News You Can Use:

Daily Caller, “Is Common Core Too Toxic for Republican Primaries? Maybe Not”: An NBC News/Marist poll released over the weekend found that while CCSS remain a divisive issue within the GOP, candidates who support the Standards are still able to secure support from conservative voters. According to the poll, which included Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, a candidate’s position on same-sex marriage, global warming and Obamacare were more likely to affect voters’ choice. “Among the possible controversial positions a Republican could take, Common Core was actually one of the least toxic,” the article states. A Hot Air article notes, “In fact, [support for CCSS] might even be a positive for Republican candidates vying to compete in the Iowa caucuses at this stage of the race.”

What It Means: The NBC News/Marist poll is further evidence that despite two years of targeted attacks against CCSS, voters continue to support the high education standards. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt the Standards continue to use them or a version nearly identical in all but name. States continue to stick with CCSS because of the quality of the Standards and the promise they hold to improve student outcomes and school accountability

Denver Post, “Don’t Throw Out PARCC in Colorado before It Has Been Instituted”: In a letter to the editor encouraging the state to give CCSS-aligned PARCC exams a chance to work, Colorado teacher Jessica Moore writes: “Where is the sense in spending countless hours and dollars on a new, high-quality test that seeks to solve so many of the problems associated with old standardized tests, only to trash it all based on speculation (mixed with a little politics and fear)?” Moore, who helped develop and review the assessments, notes the exams use “authentic and real world problems to cultivate a rich and engaging learning experience.” State law requires schools to have assessments in place, and Moore concludes by arguing that – because the alternatiive would be to start from scratch – Colorado should at least stay the course until they have had a chance to see how the assessments work.

What It Means: Most states are only now in the first year of teaching curricula and using exams fully aligned to CCSS. As Moore points out, it would be a step backwards for states to abandon the assessments now, before they have had a chance to work, and start from scratch. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, which were early adopters of CCSS, student proficiency rates and college- and career-readiness scores have made some of the biggest gains in the country.

Battle Creek Enquirer, “Students at Sonoma Elementary Excited about Project-Based Learning”: In Erin Willard’s kindergarten class at Sonoma Elementary School, students use project-based learning projects aligned to CCSS to develop basic math skills. “They’re really excited and that’s what you want as the teacher is for them to get excited and joyful about what we do,” Willard says. Students use visual aids and collaborative techniques, which has sparked greater interest in learning. Willard said she didn’t expect the lessons to go this in-depth but said she likes being able to build curriculum around their interests while still meeting state standards, the article notes. “When they’re interested they’re so much more on task, they’re excited about learning,” Willard added.

What It Means: In addition to traditional math mechanics, CCSS introduce students to multiple problem-solving techniques to help develop greater conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. Like students at Sonoma Elementary, the greater collaboration and involvement emphasized by the Standards helps bolster engagement and encourage learning.




Correcting the Record:

Associated Press, “Testing Based on Common Core Standards Starts This Week”: Ohio will be the first of many states to begin administering CCSS-aligned tests this spring, beginning today. By the end of the school year, about 12 million students from 29 states and the District of Columbia will take the assessments. The exams are anticipated to be more challenging than those they replaced, the article notes, including asking students to demonstrate their reasoning. Some educators worry about the “excessive rigor” of the exams and that schools may not have the technical capabilities to administer them. “We grow wary,” says Trisha Kocanda, an Illinois superintendent. “This test continues the over-emphasis on standardized assessments as evaluation tools for students and schools.” In some places, school administrators and state leaders are only grudgingly moving forward, the article notes.

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS-aligned exams are designed to provide a more honest measure of how well schools are preparing students to ultimately graduate high school prepared for college or a career. Because the exams establish a new baseline for student achievement, it’s impossible to compare them to states’ old tests. New CCSS-aligned exams give parents and teachers more constructive feedback about student progress and provide an important tool to ensure high standards fulfill their purpose.


On Our Reading List:

CNN, “Chris Christie in New Hampshire: Bring It On”: During a visit to New Hampshire on Monday, Gov. Christie branded himself as a “truth-teller” and said he is prepared to “be part of the solution to what ails America.” Asked about CCSS, which Gov. Christie has previously supported, he said, “I believe in testing,” but expressed concern about “the idea we should federalize this” through RTTT incentives. Gov. Christie called for a more local approach, the article notes.

Boston Globe, “Critics Don’t Budge Jeb Bush from Backing School Testing”: Despite criticism from the far-right of the Republican Party, Gov. Jeb Bush has “steadfastly embraced Common Core,” the article reports. In December, a Wall Street Journal editorial said Gov. Bush “needn’t repudiate his support for national education standards,” and he hasn’t, the article states. “Having that baseline accountability matters,” Gov. Bush said earlier this year. “But beyond that, I think it has to be pretty clear that the federal government’s role ought to be to enhance reform at the local and state level, not to impose it.”

Huffington Post, “Bold Higher Education Ideas Are Only Bold If There Is Follow Through”: Brad Phillips, president of IEBC, writes that actions to make higher education more accessible to low-income students is an important goal, but more must be done to ensure those calls translate into improved student outcomes. Phillips urges greater collaboration between K-12 and higher education systems, using digital platforms to develop curriculum support, strong measures of student progress and accountability, and improving remediation programs.

Raleigh News & Observer, “DPI Seeks Feedback on Common Core from NC Parents and Community”: The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is asking the public to take an online survey about CCSS to help in the state’s review of the Standards. The DPI previously sought feedback from the state’s teachers.