News You Can Use:

KCRW To the Point, “Common Core: The Obamacare of the Classroom?”: In a discussion about the creation and future of CCSS, Bellwether Education Partner’s Anne Hyslop and Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli emphasize that the Standards began as, and remain, a state-led effort.  “Common Core is not a curriculum; it’s a set of standards, expectations of what students should be able to know,” Hyslop says. “It doesn’t say how schools or teachers should get students to those expectations…It’s still up to states and local districts to figure out, how do we determine curriculum.” Hyslop notes CCSS originated from a long movement towards recognizing the need to hold students to higher expectations in order to keep up with countries that have better student outcomes. Petrilli, who says like many conservatives he was upset with the Department of Education’s involvement, adds that it’s impossible “to create better standards that are college and career ready that don’t look anything like Common Core.” For that reason, he says it would be “crazy for us to go back and start from scratch.” Pointing out old tests were not well designed and failed to provide an accurate measure of students’ true proficiency, Petrilli says CCSS-aligned assessments will better delineate whether children are on track for college or a career.

What It Means: CCSS were voluntarily adopted and implemented by states. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt the Standards continue to use them or some nearly identical version. As Petrilli points out, states retain ownership of the Standards and in many cases have been working to review and improve upon them. As states like South Carolina and Oklahoma have shown, retreating from CCSS for political reasons has led to big problems, largely because it’s difficult (or impossible, as Petrilli says) to come up with equally rigorous college- and career-ready standards that don’t incorporate aspects of Common Core.

Ed Week, “Low K-12 Standards Do a Disservice to All”: Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the “most pernicious” inequalities in the education realm today comes from low academic expectations. Henderson cites a 1997 study that found a straight-A student in a high-poverty school would likely struggle to earn Cs in a low-poverty school. “[CCSS] offer an opportunity to address the fundamental educational issue facing poor and minority children who don’t have access to the same instruction as their peers in wealthier communities,” Henderson writes. “These new standards…could make real the promise of equal educational opportunity we’ve been struggling to achieve for more than 60 years.” Pointing to early successes in states like Kentucky and Tennessee, Henderson concludes, “We have to be willing to hold high expectations for all students, believe they can get there, and provide them with the steps to reach them.”

What It Means: By holding all students to high educational expectations, CCSS promise to help close inequality gaps and ensure students of all backgrounds are better prepared for college and good careers. As Henderson points out, numerous civil rights groups like the National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza support CCSS because of their potential to improve student outcomes among minority and low-income students.

The Atlantic, “The Common Core Has Not Killed Literature”: Contrary to concerns CCSS emphasis on non-fiction material will edge out important literature in the classroom, the Standards help teachers introduce students to important texts, writes Meaghan Freeman, a middle and high school teacher in New York. “There is nothing in the Common Core that says literature cannot be used. There is nothing that says there’s no place for creativity and individual expression,” Freeman says. “My state and the Common Core trust me to teach the literature, and they push me to expose my students to more challenging and diverse texts.” She adds the move towards more non-fiction has augmented her lessons and helped reach more students. “Common Core has given me the opportunity and higher standards to make my classroom a place of rigorous and diverse learning for every student,” Freeman concludes.

What It Means: Although CCSS calls for greater exposure to non-fiction texts, that emphasis is spread across all subjects. As Freeman points out, the Standards still require students to learn important literature and actually help balance instruction in English language arts classes. And because the Standards ensure local school boards and educators control what is taught, teachers are able to decide what material students will learn.

Bakersfield Californian, “How Common Core Will Affect California’s Economic Success”: There is a projected shortage of 1.5 million skilled workers to meet California’s economic growth, writes Gene Voiland, former president of Aera Energy. “K-12 education and student success is the foundation of a thriving economic future,” Voiland says. “Common Core is a set of standards that sets expectations for what students should know at each grade level…to ensure that students have the skills needed to be ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school.” CCSS encourage students to “dissect and analyze information” and use critical thinking and reasoning skills, Voiland points out. The Standards retain local control so “teachers and school leaders decide how to help their students reach those goals.” “Employers and higher education leaders have long called for a K-12 system that would advance the skills and abilities required for success after high school. They support Common Core because it will do exactly this,” Voiland concludes.

What It Means: Today’s competitive marketplace requires graduates with strong fundamental critical thinking and reasoning skills. Under states’ old standards, too many students graduated as “proficient” but still required remediation or job training to complete the skills they should have mastered in K-12 schooling. CCSS set high expectations for all students to help ensure they complete high school prepared for the challenges of college-level work or a competitive job.



Correcting the Record:

Daily Beast, “Is This the Issue that Sinks Jeb?”: Although Common Core math standards seek to get past rote memorization and help student conceptualize math problems, they face a problem in that parents are unable to help their children with math under the Standards, writes Matt Lewis. “Imagine a mom or dad who already works 50 hours a week, devoting another dozen to helping little Johnnyspend a full minute adding 9 plus 6,” Lewis writes, referring to a video that explains the concepts of base-ten addition. “Parents who don’t have the time (or, in many cases, the capacity) to deal with this somewhat esoteric project will be made to feel stupid, frustrated, angry, and ultimately inferior.” He adds this has become an especially salient issue politically because of the emotion tied to it. Lewis ends by saying, “Education is inherently about the future—not the past. If you have kids or think you might, there is no way of fooling yourself into believing that this won’t impact you.”

Where They Went Wrong: As Bill McCallum, a lead writer of the Common Core math standards and a parent himself, points out, the problem-solving methods espoused by CCSS follow the same progression most teachers have been using for years. The base-ten model helps students develop a stronger conceptual understanding of basic math functions, which they can apply to more problems to better memorize math facts. “It is an aid to memory, not a replacement,” McCallum notes. Parental involvement is an important component of a child’s education, and across the country schools and districts are engaging parents to help them better understand the rationale behind Common Core math standards.



On Our Reading List:

Star Tribune, “Walker Proposes Removing State Funding for Tests Tied to Common Core Standards”: On Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker proposed removing state funding for CCSS-aligned Smarter Balanced tests. Republican lawmakers have also called for the state to come up with other testing options. Public schools in Wisconsin are not required to use CCSS, but most have because state tests will be based off of them, the article reports.

Des Moines Register, “Jeb Bush to Speak at Ag Summit in Des Moines”: Former Gov. Jeb Bush will make his first appearance in Iowa next month to address the Iowa Ag Summit on March 7. The article notes 30% of the state’s Republican voters think Gov. Bush is out of step with the party on CCSS, and 33% say his stances are something they would need to consider before supporting him. Thirty-two percent say his position is “no real problem.”

Times Picayune, “Bobby Jindal to Talk Common Core in DC Thursday”: Keynoting the American Principles Project luncheon in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to discuss CCSS. The article notes Gov. Jindal has become an outspoken critic of the Standards after reversing his previous support last year. Gov. Rick Perry will also speak at the event.

Times Picayune, “Taking Aim at Common Core Testing, St. Tammany School Board Calls for Special BESE Meeting on Possible Opt-Outs”: The St. Tammany Parish school board joined other urging the state BESE to schedule a meeting to address a possible opt-out movement within Louisiana. “The board voted unanimously Monday night to send a letter to members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education asking them to hold the meeting and discuss the ramifications to the students, districts and schools of the students ‘opting out’ of PARCC testing,” the article reports.

Gallup, “Student Poll: Job Confidence Lower in Higher Grades”: Students in elementary and middle school are more optimistic about their ability to find a good job after graduation than high school students, a Gallup poll finds. About 68% of students in 5th grade strongly agree they will be able to find a good job after graduation, compared to about 49% in grades 10-12. “Given that ‘college and career’ readiness are hallmark goals of the U.S. education system, leaders of all kinds — from education to government to business — need to consider building a stronger connection between education and employment to try to keep students’ job optimism high as they advance in school,” the analysis concludes.