News You Can Use:

The Atlantic, “Suburbia and Its Common Core Conspiracy Theories”: Amid mounting debate over CCSS, concerns fanned by opponents have infiltrated suburban America, even though much of the criticism is unfounded. “While there may be elements of truth in some of those parents’ fears, these protests have developed an irrational, hysterical bent…Yet, the reality of the Common Core model is much more boring,” the article notes. Rejecting several commonplace attacks, like that Common Core is a national curriculum, the piece says the Standards will better prepare students for a global economy and the rigors of higher education. It notes CCSS-aligned assessments do not add many new testing requirements and serve as an important tool to ensure students are on track. The author, Laura McKenna, says a lot of parents’ anxiety stems from unfamiliarity with the Standards, instinct to protect their children, and efforts of opponents to play up concerns. She concludes providing greater access to the facts about CCSS will help alleviate concerns, but warns “confusion might unravel a potentially good program.”

What It Means: The piece underscores what others like Sec. Bill Bennett have said over and over: that much of the opposition to CCSS is based on misleading information. The piece makes several important corrections, like pointing out the Standards do not dictate how or what is taught in classrooms. In reality, the Standards are having success on the ground – early adopters of CCSS like Kentucky and Tennessee have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country – and teachers continue to strongly support them.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges, “Open Letter to the Tennessee Department of Education”: In a public letter, presidents from 13 of Tennessee’s 14 community colleges urge the head of the state’s Department of Education to remain committed to CCSS in order to close preparation gaps. While applauding calls for greater access to community college, the group says there is little value in making higher education more available if students continue to graduate unprepared for college-level work. “Almost 70 percent of high school graduates who enroll in our institutions have significant gaps in their preparation and require additional learning support to ready them for college study,” the letter states. Noting past standards have “not been aligned with what students need to be prepared for college-level work,” the authors say “we believe continued implementation of higher academic standards are our best hope” to close the gap. “We urge you to press ahead with implementation of high standards and new assessments designed to measure student achievement and align with college and career preparation.”

What It Means: Unlike many states’ old standards CCSS are aligned to ensure students graduate high school prepared for college-level work or a good job. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and in Tennessee students made the biggest improvements in college-readiness scores in the country under the Standards. As the letter points out, rigorous standards are key to ensuring the value of making higher education more accessible for students.

Fresno Bee, “Common Core Math Is Worth the Effort”: The multiyear effort to implement CCSS “represents an important step toward better preparing students for what comes after high school,” writes Jerrod Bradley, a high school math teacher. “By setting a high bar in the classroom for students, we help ensure that children of all backgrounds have access to a quality education to better prepare for college, career and life.” Bradley says as a math teacher, he has seen an improvement in how students approach problems and think through solutions. “The critical thinking and overall math skills they are developing facilitates better conversations about key math concepts, which continually result in deeper comprehension.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional math techniques, CCSS introduce students to multiple problem-solving approaches to help create a better conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards report their students’ have shown an improvement in critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Daily News, “Teachers Speak Glowingly about Common Core”: At an education board meeting in New York teachers applauded CCSS for helping students develop and demonstrate stronger math skills. “I can speak for my colleagues…Common Core really wants to have that depth of knowledge. We are really excited about what these kids can do,” said Deb Wolff, a kindergarten teacher. “Instead of knowing the facts, they can use strategies to solve it,” added Marie Bigsby, a first-grade teacher. “We’re building skills to help them for so many years to come. We’re seeing progress with math.”

What It Means: CCSS hold students to high academic expectations even at early grades, helping them develop strong building blocks to succeed at higher level learning. Teachers who have worked closely with the Standards continue to strongly support their implementation and report seeing an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities.

Pocahontas Times, “Superintendent Supports Common Core Standards”: Despite opposition to CCSS in West Virginia, Pocahontas County superintendent Donald Bechtel says the Standards are a step in the right direction. “The Common Core is helping us say ‘children need to use their knowledge and ultimately solve the unpredicted problems,’” Bechtel said. “It’s a different level of engagement and it’s like a staircase.” Along with learning the math problem, the students are learning to communicate their answers, and the methods they use to reach the answers, the article reports. Bechtel points out the Standards create greater congruity among states, so if students move they are less likely to fall behind or relearn material. “I think it’s a great strength

What It Means: CCSS set a high bar for all students so to ensure no matter where a child grows up or goes to school they are able to develop the skills necessary to graduate high school prepared for college or good career. As Bechtel points out, because the Standards are comparable, they prevent against students falling behind if they change schools and allow teachers to collaborate with their counterparts across the country to unlock students’ potential.

San Jose Mercury News, “Berryessa Schools See Drop in Expulsions, Suspensions, Mirroring State Trends”: Over the past three years Berryessa Union school district saw a decline in expulsions and suspensions, mirroring trends throughout California. Tom Anderson, director of special education and student services, attributes the decrease largely to greater student engagement encouraged by CCSS. “The variety of teaching styles and methods that are being implemented with the Common Core State Standards allow for students to get more face-to-face time with teachers,” the article reports. Whether a student faces expulsion is one of the biggest indicators of whether or not they will complete high school.

What It Means: Instead of lecture-based instruction, CCSS encourage students to get involved and demonstrate their reasoning. That in turn has led to greater classroom engagement, which deters students from behavioral problems.



Correcting the Record:

New York Post, “New York’s Diploma’s Leave Too Many Kids Out”: In addition to “struggling” with CCSS-aligned assessments, students in New York will have to pass five Regent exams to graduate by 2022. “There’s nothing wrong with high standards or standardized – but our schools need to serve all kids, and becoming ‘college-ready’ shouldn’t be the only way to graduate high school,” the article states. It says CCSS exams ask students to master “reading material usually encountered in college, if not graduate school,” which puts at risk students who aren’t headed to universities. “Plenty of talented, hard-working students have aptitudes in fields outside traditional academics: auto mechanics, culinary arts, cosmetology, business, health care and on….Rather than helping these students, the Board of Regents is destroying their options long past their high school years.”

Where They Went Wrong: In today’s increasingly competitive workforce, young people need strong fundamental skills to succeed in a good career, even if they aren’t college-bound. CCSS raise the bar for all students to help ensure they master basic critical thinking and problem-solving skills. CCSS-aligned tests provide a clearer measure of students’ true proficiency to help teachers and parents ensure their kids are on track to graduate prepared for good career.      



On Our Reading List:

Columbus Dispatch, “Too Many Central Ohio Youths Are Unhirable, Reports Warn”: Ohio’s economic growth is being threatened by a growing skills gap, according to new studies by the Columbus Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. Despite thousands of unemployed people, employers in the region struggle to find qualified workers, the article notes. The cost of lost productivity and tax revenue comes to $1.1 billion for the Columbus metro area each year. “There’s not many jobs left where you get training on the job. You need to bring a certain level of schooling,” said Chauncey Lennon, head of JPMorgan Chase’s workforce initiatives.

Times Picayune, “John White: Common Core Test Will Move Forward as Planned”: Louisiana superintendent John White said the state will administer CCSS-aligned tests as scheduled on March 16-20 despite reports many students may opt-out. “We are not changing a decade’s worth of policy overnight based on hypothetical situations,” White said. Fourteen school districts across the state have asked for exemptions if students decide to abstain from the assessments.