News You Can Use:

Des Moines Register, “Hispanic Evangelicals Could Determine GOP Nominee”: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a representative of more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals, says recent debate among Republicans about education has ignored the concerns of this important demographic. “Leaders must continue to champion high education standards, greater academic accountability and school choice,” Rev. Rodriguez writes. “I’m often baffled by criticisms that focus largely on political dogma and little on the value of setting rigorous expectations for our children.”  57% of Hispanic voters call education an “extremely important” issue, the piece notes. “Non-federal, comparable standards ensure at each grade level children will develop the skills and knowledge to graduate from high school prepared for college-level work or a competitive job,” Rev. Rodriguez says, which is especially important for Hispanic students who are more likely to need remediation. “We have a responsibility to holdall young people to rigorous academic expectations, regardless of race or where they grow up. Failing to do so ignores the worth of every child and effectively systematizes the notion some students just aren’t ‘smart enough,’ reinforcing cycles of poverty and inequality.” Rev. Rodriguez concludes candidates’ positions on education standards could determine how Latinos cast their votes, which may determine who receives the party’s nomination.

What It Means: Contrary to claims voters will oppose leaders who endorse CCSS, Rev. Rodriguez makes clear that support for high education standards should be at the heart of candidates’ policies if they hope to win the Latino vote. Rigorous academic expectations are important for minority students who statistically are more likely to require remediation, and the Hispanic faith community will expect leaders to support education policies that help break the cycle. As Rev. Rodriguez points out, the Latino voting bloc will be critical in determining who wins the next presidential election.

I Support the Common Core, “Our Number System: A No-Go-Zone for the Tea Party”: Bill McCallum, one of the lead writers of Common Core math standards, responds to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s appearance on Fox News Sunday, during which the Governor criticized the “make ten” math strategy. “It’s a pity, however, that Governor Abbot didn’t look at hisown state standards before mocking this method,” McCallum says, “since Texas follows exactly the same progression at exactly the same grade levels. And for good reason: math is math whatever state you are in, and teachers have been using methods like this to help their students memorize math facts for years.” McCallum adds that the method is not the final expectation of students; it is one way to help them memorize math facts. Like tying a shoe, he says, understanding why numbers add up helps students apply that rationale to other problems, “so you are getting a whole bunch of math facts for the price of one.”

What It Means: McCallum’s explanation underscores that CCSS’ so-called “fuzzy math” actually emphasizes fundamental principles that many states, like Texas, already use. As he points out, base-ten systems are only one way to help students memorize important math structures, not an end in themselves. Like tying a shoe, giving students a better understanding of the mechanics allows them to apply those principles to other problems and develop a better idea of “what’s going on under the hood.”

Columbus Dispatch, “Give Them a Chance to Work”: As Ohio schools prepare to administer new CCSS-aligned PARCC tests for the first time this spring, after years of preparation, they should be “given the chance to do so without constant challenge by opponents,” writes the editorial board. “Too much effort has gone into developing the tests, and the Common Core academic standards that underlie them, to toss them aside without allowing them a few years to work.” The piece notes experts from Ohio contributed about 50,000 hours to help develop the exams. It adds that much of the “ill-informed opposition” to PARCC exams and CCSS is based on the false premise that they represent a federal takeover of schools, which “opportunistic politicians” have seized on. Two efforts to repeal the Standards died in the legislature’s last session, and the “idea should stay dead,” the piece says. It ends by noting CCSS-aligned tests challenge students more in both reading and math, which is necessary to better prepare them for college or a good job, and encourages parents to read the Standards for themselves.

What It Means: Effective student assessments are an important tool for educators and parents to ensure high education standards achieve their purpose of preparing students for college-level work and good careers. States voluntarily signed on to tests like PARCC and Smarter Balanced; to reverse course would uproot the ground work that has gone into them and diminish states’ ability to compare their progress against others across the country.

Holland Sentinel, “An Argument for Common Core”: In a letter to the editor, Timothy Pennings, head of Davenport University’s math department, says the base-ten methodology Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criticized on Fox News Sunday “certainly should be adopted.” Instead of giving students an “isolated fact which they may or may not remember,” Pennings says the CCSS approach applies an important numbers property called “associativity,” which splits numbers into units that are easier to manipulate. “My best teachers in K-12 were the ones who could answer the “why” questions because they knew the underlying concepts themselves and could explain them to their students,” Pennings says. “A curriculum that emphasizes concepts (that students can understand and apply to a wide variety of situations) rather than memorizing facts (which students can only apply to unique situations without understanding) has solid pedagogical merit.”

What It Means: Like McCallum, Pennings commends the approaches to math encouraged by CCSS. Such techniques help students build a better conceptual understanding of numbers and functions, which they can apply to many problems, instead of simply memorizing a problem, which they may or may not remember. In addition to traditional math approaches, CCSS emphasis these kinds of approaches to help students develop stronger building blocks to reach higher levels of learning.

Think Progress, “Senator Says Common Core Contains Anti-American History, but It Doesn’t Have History Requirement”: Responding to an email from Sen. Rand Paul to supporters claiming CCSS contain “anti-American propaganda” and “revisionist history,” the article points out the Standards apply only to math and English and do not include history, civics or social studies requirements. “Only readingsthe Common Core requires are the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s second inaugural address,” it says. In Sen. Paul’s home state of Kentucky, college-readiness rates have increased by more than 25% since the state adopted the Standards. The article ends by highlighting Sec. Bill Bennett’s recent appearance on Fox News Sunday, in which he addressed misconceptions that CCSS are a federal intrusion to dictate what’s taught in classrooms.

What It Means: For more than 18 months opponents have sought to paint CCSS as a federal takeover of what schools can teach, often distorting what the Standards are to do so. The article brings to light a thinly-veiled attempt to confuse what CCSS stand for in order score political points with a small but vocal voting bloc.

Huffington Post, “Rule No. 84: Diane Ravitch’s Other Letter to Lamar Alexander”: In response to an open letter from Diane Ravitch to Sen. Alexander discouraging strong systems of assessment and accountability, Peter Cunningham offers an alternative version based on Ravitch’s previous positions. In the piece, Cunningham points out Ravitch once advocated for creating voluntary national standards, and that NCLB failed largely because it failed to raise education standards. “The failure of national standards and testing will undermine faith in public education and pave the way for privatization of education,” the letter says. It adds, “tests and standards are a necessary fact of life…They tell teachers what their students have learned–and have not. They tell parents how their children are doing compared with others their age.” The letter concludes there is a federal role in education, which is to ensure quality and equality, which CCSS helps ensure it does not exceed.

Miami Herald, “The High Cost of Remediation”: In response to Pres. Obama’s call for greater access to community college, Karen Nussle, director of the Collaborative, writes that while well-intentioned the move ignores the fact too many students graduate high school unprepared for college-level work or a competitive career. Nussle points out 2.7 million college students needed remediation last year to learn material they should have mastered in high school. In community colleges, more than half of students need to take remedial coursework. “We applaud the President’s focus on education, but his plan runs the risk of subsidizing remedial education at the community college level by paying colleges to teach high school content,” Nussle writes. “Continued and successful implementation of Common Core helps address this important issue – and puts the responsibility for teaching basic math and English skills on local high schools which, by ever measure, are better equipped to teach these critical skills than community colleges.”

What It Means: Each year remediation needs cost families and taxpayers about $7 billion, and students that require remedial coursework are far less likely to obtain a degree on time, if at all. CCSS help ensure students are better prepared to seamlessly step into college-level work or a good job by setting rigorous expectations at each grade level to ensure students develop the skills they need.

What It Means: As Cunningham’s response to Ravitch’s initial letter points out, high standards and strong systems of accountability help ensure classroom equality and better prepare all students for college and careers.



On Our Reading List:

Palm Beach Sun Sentinel, “A Primer on Florida’s Tougher School Tests”: This spring Florida schools will administer tests based on the state’s CCSS-aligned standards. The article offers an outline of information about the assessments, noting the new exams were developed to test to the more rigorous criteria set forth by the standards.

Oregonian, “Beaverton School District Considers Math Integration at High Schools”: Officials at the Beaverton School District in Oregon are considering integrating the progression of math learning to help students better retain skills learned at early levels. The article notes about 15% of students enrolled in the state’s universities have to take remedial math classes. Official also believe the move could better prepare students to meet the more rigorous standards outlined by Common Core.