News You Can Use:

Daily Caller, “Anti-Common Core Efforts Are Failing…Badly”: On Tuesday the South Dakota legislature voted down an attempt to revive debate about CCSS in the 2015 session by a margin of 39-31. The defeat is the fourth for Common Core opponents in the last month, following similar votes in Mississippi, North Dakota and Arizona, the article reports. “Four defeats in Republican-controlled legislatures…indicate that the standards still enjoy substantial support from the party, and that the ‘toxic’ standards remain robust despite the repeated attacks on them.” The decision in South Dakota is especially “painful” for CCSS opponents because the state legislature is strongly Republican dominated, meaning many GOP lawmakers were willing to hold the line. The article adds the bill in South Dakota was more moderate than most other proposals.

What It Means: Despite nearly two years of targeted attacks, states continue to stick with CCSS, which speaks to the strength of the Standards and states’ commitment to rigorous academic expectations. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or a similar rebranded version. States like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of CCSS, have made some of the biggest academic improvements under the Standards, and teachers continue to overwhelming support implementation.

Business for the Core, “Ready for the Journey”: A new video from the Chamber of Commerce says to prepare children for the challenges of rapidly changing economy classrooms have upgraded the skills students are learning. By helping students to work together, use creativity and ingenuity, and regularly checking on their growth, understanding and readiness along the way, CCSS are helping to ensure students develop the skills they need for the future. “Let’s make sure our kids are ready for the journey,” the video concludes.

What It Means: The business community strongly supports CCSS because of the promise the Standards hold to ensure students graduate high school with the skills and knowledge to competently step into college or a career. Likewise, more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Standards support their implementation and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities.

Phoenix Business Journal, “What Diane Douglas Doesn’t Understand about Common Core”: Managing editor Patrick O’Grady writes many leaders in Arizona have come to accept schools that underprepare students. “They’re not really failing businesses, though they get hit. They’re failing students,” writes O’Grady. As evidence, O’Grady cites several studies that indicate the poor level of performance among the state’s academic results. “Parents cringe when they see those numbers. Economic developers also cringe when they see those numbers…And businesses cringe when they see them.” O’Grady concludes by asking, “If you take away Common Core, what do you replace it with? More importantly, how is that replacement going to move those numbers?”

What It Means: Under the status quo, schools in states across the country were endemically failing to adequately prepare students for college or a career. As Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam pointed out, many states had a “dishonest definition of proficiency” that failed to ensure students were held to expectations that prepared them to succeed after graduating high school. CCSS set a higher bar for all students in order to better guarantee parents their child will develop strong fundamental skills, and give teachers clear, concise learning goals to help inform instruction.


Correcting the Record:

Arizona Daily Independent, “Teachers of the Year and Their Common Core Secret”: The “Common Core machine” is using a “secret cadre of Common Core propagandists” to silence a growing voice of opposition to the Standards, Brad McQueen, a Tucson teacher and vocal CCSS critic, alleges. Claiming the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) picks which teachers receive the Teacher of the Year award, McQueen says the organization then uses these individuals to rally support for the Standards. “The education industrial complex of big business, big government and their multitude of front groups have been propping up the Common Core machine since its inception in exchange for big money and big control,” McQueen says. McQueen calls out several teachers by name, which he says “shill for and lobby on behalf of the Common Core.”

Where They Went Wrong: McQueen’s conspiracy theory is as misinformed as is it brash. No fewer than half of the last 10 national Teachers of the Year have taught non-Common Core subjects, and this year’s finalists included teachers from two states that don’t use CCSS, as has been the case in past years. Teachers of the Year are selected through an intensive, objective process determined by several layers of consideration and review. What McQueen’s argument ignores is that most teachers who have worked closely with CCSS, regardless of whether they’ve won a Teacher of the Year award or not, strongly support implementation of the Standards and report improvements in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills under CCSS.

 New Orleans Advocate, “Three of Four Candidates Blast Common Core in Second Gubernatorial Debate”: Three of the four individuals running for governor in Louisiana object to CCSS and made those criticisms heard at a debate on Tuesday, even though some previously supported the Standards. Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Republicans Sen. David Vitter and Scott Angelle said they oppose the Standards. “We can have high standards without Common Core,” Edwards said. “We need to get out of the Common Core umbrella and the PARCC test,” Vitter added. Angelle said CCSS does not have a monopoly on high academic achievement. Only Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne reiterated his support and “left no doubt that he is the sole pro-Common Core contender in the field.” “Now is not the time for Louisiana to retreat,” said Dardenne. “To slam the brakes on right now, to pledge we are going to change in the middle of the stream, is the wrong thing to do.”

Where They Went Wrong: By holding all students to high expectations CCSS help ensure young people graduate high school with the skills to succeed in college or a career. At least two of the candidates, Vitter and Edwards, previously supported the Standards, indicating their newfound disapproval is little more than political posturing at the expense of students. The need for CCSS is clear; under old standards as much as 40% of college-bound freshmen required remediation. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, which have fully aligned teaching to the Standards, students have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

NBC 4 Reno, “National-Recognized Experts Say Common Core Standards Aren’t Good for Our Students”: In Nevada James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky, both vocal opponents of CCSS, said the Standards don’t provide the strength classrooms need. “Nevada is a state that really needed first class standards,” Stotsky said, adding CCSS are more like third-class. “I did not think they were internationally comparable to the best out there. They’re not rigorous and they’re not research-based.” Stotsky also raised concerns about federal involvement. “The math is by and large correct, but there are mathematical errors and some of them are serious,” Milgram added. Arguing the Standards overcomplicate basic math, Milgram said CCSS are “complete nonsense.” District chief academic officer Scott Bailey disagreed. “[CCSS have] been available for the public to review since 2010,” he said. “I would highly encourage folks to take a peek at the standards themselves. They’re not something mysterious.”

Where They Went Wrong: Objective analysis has concluded CCSS are stronger than most states’ previous standards and provide a foundation for students to develop the skills necessary to step into college or a career. According to Fordham analysis, the Standards are strong than 39 states’ old math standards, and 37 states’ old English standards. Research by Michigan State University professor William Schmidt found the Standards are 90% aligned with those of top performing countries.


On Our Reading List:

Oregonian, “Smarter Balanced Exam as ‘Abuse’ and Other Myths”: Recent comparisons of CCSS-aligned Smarter Balanced exams to abuse amounts to “overheated rhetoric,” which “should concern anyone who values education or, for that matter, anyone who fears the trivialization of child abuse,” the editorial board writes. Last week Portland Association of Teachers president Gwen Sullivan said administering the assessments is “abusive to kids.” The editorial adds this is “not the only myth that opponents of the Smarter Balanced exam have lobbed to persuade parents to opt their children out of taking the test,” pointing to claims the tests are “high-stake,” will make students feel like failures, and will encourage teaching to the test.

Shreveport Times, “John White Wants Earlier Review of Common Core Standards”: In a media briefing Monday, Louisiana superintendent John White said he wants an earlier review of the state’s use of CCSS, a two-year baseline for PARCC tests, and several sets of standardized tests school districts can use. The recommendations will go before the BESE on March 5-6. The announcement appears to be part of a concert effort between White and state legislators, some of whom have called for similar actions, the article reports. White asked that the regularly scheduled state review, set for 2016, be moved up to start when PARCC results are available this fall.

Ed Week, “Louisiana Superintendent Worries Student Testing Money Is Threatened”: Louisiana superintendent John White said he is concerned Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest budget proposal will strip away funds for student assessments. The governor’s office will unveil its latest budget proposal on Friday. A spokesperson for Gov. Jindal said no specific testing cuts are proposed in the spending recommendations for next year, but added every state agency will face “strategic reductions to contracts.”

Associated Press, “Missouri Judge Rules Pact with Common Core Testing ‘Illegal’”: On Tuesday a Missouri circuit judge ruled the state’s membership in the Smarter Balanced testing consortia is an “illegal interstate compact not authorized by the U.S. Congress.” The attorney general’s office, which represents the state, is reviewing the ruling.

KBZK Bozeman, “Proposal to Repeal Common Core Headed Back to MT House Floor”: HB 377 is on its way back to the House floor after going through the Appropriations Committee, the article reports. Superintendent Denise Juneau says the repeal of Common Core Standards and Smarter Balanced Testing would mean spending time and dollars to assemble a new statewide assessment.

Helena Independent Record, “Helena Elementary Teacher to Run for State Superintendent”: Melissa Romano, a fourth-grade Montana math teacher announced on Monday she will run for state superintendent. Romano supports CCSS and said in office she would continue to make raising academic expectations a priority. The article notes Romano has laid out three primary objectives should be elected: improving math and science scores, raising expectations to reduce remediation needs, and bolstering professional development programs for teachers.

CNN, “Jeb Bush to Travel to South Carolina”: Gov. Jeb Bush will travel to South Carolina on March 17-18 following a visit to New Hampshire on March 13-14 and Iowa on March 7. The article notes Gov. Bush and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley disagree on CCSS, though the Washington Post reported Haley doesn’t believe Gov. Bush’s support will hurt him among Republican voters.