News You Can Use:

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Why Common Core Makes the Grade”: Noting that among “political debate, lawsuits and protests” some states are reconsidering their support of CCSS, the editorial board writes, “Minnesota should not follow their lead.” “Having national standards to better prepare students for college and careers is good policy. How states and local school districts decide to meet those goals remains a local function.” The piece encourages parents to acquaint themselves with the Standards, noting several misconceptions permeate debate, like that CCSS represent federal overreach. Minnesota adopted only the Common Core ELA standards, but the article notes the state’s math standards “are in line with Common Core and are aligned with college and career expectations.” “There are a lot of myths and misinformation out there around Common Core, and they seem to be growing,” the piece quotes education commissioner Brenda Cassellius as saying. “The purpose was to have a common measure of what students should learn and be able to do — but that message is getting lost in the fuss around the standards.”

What It Means: As the editorial points out, much of the opposition to CCSS has been based on misleading or disingenuous information, which have caused “delays and confusion and take away from the important mission of teaching and learning.” States that have fully aligned curricula to CCSS, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have seen some of the biggest improvements in student proficiency scores and college- and career-readiness rates.

US Chamber of Commerce, “Reagan Education Secretary: ‘There’s a Tremendous Amount of Misinformation about Common Core’”: Calling the debate between Sec. Bill Bennett and Gov. Greg Abbott on Fox News Sunday “two different takes on Common Core” from “two great conservatives,” the article says Sec. Bennett was right. “Unfortunately, Governor Abbott relies on the usual mythsabout Common Core as the basis for his arguments,” it says, pointing out CCSS are “hardly a ‘one-size-fits-all’ national standard being pushed by the Obama administration” and that they were “developed locally and administered locally.” “If Common Core was a federal mandate, then wouldn’t ALL states be required to implement the standards? They aren’t and they don’t.” CCSS encourage instruction of multiple math problem-solving approaches, which “eliminates simply memorizing rules and helps students understand why they got an answer,” in addition to traditional techniques. “This helps kids develop a deeper understanding and apply this type of thinking throughout their lives. Essentially, it ‘makes math make sense.’”

What It Means: Bill McCallum, one of the lead authors of the Common Core math standards, points out Gov. Abbott’s criticism of CCSS ignores the fact teachers have used such practices for years. Introducing students to multiple problem-solving strategies helps students conceptualize numbers and functions, and gives them a better understanding of math mechanics to help build stronger fundamental skills to reach higher levels of learning.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Ohio School Superintendent’s Test-Reduction Plan a Good Beginning”: Ohio state superintendent Richard Ross’ proposal to limit the state’s annual testing by 20% is “an important starting point,” the editorial board writes, “although abolishing the Common Core reading and math standards and their accompanying tests, a too-common theme in the Ohio General Assembly, should be off the table.” CCSS-aligned tests will better assure Ohio children develop deeper content knowledge in math and reading, the piece notes.

What It Means: CCSS-aligned tests are designed to provide teachers and parents more accurate and constructive guidance about how well students are progressing, ultimately allowing schools to devote less time to testing. Because the exams require students to demonstrate their reasoning, they help eliminate “teaching to the test” and provide better diagnostic about students’ true proficiency.

San Jose Mercury News, “Fremont Schools See Drop in Expulsions, Suspensions, Mirroring Statewide Decreases”: Over the past three years, expulsion and suspension rates in California’s Freemont school district have decreased, mirroring trends across the state and nationwide. Gregory Bailey, the district’s student services director, attributes the decline at least in part to CCSS, which engage students more and provide a “more personalized education.” “In Fremont we don’t have as many students being suspended for defiance with the new suspension code,” Bailey says. Suspensions are the top indicator of whether a child will drop out of school, the article notes.

What It Means: CCSS encourage student participation in the classroom by putting a greater emphasis on interaction and explaining answers rather than lecture-based instruction. As the article points out, that focus has fostered more student interest and participation and helped to curb behavioral problems.

Tampa Bay Times, “Teacher of the Year Prefers to Open Doors, Not Stand behind Closed Ones”: Beth Hess, a high school English teacher and Florida’s teacher of the year, strongly supports CCSS. “I really back Florida Standards / Common Core, and I have been implementing it in my classroom no matter what it’s called,” she says. Noting she anticipates some “bumps” and “tough testing results” in the first year, she believes schools “are in that transition period” but adds “the work my students are doing as a result is amazing.” “Some of these kids have never been out of Florida, so my job is to respectfully open the world to them so they can discover the things they might never have been able to see because of the limitations of their circumstances,” Hess says. “through their education, they have no limits. It’s all about the kids finding and discovering these paths for themselves and just soaring out.”

What It Means: Across the country, teachers like Hess continue support CCSS implementation and say they have seen big improvements in students’ ability to apply reasoning and critical thinking skills. By setting high expectations for all students, the Standards better ensure children are fully prepared for college-level work or a competitive job upon completing high school.



Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “La. Gov. Bobby Jindal Rails against Common Core State Standards”: Speaking at an American Principles Project luncheon on Thursday, Gov. Bobby Jindal framed CCSS as an attack on conservative values of local control and American exceptionalism. “In our entire history as a country, we’ve never allowed the federal government to make these decisions for us. Now is not the time to start,” Gov. Jindal said. “What happens when we stop teaching American exceptionalism to our students? What happens when the American history they’re thought is not the one you and I were taught, but a history of grievances?” Several times Jindal said CCSS would allow the federal government to make “curriculum decisions for our local classrooms.” “I’m confident we’re going to win,” Jindal said, referring to opponents of CCSS. “As more and more teachers, more and more kids and more and more parents are exposed to the fallacies of Common Core, our numbers continue to grow.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Gov. Jindal’s claims CCSS are a federal intrusion to dictate what’s taught in classrooms, the Standards provide clear goals for each grade level and leave the “how” up to local educators, as individuals like Sec. Bill Bennett and Chester Finn have often pointed out. Objective analysis has rejected the idea CCSS is a federal overreach, and teachers who have worked closely with the Standards overwhelming support them. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Standards continue to use them or some nearly identical version largely because parents strongly support high education standards, regardless of what label is put on them.

Fox News Tampa Bay, “Teacher’s View on Common Core Struggles”: New math problem-solving techniques encouraged by CCSS have “drawn the ire of parents and teachers” and created a gray area for students, the article reports. Calling the new practices “controversial and political,” it says students are caught in the middle of implementation. “When kids see ‘explain,’ they are like, ‘I just don’t know what to do. I don’t understand!’” the article quotes Florida teacher Tiffany Castanho as saying. Castanho remains positive and continues to work with parents to introduce the new concepts. “What gives her real motivation is the moment that all those hours of training and teaching and hoping and praying pay off – ‘And it’s like a light bulb: “I get it!”’,” the article reports.

Where They Went Wrong: More than eight in ten teachers who have worked closely with CCSS support their implementation and say it is going well, and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills. CCSS introduce students to multiple problems-solving techniques to help them develop a better conceptual understanding of numbers and functions that will enable them to succeed at higher levels of learning.

Huffington Post, “Common Core Standards Fail to Keep Child Development in Mind”: Rea Pica, co-founder of the BAM radio network, says the implementation of CCSS is the latest step towards putting young children in “a box” that ignores individual development needs. “There’s nothing wrong with standards, or goals, per se,” Pica says. “But the standards should be realistic.” She contends CCSS were not written with adequate input from child development experts. “They would know that child development cannot and should not be accelerated,” Pica concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS set high expectations for students, even at early grade levels. Yet, by focusing on fewer, clearer goals and ensuring local educators have control of how and what is taught, the Standards provide teachers greater flexibility to ensure each child is making progress. That’s one reason why early-grade teachers are among the most supportive of CCSS. And as one mom pointed out on Education Post, most early classrooms and libraries support more than 20 levels of student ability, so students have access to ability-appropriate material.



On Our Reading List:

Ed Week, “Final Testing Count: More than Half of Students Will Take Non-Consortium Exams”: Fifty-one percent of students live in states that will use exams other than PARCC or Smarter Balanced to test standards this year, the article reports. About 28% will use Smarter Balanced assessments, and 18% will use PARCC. Last June, Ed Week reported several states were “undecided,” but of those only Michigan (Smarter Balanced) and Louisiana (PARCC) opted for either of the two primary consortia. The article says whether the fact 29 states will share the two tests aligned to CCSS is a “glass-half-full / glass-half-empty debate.”

Bush Institute, “The Big Idea of School Accountability”: Although school assessments have come under fire in recent years, school systems should rework not abandon accountability measures, authors William McKenzie and Sandy Kress of the George W. Bush Institute write. The report cites improvements in student scores and especially among low-income and minority students following accountability movements from the late 90s on, but that those measures have been “watered down as states have received waivers from [NCLB].” The authors conclude states need annual testing in math and reading, that students should not be overloaded with exams, and schools “need carrots to improve, not just sticks.”

National Review, “School Testing Is Unpopular, So It Must Be Conservative”: Frederick Hess responds to “conventional thinking” that more student testing is a conservative idea, noting many Republican lawmakers and state leaders have called for more effective assessments. Hess says the “testing mania” was “very much a bipartisan creation,” and that “conservative enthusiasm for testing has been tempered by an appreciation for school choice.” He concludes, “Conservatives deserve their share of the blame for their role in letting things get out of hand. But they shouldn’t let anyone suggest that the excesses of Obama-era school testing are somehow a failure of ‘conservatism.’”