News You Can Use:

Times Picayune, “School District Portal Gives St. John Parents Online Help with Common Core”: Parents of public school students in Louisiana’s St. John Parish can access help with homework, assignments and tutoring information through a new online tool designed help maneuver CCSS, the article reports. The Parent Engagement portal on the district’s website gives parents information on the state’s academic expectations as part of theCommon Core standards and the new PARCC accountability test that students will take for the first time this spring.

What It Means: In states across the country educators and schools are providing tools to help parents and students acclimate to the new requirements embedded in CCSS. An Center for Education Policy study last year found schools are overwhelmingly turning to teachers to help develop curricula and materials aligned to the Standards, and districts are providing greater support to families to help adjust to changes under CCSS.


Correcting the Record:

Billings Gazette, “House Panel Advances Anti-Common Core Bill after Lengthy Hearing”: After a seven-hour hearing on Wednesday, the Montana House education committee advanced a bill that would repeal the state’s CCSS by a vote of 8-7. “I believe that there is a real constitutional problem with the way Common Core has come into the state,” said Rep. Debra Lamm, the bill’s sponsor. At the hearing, those seeking repeal called the Standards an unproven experiment that usurps local control, the article reports. More than three dozen CCSS supporters, including a coalition of educators and parents, said scrapping the Standards would be a step backwards for schools. “We should not go back on setting high expectations for our students,” said Denise Juneau, superintendent of public instruction. The bill, HB 377, would void the 2011 decision by the board of education to adopt CCSS and establish a 16-member committee to create alternative standards.

Where They Went Wrong: The Montana bill puts the state on a similar path of other states, like South Carolina and Oklahoma, which have run into serious problems trying to replace CCSS with equally rigorous standards. As Michael Petrilli and Michael Brickman wrote recently, if states “move to embrace standards that are even higher than Common Core, they’d better have a realistic plan for putting them in place…The basic problem is that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

CBS News, “Could Common Core Cause a Republican Civil War in 2016?”: In Iowa, where evangelical Christians, home-school advocates, states-rights conservatives, and other “voters vehemently opposed to Common Core” wield a lot of influence, CCSS could play an especially large role in the Republican nominating process, the article reports. “Voters are very closely viewing it as a litmus test,” said Tamara Scott, a Iowa-based policy advisor. “It’s going to be a top tier issue. I think it’s really the sleeper issue going into 2016 in Iowa,” another GOP strategist added. The article notes support for CCSS could be especially burdensome for candidates like Govs. Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee, who will “have to explain their prior support to voters” and “may be getting off on the wrong foot.” However Common Core ultimately plays in Iowa, the issue will likely resonate throughout the 2016 primary season as Republicans across the country have the opportunity to select a nominee, the article concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: Unfortunately, CBS begins the article repeating an oft-debunked myth about Common Core, calling the voluntary, state-based initiative “federal education standards.” There is no federal mandate to use Common Core, and the decision to use Common Core has always been – and remains – a decision made by state officials. For nearly two years opponents have run targeted campaigns against CCSS, yet after two national elections most states continue to move forward with the Standards or some version of them. In the midterm elections, critics cautioned support for CCSS would be a litmus test for candidates. But those warnings failed to materialize when voters went to the polls: in only four states did CCSS emerge as a decisive issue, and in three of those the most supportive candidate won. At least 12 governors who publicly support CCSS won reelection, most by strong to comfortable margins. As states continue to make significant academic gains under the Standards, there is little reason to believe voters will hold support for high education standards against candidates. In fact, according to a recent NBC News/Marist poll, support for CCSS may help candidates with voters.


On Our Reading List:

Chillicothe Gazette, “Kasich: Common Core Opposition a Runaway Campaign”: When questioned about his position on CCSS during a visit to South Carolina, Gov. John Kasich reiterated his support for the Standards. “[CCSS] is not something that Barack Obama is putting together…It’s local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards,” Gov. Kasich said. “I cannot figure out what’s wrong with that.” Gov. Kasich went on to explain a lot of opposition has been by vocal critics who don’t necessarily represent most parents’ view. “To a large degree, it’s a runaway Internet campaign, as far as I’m concerned.”

Chattanooga Free Press, “’Student Success’ Group Spending Big Money to Defend Gov. Haslam”: The advocacy group Tennesseans for Student Success has spent about $137,000 broadcasting a 30-second ad supporting the state’s CCSS-aligned standards according to FCC filings. The aggressive effort comes in the midst of a push by legislative critics to roll back or replace the state’s Common Core standards, the article reports. Gov. Haslam has called for a review of the Standards “with an eye toward putting more of a Tennessee thumbprint” on them. Tennessee has made some of the biggest improvements in student learning, which Gov. Haslam attributed largely to CCSS.

Associated Press, “5 Things to Watch as Governors Meet in Washington”: At the three-day winter meeting of the National Governors Association, one of the things to watch will be discussion about education policy, the article notes. The conference features a series of panel discussions, including on policy “that works for states and students.”

Washington Post, “The Bizarre War Against AP U.S. History Courses”: Opinion writer Catherine Rampell says new efforts to ban teaching of AP U.S. History classes “are not just about insufficiently patriotic content but a bizarre, almost obsessive paranoia about federal encroachment upon states’ rights.” Rampell goes on to say, “Some legislators seem convinced that the educational standards set by the Common Core and AP and IB tests are a manifestation of federal tyranny – an odd concern, given that (A) none of these curricula was developed by the feds (Common Core was a state-led effort, and AP and IB programs are overseen by independent nonprofits) and (B) none of these curricula has actually been mandated by the federal government. AP and Common Core standards also give teachers and schools quite a bit of discretion in what they teach, setting broad critical-thinking goals rather than providing a concrete syllabus, textbook or packet of lesson plans.”

Associated Press, “Court Agrees Part of Walker Rule-Making Law Unconstitutional”: A Wisconsin appeals court ruled unanimously a portion of a Republican-written law giving the governor power to block education rules is unconstitutional. The effectively gives the governor veto authority over anything the elected state superintendent proposes thereby interfering with the position’s power to oversee public education, the district court ruled. In 2012, a Dane County circuit judge ruled similarly, saying the law gives the governor more power over schools than the superintendent.

Texas Tribune, “High School Seniors Who Fail Exams May Still Graduate”: State Sen. Kel Seliger is looking to fast-track a bill that would give school officials the option to graduate students who fail Texas’ graduation exam, the article reports. Students who are otherwise doing well in school shouldn’t be kept from receiving a diploma because of a standardized test, Sen. Seliger said. “We don’t want young people to be retained in school who really ought to graduate.” The proposal would need support from four-fifths of lawmakers in each chamber to be heard within the 60 days of the legislative session, which started on Jan. 13.