News You Can Use:

Louisiana Student Reports Edge Closer to National Statistics
The Daily Advertiser
Louisiana officials closed discrepancies between state-reported proficiency rates and those identified by the National Assessment of Education Progress by 42 points in fourth-grade reading and 29 points in eighth-grade math, according to a follow-up analysis by Achieve. The improvement is the result of “a fundamental component of our efforts to raise expectations,” says a spokesperson for the State Department of Education. Similarly, the Casper Star-Tribune reports that Wyoming narrowed the gap in fourth-grade reading by eight points, but significant discrepancies still exist. The Huntsville Times reports Alabama earned “Top Truth Teller” status for continuing to report proficiency rates that closely align with NAEP. “Parents and educators deserve accurate information about how well students are performing,” says SandyBoyd, COO of Achieve. “If we want to move the needle on student outcomes, we need to be clear about student performance; only then can we help students improve.”

ConnCAN CEO: Ditching Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Tests Would Mean $20 Million Loss
New Haven Register      
Jennifer Alexander, chief executive of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, says replacing the state’s Smarter Balanced assessments would be a costly mistake. “We just started this test, and we need to see several years of data. It’s aligned with our standards,” Alexander explains. “These assessments are important because they are the yardstick by which we understand how kids are doing, among a reliable and high standard.” Research by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year finds high-quality assessments like Smarter Balanced represent a big improvement over those many states used before. “I can say with confidence these new assessments are the kind we should want our kids to take,” writes Pam Reilly, an educator involved in the NNSTOY research.

Correcting the Record:

Public Hearing Wednesday on Common Core Repeal Bill
Decatur Daily
This year, Alabama State Senator Rusty Glover introduced legislation for the fourth year in a row that would repeal the state’s College and Career Ready Standards, which are based on Common Core. The bill would immediately replace the standards, putting the state’s old standards back in place while also requiring new standards be ready for the 2017-18 school year and prohibit the State Board of Education from adopting national standards. The legislation ignores that Alabama voluntarily adopted its Common Core-aligned standards and that local authorities retain control over curricula decisions. Here is where Sen. Glover gets it wrong:

On Our Reading List:

Panel Oks Common Core Changes for Education Board Vote
Associated Press
The 26-member Louisiana Student Standards Steering Committee approved a package of revisions to the state’s Common Core Standards on Tuesday. Twenty-one of the committee members voted in favor, three were absent and two abstained. The proposal would change 18 percent of the standards for English language arts and 26 percent of the standards for math. The package will next go to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a vote in March, followed by reviews by the Governor and legislative committees.

Education Secretary Calls for Fewer, Better Tests
National Public Radio
In a video announcement, Acting U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. called for streamlined, higher-quality student assessments at the state and local level and pledged federal support for some of the transition. “Simplistic or poorly constructed tests just take away from critical learning time without providing useful information,” King said. The U.S. Department of Education released details about how federal funding could be used to “audit” testing programs, improve assessments and help parents and teachers better understand test data.

Breaking Down the Changes to This Year’s State Tests in New York
Politico New York
New York officials say state exams will include fewer questions and provide more time for students following changes made with teacher input. Schools will continue to transition to computer-based testing as well. “Our multi-year plan will continue to help contribute to student learning and educational equity in the state,” says Peter Swerdzewski, assistant commissioner of state assessment. Last year, New York officials chose Questar to develop tests, replacing Pearson. But Pearson will still develop the tests administered this year.

Standardized Tests Aren’t Going Anywhere. How Can We Make Them Better?
A report from the Center for American Progress offers some “common-sense” ways to alleviate some of the burdens of student assessments following the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The recommendations include alleviating pressures to “teach to the test,” cutting back on redundant exams, changing the obsessive culture of testing and helping teachers and parents better interpret the data. “In future years, districts should make a faster turnaround a priority,” the article adds. “Make the tests useful for parents as well as policymakers and maybe those parents will have more buy-in.”

Common Core’s Conundrum Continues
National Catholic Register
While debate about the Common Core has complicated implementation, more than half of dioceses and archdioceses have chosen to adopt the standards. “Standards do not determine the authenticity of the education—the choice of curriculum and the lived faith experience shapes the Catholic identity of the school,” says Thomas Bunford, interim president of the National Catholic Educational Association. “Since the standards are not curriculum, a genuine Catholic education can be achieved using any standards, including Common Core.” The article mischaracterizes the Common Core as “federal education guidelines.” In fact, they were developed free from federal involvement and voluntarily adopted by states.