News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “Christie Goes from Common Core Supporter to Critic, Blames Obama”: Gov. Chris Christie blamed the Obama Administration’s involvement for his change of heart on CCSS, but Lyndsey Layton points out, “the federal government plays no role in implementing academic standards: It is prohibited by law from getting involved in curriculum decisions or teaching methods.” Layton goes on to say CCSS create benchmarks for schools, but “it is up to individual states and school districts to implement the standards, choose curricular materials and teaching methods, and to select tests to measure how well students have learned the standards.” While the Obama Administration did make college- and career-ready standards a requisite for RTTT funds, that requirement accounted for less than 10% of states’ application. New Jersey, which adopted CCSS, initially failed to win a RTTT grant.

What It Means: Gov. Christie has been an advocate of high education standards and supported CCSS implementation in New Jersey. In 2013, Gov. Christie applauded CCSS as a state-led effort and an “area where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.” Despite concerns, Gov. Christie has continued to move forward with implementation of the Standards in New Jersey. Like Layton, former Sec. Bill Bennett and others have pointed out that concerns about federal involvement in CCSS are misconceptions fanned by opponents.

Charleston Gazette, “A Teacher Speaks Up for Common Core Math”: Joanna Burt-Kinderman, a West Virginia math teacher, writes that too much of the debate about CCSS has focused on “viral postings of wacky homework assignments” and other misleading information that ignores what the Standards stand for. “Common Core is a set of standards, carefully articulating which skills, concepts and fluencies students should be exposed to, and which they should master at each grade level,” Kinderman writes. “We are considering ‘opting out’ before we’ve given a set of educational standards that are crafted through a long process of consensus of some of the very best minds in education (including West Virginia voices!) an honest try.” Kinderman says despite growing pains, West Virginia schools are seeing “remarkable results.” She concludes, “Lowering the bar that has been set high across the nation for our children will be shortchanging their possibilities, shortchanging their potential, and limiting West Virginia’s future.”

What It Means: CCSS set a high bar for all students to better ensure that young people are prepared for the challenges of college-level work or a career upon graduating high school. Like Kinderman, most teachers who have worked closely with the Standards strongly support implementation and report an improvement in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Wichita Eagle, “Kansas Ed Department Launches Online Feedback Tool for Language Arts, Math Standards”: Kansas education officials launched on online tool to gather feedback from parents and teachers on the state’s CCSS-aligned standards. The online survey is intended to collect public input and provide specific feedback to guide review of the standards. “We wanted to make sure everyone know they had an opportunity to weigh in,” said Denise Kahler, a spokesperson for the state Department of Education. “It’s going to create some awareness and drive some folks who haven’t seen the standards to read them… It’s just all about transparency and giving everybody a voice.” The survey allows users to view the standards by grade level and subject. Feedback will be collected through October 30, evaluated by specialists, and provided to the board of education as part of the standards review process.

What It Means: The public input and review process in Kansas highlights ongoing efforts in states across the country to ensure CCSS meet schools’, teachers’ and students’ needs. The online tool serves as a good example of local control and practical steps education officials are taking to make sure CCSS are tailored to set up students to succeed.

Dads Roundtable, “The Case for Common Core”: A Pennsylvania father and teacher writes he “couldn’t be happier” his children are learning under CCSS. Much of the criticism about the Standards has emerged because parents weren’t adequately informed about the changes, the author says. Although assignments are more challenging, “Times have changed. And we need our education to change too.” The author notes his children have “opposite learning styles,” but that the Standards help them identify their areas of strength and where they need to improve. CCSS help students master concepts by introducing several learning techniques and helping to conceptualize problems. “As a parent, I won’t fight against that,” the author concludes. “Anything that gives my kids a leg up when it comes to succeeding in college and the workplace I am all for.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional problem-solving techniques, CCSS introduce students to multiple approaches to help develop a stronger conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. The Standards hold all students to high expectations, beginning at early grades, to better ensure they are able to graduate high school with the skills to seamlessly step into college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

Wall Street Journal, “Common Core Has a Central Problem”: Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute writes that there is little evidence to support the idea that high academic standards will create better student outcomes. The piece quotes Russ Whitehurst from the Brookings Institute, “The evidence is really quite strong that there is no correlation between the quality of standards that have been implemented in the past and student achievement.” Riley goes on to say the Obama Administration made up for the lack of data with “hard cash.” He argues, “Never mind that even federal studies have concluded that merely setting higher standards doesn’t lift student performance.” Uniform standards also impact school choice by requiring curricula be aligned, which “puts constraints not only on content but also on how subjects are taught.” Riley concludes, “The best evidence against national standards may be the absence of evidence that they do any good. To that end, Common Core could join a long list of education fads and obsessions.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS were developed to help address the wide discrepancies in what was expected of students among states and even districts. Contrary to Riley’s assertion, they were voluntarily adopted, and states that didn’t choose to use the Standards received RTTT funding. Independent analysis concludes CCSS are stronger than most states’ previous standards, and states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two early adopters of the Standards, have seen some of the biggest improvements in proficiency and college-readiness scores. Riley makes the case that better teacher quality would have more of an impact on student outcomes, yet most teachers who have worked closely with CCSS strongly support the Standards and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Daily Caller, “New Jersey Teachers Make the Case for Having Kids Skip Tests”: The largest teachers union in New Jersey launched an ad campaigned criticizing CCSS-aligned PARCC exams and encouraging parents to opt-out their children. The four ads feature parents and teachers speaking out against the tests. “What am I going to learn from my child from this test that my teacher can’t tell me right now?” a parent asks in one of the videos. The ads direct viewers to a website that touts three bills before the New Jersey legislature: one which would ban almost all standardized tests for students below second grade, another that would impose a moratorium on using PARCC exams on teacher and school evalutions, and a third that give parents the right to opt-out of tests. “This ad campaign gives parents and teachers a voice in a debate that’s been dominated for too long by people with no connection to what’s really happening in classrooms today,” said NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer.

Where They Went Wrong: Student assessments are an important tool to ensure that students are reaching higher standards, so that they are prepared college or a career. CCSS-aligned exams, like PARCC, are designed to provide teachers and parents with better insight about their students’ progress. And because CCSS-aligned exams provide a more honest assessment of students’ true proficiency, they help teachers focus on learning needs and devote less time to testing and test preparation.


On Our Reading List:

Ed Week, “U.S. Millennials Come Up Short in Global Skills Study”: America’s wealthiest and best-educated young adults lag behind their peers in other countries in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, according to a new study by the Education Testing Service Center. Coupled with racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, the issue could lead to long-term difficulty for the country, the article reports.

New York Times, “The Promise and Failure of Community Colleges”: Eduardo Porter writes that although community colleges are “powerful tools to improve the opportunities of less privileged Americans,” they have largely failed at preparing students for a competitive workforce. Porter notes only about a third of community college entrants obtain a degree within six years and graduation rates are in decline. “The primary solution,” Porter says, “probably lies further up the pipeline, in high schools.”

Tulsa World, “Oklahoma Legislative Committee Questions Legality of Advanced Placement Courses in Public Schools”: A House Common Education Committee in Oklahoma raised concerns about the legality of Advanced Placement courses in the state’s public schools on Monday. The committee considered a bill that would require the state board of education to review the AP guidelines and prevent the state from using funds for AP U.S. history courses. During debate, lawmakers suggested the AP courses are too similar to CCSS and could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum, the article notes. Rep. Sally Kern asked the Attorney General’s office for a ruling on the matter.