News You Can Use:

Times Picayune, “Bobby Jindal Should Stop Spreading Fear about Common Core Exam”: Gov. Jindal’s recent actions to encourage parents to opt out of CCSS-aligned tests are “irresponsible – and not possible,” the editorial board writes. Noting Gov. Jindal struck out with the state BESE, legislature and courts, it calls this his latest attempt to derail the Standards. “Logically speaking, none of this makes a bit of sense,” the Council for a Better Louisiana wrote. “Refusing to take the test doesn’t change the fact that we’re still teaching to those standards.” The piece notes despite the Governor’s position, there is “broad support” for CCSS among business, civic and education leaders. Even students prefer new CCSS-aligned tests; about 80% of those who pilot tested the assessments said they put them ahead of the state’s previous exams.

What It Means: The editorial calls out Gov. Jindal in no uncertain terms for reversing his support for CCSS to win points with a small but vocal political constituency. Trying to undermine CCSS-aligned exams is the Governor’s latest attempt to unilaterally repeal the Standards. The troubles in states like South Carolina and Oklahoma underscore the dangers of such moves, which as the editorial points out, are “irresponsible.”

Des Moines Register, “The U.S. Is Falling Behind in Education”: In response to a recent article “high on opinion and lacking in factual understanding,” Des Moines resident Mark Challis says CCSS represent an important tool for the United States to remain competitive against other top-performing countries. He also points out the big discrepancies that existed between states’ academic criteria prior to CCSS. “Explain to the student from the deep South why they may be in fourth grade, but only performing at a second grade level when they move to Minnesota, or other such state with far higher education expectations,” Challis writes. “It is too bad that politicians paint a false picture by invoking provincialism and mistaken ‘Constitutional’ arguments that may sound admirable, but do excessive harm to our society and its economy.”

What It Means: CCSS ensure all students are held to high academic expectations, regardless of where they grow up or go to school. As the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle pointed out, prior to CCSS it “didn’t make sense that nearly 20 percent of eighth-graders in Massachusetts could perform advanced-level math, but only 2 percent of their peers in Mississippi could.” CCSS are 90% aligned to those used by top performing countries, and better ensure that students and teachers are able to measure against and collaborate with their counterparts in other states.

CDA Press, “Nothing to Fear with Common Core”: Timothy Hunt, who served on a public Idaho committee tasked with reviewing the state’s CCSS-aligned assessments for biases, says “there is absolutely no evidence” supporting claims the Standards are a federal curriculum that teach “non-Biblical, anti-American, anti-Christian values.” “What I saw was rather something of a wonder, thousands of questions that have been masterfully crafted,” Hunt writes. The questions he reviewed were “tough but fair,” Hunt adds. “I can assure readers that none of the committee members I talked to found evidence of bias or insensitivity…The materials are impeccably written (many by Idaho teachers) and will pass muster with any objective reader.”

What It Means: CCSS remain a state-led effort, and across the country states continue to take ownership of them to ensure they fit their students’ needs. As Hunt points out, the Standards do not dictate curricula, nor do they contain religious or political slants. CCSS set high expectations for all students to better ensure young people of all backgrounds are held to standards that adequately prepare them for college and careers.



Correcting the Record:

Commercial Appeal, “Haslam Turning Attention to ‘Ruined Brand’ of Common Core”: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged last week his next big struggle will be defending CCSS, even if the moniker must go. “With that brand, anybody who didn’t like anything about what’s happening in education, they’d say, ‘Well, that’s Common Core,'” Haslam told reporters. “I just realized that fixing the brand is too hard.” Gov. Haslam and Republican lawmakers will keep control of the process to ensure new standards retain the rigor and value of Common Core.

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Haslam is one of the staunchest supporters of high education standards, and his move to rebrand Tennessee’s CCSS underscores his commitment amid the tough political tides. Several states have gone through similar exercises. Yet, after two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or some very similar, rebranded version.

Washington Post, “George Will: Education Is the Business of States”: Columnist George Will writes the passage of NCLB allowed “well-meaning” federal officials to assert themselves in state education issue, which opened the doors for CCSS. Will says Race to the Top funds were used to “bribe states to accept the Common Core,” which tests and then texts will be aligned to. Arguing all education responsibilities should be devolved to the state level, Will concludes, “Let 50 governors find 50 metrics for K-12 progress.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Will’s assertion states were bribed into adopting CCSS through RTTT funds, having college- and career-ready standards accounted for less than 10% of states’ applications for funds, and states that didn’t adopt CCSS still qualified. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt the Standards still use them or a nearly identical version of them. Having rigorous, comparable education standards gives parents a tool to compare how well their child’s school is doing compared to those across the country, bolstering school choice, and allows teachers to collaborate on best practices to unlock students’ potential.



On Our Reading List:

Associated Press, “Wisconsin Students to Take Scaled-Back Version of Standardized Tests Due to Glitch”: Next month Wisconsin students will take a “scaled-back” version of the Smarter Balanced “Badger Exam” because of a technical glitch with the more complex version. The more advanced version was intended to be adaptive, so students would receive more challenging questions when they get correct answers, but the test builders found problems with the data associated with the questions, including how the answers are scored. The state Department of Education decided to give a non-adoptive version of the test instead., “Wanaque Schools Parents about PARCC Test”: Education officials in New Jersey’s Wanaque school district are confident they are prepared to administer CCSS-aligned PARCC tests this spring. “We are absolutely ready,” superintendent Donna Cardiello told parents, adding that CCSS has provided a new baseline for the skills students should master at each grade level. “[Students are] now required to compare material and cite text evidence in writing” and demonstrate a “deeper understanding of the concepts” in math, Cardiello said. A technology teacher in the District, Ryan Evans, noted students are familiar with the technology necessary to take the test. “This is nothing new to the students,” he said. “as far as the technology is concerned, the students began learning these skills in kindergarten.”

Boston Globe, “In N.H. Poll, Jeb Bush Leads GOP Hopefuls”: A Bloomberg Politics poll finds Gov. Jeb Bush leads the pack of likely Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire with 16% support. However, about one in five likely Republican voters said Gov. Bush’s position on CCSS could be a “deal killer” for them. About the same percentage said Gov. Bush would be the best opponent to face Hilary Clinton, should she enter the race.