News You Can Use:

Wall Street Journal, “Why Jeb Bush May Survive Common Core Criticism”: Gov. Jeb Bush’s support for CCSS may not be a “deal breaker” for Republican voters according to a new NBC News/Marist poll. The survey finds a “solid majority of the potential GOP electorate said that a candidate who supported Common Core would be either totally or mostly acceptable to them,” the article reports. The Marist study contradicts claims from opponents like Sen. Rand Paul, who has said support for CCSS would disqualify a Republican candidate. “In Iowa, Common Core is not a knockout punch,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “There’s a greater diversity of viewpoints among rank-and-file Republicans than the ideological side.”

What It Means: Despite nearly two years of targeted campaigns, most voters – especially moderates – continue to support CCSS. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or a nearly identical version. The Marist poll adds to the evidence that for candidates who are able to articulate the importance of high education standards, support for CCSS is not a liability but an asset.

Fordham Institute’s Common Core Watch, “The Central Problem with Jason Riley’s Argument”: In response to Jason Riley’s column in the Wall Street Journal, Fordham Institute President Mike Petrilli writes that content standards on their own “are just words on paper,” but the question is “whether they can spark instructional change.” “That’s no sure thing,” Petrilli says, “it takes tons of hard work at the state and local levels.” It requires developing tests that assess the full range of the standards, which “arguably no state save for Massachusetts actually did pre-Common Core era.” It means investing in high-quality curricula and giving teachers time to master them. Petrilli says variance in teacher quality, which Riley argues makes a bigger impact in classrooms, is the result of “America’s uneven, amateurish approach to curriculum.” “Will states and local districts do the difficult tasks to fulfill the promise of Common Core’s higher standards?,” Petrilli writes. “The honest answer is that some will and some won’t…Just like all meaningful change, Common Core is not self-implementing. We have to get the details right and stay at it over time.”

What It Means: Petrilli makes a strong case for the value of high education standards. “In short, standards matter if for no other reason than they provide fuel and focus to efforts to improve curriculum and instruction.” CCSS set a high bar for students, giving educators clear, challenging benchmarks to teach to. These high expectations catalyze instruction and curricula changes, better ensuring that students are set up to graduate with the skills they need to succeed in college or a career.

Stories from School, “Three Things I Know about the Common Core”: Pointing to an example of a student who struggled in class after switching schools, Tom White, an elementary teacher, says CCSS are important to ensure students have a level playing field. “We had standards before the Common Core and we’ll have other standards if we abandon the Common Core,” White writes, adding that discrepancies in old standards often left huge gaps between states and districts. “It makes no sense for different places in the country to be teaching to different standards,” especially in math and English, White says. He goes on to note that strong assessments are an important tool to ensure standards succeed in improving student outcomes. “From time to time we have to stop what we’re doing…to see if our students are learning the stuff we’re trying to teach.”

What It Means: By setting comparable, rigorous standards, CCSS better ensure students are able to move between schools without falling behind or being forced to sit through material they’ve already learned. For military families and others that move frequently that kind of translatability is especially important. CCSS help guarantee a diploma in Mississippi holds the same promise as one from Massachusetts.

Education Week, “Fact Checking Sen. Rand Paul on the Common Core Standards”: Fact-checking a letter to supporters by Sen. Rand Paul that says CCSS call for “anti-American propaganda, revisionist history that ignores the faith of our Founders and data-tracking of students,” the article rejects the claims. “The standards themselves don’t call for any tracking of student data, they’re about what kids should know and be able to do,” it notes. “There’s nothing in the standards that require it.” As for the claim about anti-American propaganda, the fact-checker points out, “Common Core is just for math and reading, not history.” Another article adds the only readings required by CCSS are the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

What It Means: The fact-checker calls out Sen. Paul for perpetuating misleading information and playing on parents’ concerns. CCSS are a set of rigorous academic standards at each grade level that outline what students should reasonably be able to achieve in order to graduate high school prepared for college or career. The Standards do not dictate how or what is taught, or subject students to political or religious ideology as critics like Sen. Paul have tried to claim.


Correcting the Record:

Arizona Daily Star, “Arizona House Committee Votes to Ditch Common Core Standards”: On Wednesday, an Arizona House committee approved HB 2190 by a vote of 5-2. The measure would repeal the state’s CCSS-aligned standards, set up a committee to review alternatives, and prevent the state board of education from adopting new standards without the legislature’s approval. Similar legislation failed in the House last year, and former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed another bill that sought to limit the state’s ability to adopt any federally mandated standards. “We’ve been handed lower standards through federal intervention,” said Rep. Mark Finchem, the bill’s author. Amanda McAdams, Arizona’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, said the move would “absolutely be a slap in the face to teachers and those who have worked so hard.” HB 2190 will now move to the House floor for consideration.

Where They Went Wrong: Arizona adopted CCSS to set high academic expectations in order to better ensure all students graduate high school with the skills for college or a career. As McAdams states, abandoning the Standards would be a big step back for teachers and students and put children in the state at a disadvantage to their peers across the country. States like South Carolina and Oklahoma demonstrate the danger of repealing CCSS for political purposes. This move by Arizona’s legislature further politicizes education in the state by mandating that any future changes to standards go through a legislative approval process – a move that is not in the best interest of students.



On Our Reading List:

Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “Panel Discussion: What Common Core Means for Gifted Students and Their Teachers”: As Common Core gathers speed in forty-three states and DC, what does it mean for high-ability students and gifted-and-talented education? On Monday, February 23, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. ET, the Fordham Institute will host a panel of experts and educators to discuss the impact of CCSS on gifted students and those responsible for their education. The event will be hosted by Chester Finn, Jr., president emeritus of the Fordham Institute, and followed by a reception. Registration and additional information are available here. For questions, please contact Ellen Alpaugh.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “About 100,000 Ohio Kids Have Tried the New Common Core Exams This Week, with Mixed Reviews”: About 100,000 students have started taking new online Common Core exams so far in Ohio, with more taking them with pencil and paper this first week, the article reports. Districts have reported some technical glitches, with reactions ranging from anger to acceptance. Some students reports slow loading times and other technical issues with the online version. “The first time through anything there are some bumps in the road,” one teacher said. “But we’re getting through them.”

Ed Week, “GOP in Driver’s Seat as Congress Tackles NCLB Rewrite”: Republican lawmakers continue to control efforts to revamp the “much-maligned” NCLB Act, focusing on testing, accountability and Title I portability, the article reports. In the House, GOP members approved a rewrite of the federal K-12 law on February 11. In the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander “reversed course and began negotiating with Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, to broker a bipartisan NCLB overhaul.” The article notes that education stakeholders are scrambling to keep up, launching grassroots, lobbying and media efforts.

Gambit New Orleans, “After Recent Press Appearance, It’s No Wonder Jindal Avoids Them”: During his recent appearances in Washington to discuss education policy – what the article calls Gov. Jindal’s most “recent incarnation” – was hammered by media, including conservative columnists. “Clearly, Jindal is a political chameleon who will say or do anything to blend in with whatever constituency he’s wooing,” the article says. It notes several questions about Gov. Jindal’s change of position on CCSS, which the governor “dodged.” “[Gov. Jindal is] clearly unprepared to handle either challenge – the presidency all the more so.”