News You Can Use:

Tennessean, “Tennessee Superintendents Defend Common Core”: The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents urged state lawmakers Tuesday to “stay on the right path” by sticking with the state’s Common Core-aligned standards. The group submitted a letter signed by 114 of the 140 state’s superintendents encouraging lawmakers not to make changes to the Standards. The 114 superintendents represent 850,000 students statewide, the Times Free Press “Tennessee has received national attention for making historic gains in student achievement,” said Randy Frazier, president of the organization. “That is why we say to the General Assembly this morning, ‘please, do not derail our momentum.’” The article notes Tennessee has used CCSS since the 2011-12 school year, and the state will begin testing to the standards next year. Gov. Haslam is a strong supporter of the Standards, and has called for a review by educators and parents. The superintendents gathered on Tuesday said the Standards have teacher buy-in and students have made huge strides under them.

What It Means: Tennessee, one of the earliest adopters of CCSS, has seen some of the biggest improvements in student outcomes under the Standards, including the largest gains in college and career readiness scores in the country. The superintendents’ message underscores that changing course now would create uncertainty in classrooms and undo the work schools have made over the past several years.   

Tennessean, “Higher Standards Essential for High School Students”: Success of the Tennessee Promise and other programs that help create greater access to community colleges hinge on how well K-12 education systems prepare students for the demands of higher learning, write 13 of the 14 presidents of the state’s community colleges. “Our colleges and universities see far too many students who have arrived unprepared for college level work, despite having graduated from high school,” the piece notes. About 50 percent of first-year students at community colleges require remediation. “The hard truth is those students must learn material that should have been covered in high school,” the authors write. “They are spending critical hours playing catch-up when they should be soaring ahead.” Since Tennessee adopted CCSS-aligned standards, students have made some of the “nation’s highest gains in reading and math scores,” and “have shown that as our expectations rise, so does their performance.” “Tennessee must not turn back now,” the piece concludes. “Only by remaining dedicated to higher educational standards can we ensure every student is equipped properly for the next step in their education careers and ready to fulfill their own promise.”

What It Means: Each year about 40% of college-bound freshmen require remedial coursework before they can begin earning college credit. In 2013, remediation costs amounted to $7 billion. CCSS help ensure students are prepared for college-level work or a good career by holding all students to rigorous academic expectations at each grade.    

National Journal, “The Bobby Jindal Contradiction”: In Washington this week to showcase his education policy, including criticism of CCSS, Gov. Bobby Jindal has been “shamelessly pandering to the base,” the article reports. Gov. Jindal has said his campaign would focus on telling “hard truths,” but “in reality, Jindal has avoided many of the tough political choices in favor of what’s in his short-term political interest.” Gov. Jindal was once a strong supporter of CCSS before reversing his position to win support among the poles of the Republican Party. An American Conservative column notes, “if Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign goes anywhere, it will not be because of his record governing Louisiana, but in spite of it.”

What It Means: As governor of Louisiana Gov. Jindal strongly supported CCSS and at least four times applied to RTTT funds, before conveniently changing his position to appeal to the far-right of the party. He has since put his own political ambitions ahead of his state’s students, going so far as to sue the state, which the presiding judge said did “irreparable damage” to schools. As the article points out, such tactics amount to pandering, not strong leadership.



Correcting the Record:

Politico, “Jeb’s Education Talk Omits the Words ‘Common Core’”: In an education policy speech Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush omitted mention of CCSS, the article reports. However, Gov. Bush told reporters, “I’ll talk about it,” and asked “What do you want to know about it?” when questioned whether he was trying to reframe discussion about the term. “I’m for higher standards. And I’m for creating real restrictions of the federal government’s role in this,” Gov. Bush went on to say. “So you can alleviate people’s fears that you’re going to have some kind of control by the federal government of content or curriculum or even standards…I’m against the federal government being involved in demanding that assessments be done in a certain way.”

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Bush has been one of the strongest advocates of high education standards and one of several likely Republican presidential candidates with the conviction not to bend to political tides on CCSS. As Gov. Bush points out, it will take strong executive leadership to ensure the proper federal role in education and to ensure states can continue to implement and see improvements in student outcomes through CCSS.

Fox News, “Jindal Unveils National Plan to Repeal Common Core”: At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Monday, Gov. Bobby Jindal unveiled a 42-page proposal to reform education. “At the heart of his proposal is a total repudiation of Common Core, as well as a general rollback of federal authority,” the article reports. “While Jindal supported the English and math standards just a few years ago, he has changed his mind and been attacking them constantly since last spring, when he gave a speech comparing them to policies in the Soviet Union.” Gov. Jindal’s plan says repealing CCSS will help restore state and local control of education. Fordham Institute’s Michael Brickman says the proposal would lead to nonsensical policy. “He contradicts himself, by saying nobody other than individual states should be determining what standards are in place, yet he says we should repeal Common Core. I’m not even sure what that means,” Brickman said.

Where They Went Wrong: As the National Journal piece points out (see above), Gov. Jindal’s proposal amounts to little more than political posturing at the expensive of students and teachers. States like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of CCSS, have seen some of the biggest academic gains under the Standards, while others like South Carolina and Oklahoma, which sought to replace them on political grounds, now face serious problems trying to come up with equally rigorous standards.

National Review, “Will’s Take: Jeb Bush Is a ‘Genuine Hero of Conservative Education Reform’”: On Fox New’s Special Report, columnist George Will praised former Gov. Jeb Bush as a “genuine hero of conservative education reform,” but went on to criticize CCSS. As he has in the past, Will said the Standards are “the thin edge of a potentially enormous federal wedge that will inevitably cause textbooks to be aligned with exams, and you will get a national curriculum.” Will agreed on the need for education standards but argued every state should determine their own.

Where They Went Wrong: As Mike Petrilli has written before, any standards put a box around what is taught in school. But for more than two decades states have embraced national tests like NAEP and standardized college entrance exams, and we are no closer today to a national curriculum than before. Chester Finn points out CCSS actually provide states greater autonomy by setting clear expectations for students and allowing states to determine how best to achieve those goals.

US News & World Report, “Should We Stop Making Kids Memorize Times Tables?”: A new paper from Stanford University’s Jo Boaler, which encourages teachers and parents to stop using traditional math techniques like recitation of multiplication tables, criticizes CCSS for misinterpreting numerical fluency to mean memorization and speed. Boaler says “number sense” is inhibited by rote memorization and other tactics that discourage students from thinking about numbers creatively. “Drilling without understanding is harmful,” Boaler said. “Math facts are best learned when we understand them and use them in different situations.”

Where They Went Wrong: It’s odd Boaler criticizes CCSS since the Standards fundamentally support the value of a conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. In addition to traditional math techniques, CCSS introduce students to multiple problem-solving methods to help develop a deeper comprehension of math properties in order to help students succeed at higher levels of learning.



On Our Reading List:

Des Moines Register, “Chris Christie Says He Has ‘Grave Concerns’ about Common Core”: At an event in Iowa on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he has grave concerns about the implementation of CCSS. Gov. Christie said he concerns arise from the way the Obama Administration tied RTTT funds to the initiative, which “changes the entire nature of it.”

Associated Press, “14 Louisiana School Districts Ask for Penalty Waivers for Common Core Opt-Outs”: According to the Louisiana Schools Boards Association, 14 of the state’s school districts have passed resolutions aimed at preventing schools from being penalized for students who opt out of CCSS-aligned tests. Currently, students that skip the exams will receive zeros, which are reflected in schools’ and school districts’ overall assessments. The BESE is slated to discuss the issue at its March 5 meeting, though four members have requested a special meeting.

Ed Week, “Preview of House Education Committee Markup of NCLB Rewrite”: Lauren Camera provides a prediction of likely amendments both parties will make in the opening markup of the House Education Committee’s revamp of the NCLB law. Camera notes there will “probably not” be amendments the two sides find common ground on. She says Democrats will likely take issue with authorization levels, while Republicans will likely seek to include language prohibiting the federal government from incentivizing states to adopt CCSS.