standards. The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents will release a letter today signed by 112 of the states 141 superintendents. “[W]e have been actively involved in the implementation of new education initiatives in our state for the past seven years,” the letter states. “Now we are asking that our teachers, administrators, and students be afforded the opportunity of stability that is just on the horizon. Specifically, we are asking that no legislative action be taken during the 2015 legislative session to change our academic standards.” “Our teachers are doing better than they’ve ever done. Our students are doing better than they’ve ever done. We really want to keep making progress,” Wayne Miller, the group’s executive director, told Politico Pro.

What It Means: Despite more than 18 months of targeted attacks, during which opponents have thrown everything at CCSS, educators continue to strongly support the Standards. The letter from Tennessee superintendents underscores teachers’ commitment to high standards and the uncertainty repealing them for political purposes would create in schools. Their plea speaks volumes: “Please do not derail this momentum with another change that could disrupt the learning process for students and teachers in classrooms across our state.”

Education Post, “A Teacher Gets Honest about Common Core: ‘Standing Still Will Never Get Us Anywhere’”: Melody Arabo, a third grade teacher, says although parents feel anxious over CCSS because they have been “politicized and poorly presented in the media,” teachers continue to support the high standards. “This is the first time there has been a complete overhaul of what and how children should learn. And it’s about time, because our world is different now,” Arabo writes. “Education is no longer about regurgitating facts, it is about critical thinking and problem solving so we can develop a future generation of innovators.” A Grand Rapids, MI, teacher adds, “Common Core is like a set of stairs, so it makes it easy for me to go back down…find the base of what they need to know first, and build up from there. The standards have pushed me to have higher expectations for my kids.” Arabo concludes teachers remain in favor of CCSS. “Standing still will never get us anywhere.”

What It Means: Teachers remain strongly supportive of CCSS even as opponents continue to attack the Standards. A recent study found 84% of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards support their implementation, and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Politico, “Bobby Jindal vs. the World”: Running as the dark horse nominee of the Republican Party, Gov. Bobby Jindal has launched a “concerted effort” to bolster his credentials as the “purest anti-Washington conservative in the GOP field,” the article reports. Part of that effort is “seeking out controversy wherever he can,” even amongst backlash from the right. Gov. Jindal’s camp frames it as having the conviction to stand up to “Washington elites” and corporate interests, which he says is behind issues like CCSS. The article notes Gov. Jindal is relatively unknown among voters, which may be part of his play to criticize even those in his party. “If he runs, Jindal would try to fill several lanes as a full-spectrum conservative.”

Where They Went Wrong: By seeking to differentiate himself from other likely Republican presidential candidates, Gov. Jindal has shown a willingness to unapologetically bend on issues he once supported – including CCSS. In Louisiana, Gov. Jindal has tried (so far unsuccessfully) to override the state legislature and public support for CCSS in a display of executive power that would make Pres. Obama blush. Using high education powers a political wedge has proved dangerous in states like South Carolina and Oklahoma; it shouldn’t be something voters tolerate from a presidential candidate.


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Washington Post, “Any Rewrite of No Child Left Behind Should Keep Annual Testing Provisions”: The editorial board writes that it hopes Congress doesn’t retreat from “policies that aim to give every child – regardless of race, ability or family income – access to a quality education,” including the need for testing, reporting and accountability measures. “Annual assessments are vital in providing objective and timely information on student achievement. This is information that parents need to know, and it helps school officials to see where to target resources,” the piece notes. “There are valid concerns about over-testing; states and localities should take a hard look at whether they have a structure of unnecessary or duplicative tests. But the federal government must not back away from the common-sense principle that states need to test students, use the results to judge if schools are showing growth and take action against those that consistently fail to do so.”

Washington Post, “Bobby Jindal’s Unpleasant Record”: Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign-in-waiting is “trailed by an unwelcome, unsavory and downright unpleasant companion: his record,” writes Dana Milbank. At a breakfast meeting hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Monday, Gov. Jindal obfuscated on questions about cuts to Louisiana’s public universities and his actions to take the state from a billion-dollar surplus to a $1.6 billion deficit. “It was the equivalent of a homeowner dismissing the significance of his foreclosure by noting that he had done a fine job tending the flower beds,” Milbank writes. The column notes other Republican governors face similar challenges in their records, but that Gov. Jindal’s “travails are particularly problematic.” Gov. Jindal also dodged a question about whether there is some irony in talking about ramping up education while cutting it in Louisiana.

USA Today, “More State Takeovers of Public Schools Possible”: State takeovers of local school districts, like a recent example in Little Rock, AR, could become more frequent as more schools struggle to meet the more rigorous CCSS, the article reports. “I hear more state boards talking about it, even if they’re not doing it yet,” said Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. “If you believe that more and more authority is going to go back to states — and I do — then you probably are likely to see it more.” The article reports analyses predict more students will fail to hit proficiency marks under CCSS, which could impel states to take action more often.

Times Picayune, “Terrebonne Parish School Board to Discuss Opting Out of Common Core-Aligned Testing”: On Tuesday the Terrebonne Parish School Board will consider whether to ask the Governor’s Office and state superintendent John White to be removed from CCSS-aligned testing. The resolution, introduced by freshman board member Vicki Bonvillian, seeks to remove Terrebonne from CCSS testing until “these programs have been thoroughly reviewed and understood by teachers, parents, community leaders, and approved by School Board Members.” The article notes the move comes amid a growing opt-out movement, including St. Tammany Parish, which asked the BESE twice last week to hold a special meeting to provide direction on the issue. Some Terrebonne school board members said they couldn’t support such a proposal because it would risk federal funding and could give schools “F” performance ratings.

Hechinger Report, “The GED Is Out and Common Core Is In”: Last year GED tests were revamped to reflect the more rigorous content encouraged by CCSS, but on recent tests the passing rate seems to be set low enough that the number of individuals passing is rising and “who passes can be random.” “They made a very hard test and [then] made it easier to pass,” said Joyce Paton, the college coordinator at the Bronx Youth Center, where passing rates increased to 75% in 2014 from 60% on old exams. The difficulty of the exam is expected to increase, until it isfully aligned with the Common Core standards in 2017, the article notes, but the number of questions that need to be answered correctly may not increase, depending upon decisions at the state level.