News You Can Use:

National Review, “The CPAC Panel on Common Core Was…Not Good”: Yesterday’s CPAC panel discussion on CCSS provided “one, misleading side of the debate, which is a disservice to conservative Common Core supporters and to the audience members themselves,” writes Patrick Brennan. Brennan notes the moderator focused questions on “content,” including sex ed, evolution, and U.S. history – all of which the Standards do not cover – and panelists did nothing to correct the error. “This is straight-up misinformation,” Brennan notes. “Common Core is a set of standards that doesn’t have to do with ‘content’ per se, since it’s not a curriculum.” Regards a question about whether CCSS would limit parents’ ability to choose their children’s curriculum, Brennan adds, “Common Core is nigh irrelevant to this question: It sets minimum standards for what students should be learning, and has nothing to do with what advanced courses they can take or the content of those courses.” There were “good stretches of discussion,” Brennan says, but the panel missed a “great opportunity” to have a substantive discussion. “Higher standards are a longstanding priority of education reform, a movement that’s been, as a policy and political matter, one of the most successful conservative ideas of the in recent years,” he concludes. “CPAC should at least give [the audience] the whole picture, and an accurate one.”

What It Means: In the debate over CCSS erroneous information and heated rhetoric have largely drown out substantive discussion, as many experts like Sec. Bill Bennett and others have often pointed out. While CCSS may be a rallying cry for a small, vocal political constituency, the Standards continue to persevere because the public fundamentally supports high, comparable education standards. As Brennan notes, CCSS are built on conservative principles and a longtime priority of education reform.

Washington Post, “The Republican Curriculum on Common Core”: What’s to account for several likely GOP presidential candidates’ “change of heart” on CCSS and “risible” claims of federal implementation or loss of local control? Their willingness to “abandon principle to curry favor with conservative Republicans,” writes the editorial board. “The federal government plays no role in implementing academic standards and is barred by law from dictating what is taught or how it is taught.” Using Gov. Chris Christie as an example, the editorial says what makes these “born-again criticism[s] of Common Core so rich is how ferociously” several candidates pursued them before it become politically unpopular. Pointing to Govs. Jeb Bush’s and John Kasich’s unwavering support, the piece adds, “They know the standards don’t dictate curriculum, teaching methods or instructional material. Of course, Mr. Christie, Mr. Jindal, Mr. Walker and Mr. Huckabee know that, too. They just don’t let the facts get in the way of their pandering.”

What It Means: Several prominent GOP leaders who once strongly supported CCSS have reneged on their position to win points with a small but vocal section of the party. Such political posturing puts students at a disadvantage, and as recent polling indicates, could actually hurt candidates at the polls. By perpetuating misinformation about the Standards, leaders are creating unnecessary uncertainty for schools and subverting substantive discussion about the value of high education standards.

Wall Street Journal, “Jeb Bush and Common Core Misconceptions”: Gov. Jeb Bush’s support for CCSS as a “rigorous yardstick to measure student progress doesn’t mean that he seeks to impose the same test on all students in public schools,” writes Juleanna Glover, a Republican strategist. “Mr. Bush’s support for regular testing and high education standards has led some to mistake him as a proxy for President Obama’s overreaching interpretation of No Child Left Behind. But there is nothing heretical to Common Core opponents in Mr. Bush’s position.” Glover notes Gov. Bush says CCSS should be the “new minimum in classrooms,” but encourages states to determine what education path to follow. “The more [Bush] makes his position clear, the more conservatives might refocus on Obama administration policies,” Glover concludes.

What It Means: Unlike several likely Republican presidential candidates, Gov. Bush has been resolute in his support for high education standards. Gov. Bush has regularly emphasized the state-led nature of CCSS and the need for strong executive leadership to maintain a limited federal role in education. Despite nearly two years of targeted attacks, polls indicate support for CCSS bodes well with voters because, as the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle has noted, the public fundamentally supports high education standards.

West Virginia Gazette, “Common Sense Needed on Common Core”: State superintendent Michael Martirano writes West Virginia’s CCSS-aligned standards “are not curriculum,” but “the two are often confused.” “I am confident this type of confusion can be remedied without repealing the standards,” Martirano says. “These standards guide the work of teachers as they help our children learn and thrive and prepare them for college and careers.” He adds repealing the standards would “mean we don’t trust our teachers,” would waste four years of work, and would “ignore the voices of our teachers, principals and superintendents who urge us to ‘stay the course.’” Martirano notes rewriting standards would cost about $42 million and take at least two years. “Forcing the state board to repeal the standards is not the answer,” he concludes. “Common sense would be to put students first and politics second.”

What It Means: Martirano makes the important point that repealing CCSS would put students at a disadvantage and ignore the opinion of educators. A Scholastic study found teachers who have worked closely with CCSS overwhelming support their implementation and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two early adopters of CCSS, students have made some of the biggest improvements in the country in proficiency rates and college-readiness scores.

Hechinger Report, “Common Core Works – When Teachers and Parents Get a Say in Rewriting It”: In the latest in a series of open letters between New York principal Carol Burris and Florida principal Jayne Ellspermann, Ellspermann says her grandsons’ experiences with Common Core demonstrated “a growth in mindset.” “Their learning of the standard had been presented as an opportunity and a challenge, not a mandate with a fixed outcome.” Ellspermann was impressed by her grandsons’ “command of the academic vocabulary to demonstrate and explain” an early math standard. Pointing out parents, educators and students participated in the development of CCSS, Ellspermann says, “We did not accept the standards as presented, but customized them to meet the needs of Florida’s students…Florida has been extremely transparent in its rollout of the Florida Standards and Florida Standards Assessments.”

What It Means: Ellspermann makes an important point that successful implementation of CCSS hinges on teachers’ support and ability to teach to the Standards. As she notes, educators and parents played an important role in the development and adoption of CCSS, and teachers who have worked closely with the standards continue to support their implementation. Like Ellspermann, about two-thirds of teachers experienced with CCSS say they have seen improvements in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

NBC 4 Reno, “Common Core: Changes in the Classroom”: Several Nevada teachers report they have seen an improvement in student development and engagement under CCSS. “The content hasn’t changed, but what’s changed is the amount of discussion, the amount of thought and the amount of writing that’s been going on in math class, specifically,” says Glenn Waddell, head of a local math department. “The standards aren’t the ceiling that we teach to. They’re where we start.” “Now I’m asking my students to analyze information, interpret data, cite evidence from a text, paraphrase information,” adds Jennifer Noland, a fourth-grade teacher. “The cognitive thinking of the students has increased dramatically.” “”I want my students to go next level,” says Connie Hall, a first-grade teacher.. “I want them to be college and career ready and I feel that the Nevada Academic Content Standards, Common Core State Standards, are taking them to that point.”

What It Means: Teachers across the country who have worked closely with CCSS share the same enthusiasm as those in Nevada. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, and more than eight in ten support implementation. In Kentucky and Tennessee, which both have fully aligned teaching to the Standards, student proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have made some of the biggest gains in the country over the last three years.

Arizona Republic, “Want Better Education Standards? Don’t Look Back”: Despite relentless attacks from the state legislature, Arizona’s CCSS-aligned standards “already are showing signs of raising academic achievement,” the editorial board writes. “Teachers and school leaders are reporting gains under the new standards, and they’re not shy about sharing their perspective with lawmakers.” Yet, some leaders still seem set on repealing the Standards. “Never mind that they were developed by the states,” the piece notes, “it has become an article of faith within the Republican Party that the Standards are a federal conspiracy to take control of education.” The editorial criticizes House efforts – “Why subject teachers to such whiplash, especially when the payoff is standards that weren’t getting the job done?” – but says the Senate is working on a “much better approach” by asking how the state can do better. “This approach is more likely to lead to tweaks and adjustments, allowing for a gradual refinement of the standards that fixes what doesn’t work and leaves intact what does.”

What It Means: In states like Arizona, lawmakers’ efforts to repeal CCSS create uncertainty for teachers and students and risk harming students by reverting back to old, inferior standards. As Mike Petrilli wrote recently, it is impossible to come up with rigorous standards that do not resemble CCSS, and states like South Carolina and Oklahoma serve as an example of the dangers of repealing the Standards for political motivations.


Correcting the Record:

WND Education, “Jindal Pounds Common Core in CPAC Speech”: Speaking at CPAC Thursday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “We need to remove Common Core from every classroom in America.” “We object to Common Core because the federal government has no right imposing curriculum, imposing content standards in local classrooms where these decisions have always been made by local leaders,” Gov. Jindal said. “They don’t think we’re smart enough to make the best educational options for our children….We trust parents not bureaucrats to make the best decision for their kids…When they’re really honest, that’s what this Common Core debate is about – they don’t trust us to be smart enough to educate our own children.” Gov. Jindal added, “I encourage any parent to look at the Standards, look at the content themselves,” and criticized math techniques espoused by CCSS. He went on to say, “What would happen if the federal government were defining, making standards for how we teach American history…It wouldn’t be about American exceptionalism, the way you and I learned about why this is the greatest country in the world…This isn’t the first, it won’t be the last time the federal government tries to interfere in our classrooms.” Gov. Jindal’s full speech is available here.

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Jindal’s attempt to portray CCSS as a federal overreach into local education amounts to a dishonest ruse at the expense of students. The Standards were developed at the state level and voluntarily adopted on a state-by-state basis. Gov. Jindal applied for federal funding – one of the reasons he now criticizes CCSS – no fewer than four times, and only began opposing the Standards once it became politically lucrative to do so. Gov. Jindal is right there is an economic case for improving student outcomes – he notes in his speech the U.S. could add “trillions to our economy if we can catch up with other industrialized competitors” – and setting high expectations in the classroom is one of the best steps to do so.

Christian Post, “Ben Carson: Homeschool, School Choice Benefit All Americans, Common Core Doesn’t”: Speaking at CPAC Thursday, Dr. Ben Carson said he supports school choice and CCSS do not align with that. “The best education is the education that is closest to home,” Dr. Carson said. Asked about CCSS, he added, “Common Core is not school choice. I do believe in standards, but those standards obviously are set by parents and people who do homeschooling or they wouldn’t be doing so well. Our public schools need to learn how to compete with that, but they don’t need some central government telling them how to do it.”

Where They Went Wrong: Willfully or not, Dr. Carson perpetuates the myth CCSS represent a federal intrusion into local control of education. As notable conservative leaders like Chester Finn have addressed, CCSS guarantee education remains a local and state issue by setting high learning goals and giving educators the flexibility to decide how to achieve them.

Washington Examiner, “How to Get Rid of Common Core”: Participants at the CPAC panel on CCSS said getting out of federally funded testing programs and grassroots opposition were two important ways to roll back the Standards. “If you can get out of the tests, and your state can run your own tests, then for all intents and purposes you can begin to reclaim control of your state’s education system,” said Neal McClusky of the CATO Institute. McClusky compared federal incentives to mugging. Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said the backlash to CCSS is “a movement led by grassroots activists.” “They’re going to war against anything that interferes with their right to have a say in what their children learn.” McGroarty added CCSS “blocks children into an inferior, low-quality education.”

Where They Went Wrong: As National Review’s Patrick Brennan wrote (see above) McClusky and McGroarty’s discussion largely fed into myths about CCSS while avoiding constructive debate about the merits of the Standards. Objective analysis has repeatedly rejected claims CCSS represent a federal intrusion into local education, and analysis shows the new Standards are more rigorous than those used by most states before. By trying to subvert the Standards’ by targeting assessments, opponents are putting students at a disadvantage and ensuring students and educators will continue to face uncertainty in the classroom.


On Our Reading List:

PBS Newshour, “Common Core’s Unintended Consequence? More Teachers Write Their Own Curricula”: Finding many classroom materials don’t meet the demands of new CCSS, a majority of teachers have been developing curricula themselves and with the support of fellow teachers. A study by the Center on Education Policy found that in about two-thirds of school districts teachers are developing their own material in math (66%) and English (65%). Michigan State University professor William Schmidt reviewed 35 commonly-used math series says, “Most of these materials don’t line up, and when you look at an individual set of materials, as much as half of the book might not be relevant to the standards at that grade level.” “We’re not curriculum writers,” said Shelley Ritz, a principal. “There are companies that are paid millions and millions of dollars to do the research.” She added though helping develop material has made teachers smarter about requirements and test scores have increased as a result.

Tenth Amendment Center, “Montana State House Passes Bill to Ban Common Core”: By a vote of 54-46 the Montana House passed HB 377, which would discontinue implementation of CCSS in the state and establish an “accreditation standards review committee,” on Thursday. The bill would also require written consent from parents for students to take CCSS-aligned assessments. The legislation will go to the Senate for review next.

Times Picayune, “Jindal’s Federal Common Core Case May Proceed, Judge Rules”: Judge Shelley Dick ruled Thursday that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s CCSS case against the federal government will move forward. The case will be heard May 28 in Baton Rouge. The judge’s decision is not about the merits of Gov. Jindal’s case, but whether there is a right for the case to be heard, the article notes. “We are pleased the Court agreed that we have the authority to challenge Common Core and the federal programs that are tied to it. Common Core is the latest attempt by Washington, D.C. to federalize the education system and it must be stopped,” Gov. Jindal said in a statement.

Washington Times, “CPAC Attendees Plan to Walk Out on Jeb Bush”: Several CPAC attendees plan to stage an informal protest when Gov. Jeb Bush takes the stage today. “We are going to get up en masse, and we are going to walk out,” said William Temple, a member of the Golden Isle Tea Party. “We are not going to interrupt anyone’s speech, but we are all going to exercise our right to [use] the bathroom at the same time.”

Newsmax, “Common Core Repeal Efforts Struggle for Success”: Despite gleaning plenty of appeal at CPAC, efforts to repeal CCSS are facing “huge challenges” in state legislatures, the article reports. Several Republican-controlled legislatures, including those in Mississippi, North and South Dakota, and Arizona, recently voted down bills seeking to upend the Standards. “The big story is how resilient this thing has been in the face of a huge national backlash,” says Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute.

NPR, “5 Lessons Education Research Taught Us in 2014”: Recapping the past year in education research, the article notes the best way to teach math to struggling first graders remains old-fashioned practice and drills. “The results run contrary to some interpretations of the Common Core, where student collaborate, talk through a problem and dissect the different ways to reach a solution,” the article notes. Research also found “perfectly aligned curriculum is no more likely to be associated with gains in in tests scores than perfectly unaligned curriculum.” The article notes “this is critical since better instruction alignment is a driving component of the Common Core.

Washington Post, “What I Learned at CPAC”: Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin calls Gov. Chris Christie’s “regrets” over CCSS blatant political posturing. “Like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Christie has undertaken a campaign conversion, a blatant flip-flop. At least Jindal is trying to stop it…if you are going to pander to the base it is fair game to cite the flip-flop.”