News You Can Use:

Red Blog, “Stay the Course, or Turn the Page?”: The public policy debate over education reform, an d particularly CCSS, is both a matter of principle and technicality, which is one reason why both side are “talking past each other,” writes Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli. Many critics oppose the Standards on ideological grounds, Petrilli says, while on the other side supporters don’t want to “pull the rug out from under educators.” “To us, it seems like an irresponsible, not-very-conservative risk to repeal the standards in the hope that states might be able to come up with something better. Especially because, to date, the evidence is that the states will not find something better.” Because some opponents who oppose CCSS on principle are unwilling to find common ground, politicians will have to choose sides, Petrilli says. “Is it all about the base, or is standing up for higher standards worth the trouble?”

What It Means: Petrilli points out that unable to find fault with the quality of CCSS, most critics have based their opposition on issues of principle, like whether states should set high standards for students. As Petrilli wrote previously, it’s difficult to find replacements for the Standards that are equally as rigorous, and states like South Carolina which have sought to created big setbacks for students and teachers. On the other hand, those that have fully implemented CCSS, like Kentucky, have seen some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Biloxi Sun Herald (MS), “State’s Top Educator Won’t Stop Pushing Common Core”: Mississippi superintendent Carey Wright is continuing to advocate for CCSS despite political pushback. “I have no idea why (Common Core) is a lightning rod,” she told the Sun Herald editorial board. In December the state Education Department released a five-year plan based on the Standards, and Wright says it plans to adhere to it. Part of that effort is working with lawmakers to emphasize CCSS do not stop districts from developing curricula. “This is how you start solving problems,” Wright said, “when you start to talk about it. But that doesn’t mean it will be solved overnight.”

What It Means: Across the country, educators who have worked closely with CCSS continue to support their implementation. A recent Scholastic study found more than two-thirds of teachers who had worked with the Standards for a year or more report they have seen an improvement in student’s critical thinking and reasoning abilities, and 84% believe the transition in the classroom is going well.

Newark Star-Ledger, “Give N.J.’s New PARCC Tests a Chance”: Calling PARCC exams the “next step in the decades-old” process to develop assessments that ensure students are meeting the state’s education standards, director of the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association Patricia Wright says the exams are “fully aligned with the Common Core and will more accurately gauge our students’ mastery of these new standards.” “PARCC data will help us monitor each student’s progress by helping to identify strengths and weaknesses. Schools can then respond accordingly with improvements in local curriculum, instruction and assessment,” Wright notes. “PARCC will fulfill its promise to provide exactly what many educators and parents have been asking for when it comes to standardized tests – relevant, significant, real world assessment that will provide meaningful feedback so that parents and educators can make informed decisions.”

What It Means: CCSS-aligned tests, like PARCC, are designed to provide parents, educators and students a better measure of how well students are progressing in order to graduate high school prepared for the challenges of college-level work or a competitive job. Because the exams are aligned to CCSS, they discourage “teaching to the test” and better reflect a student’s ability to demonstrate content mastery. And by providing more constructive measures for teachers and students, they help schools devote less time to testing.

Nevada Appeal, “Why You Can Feel Good about Supporting Nevada Standards”: Loree Gerboth, a Nevada teacher for over 16 years, says that under CCSS curriculum will vary from district to district, but “the goals will be the same” – an important distinction from the state’s previous standards which created huge discrepancies in what was taught in schools, and how well it was taught. “Previously in Nevada, our standards were like a checklist of skills we would cover… they didn’t prepare our students for taking rewarding, complex jobs in the 21st century and they didn’t prepare them for college.” Gerboth points out 55% of Nevada students entering college require remediation. Citing examples of what learning looks like under CCSS in a first-grade classroom, Gerboth concludes, “By teaching children to persevere and learning that problems can have more than one solution, we are providing Nevada children with tools that will prepare them for success in a way we never have before.”

What It Means: In classrooms of every grade level, teachers are seeing improvements in student learning under CCSS. Polling indicates more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards say they have seen gains in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills. As Gerboth points out, the Standards create more cohesion across schools and districts, enabling teachers to work together to unlock students’ full potential.




Correcting the Record:

Today Show, “The Battle over School Recess”: As more school fully transition curricula to align with CCSS, some school administrators say they no longer have time for recess, the report says. Because the Standards, and tests aligned to them, are more challenging teacher say they need more time to prepare students, and often the only area to cut back is recess. One Orange County, Florida teacher says because teacher evaluations and funding are tied to test scores there is more pressure to focus greater time on classroom instruction. Without mentioning CCSS, Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County schools, says, “We will come to a place in Florida, and probably nationally, where we will have to admit we don’t have enough minutes in the day to get everything done we would like to accomplish for our children.”

Where They Went Wrong: The report is correct that CCSS ask more of teachers and students in order to help students of all backgrounds to achieve to higher levels of learning. But successes like those at Lockwood elementary – a school where most students come from low-income families but outperformed most other schools in the state by incorporating creative, active lesson plans (like having students play games) – demonstrate there are many ways to more effectively teach to higher levels without cutting student’s play time. The report also ignores that most teachers who are familiar with CCSS support the Standards’ implementation.

Reuters, “Senator Rand Paul Blast Common Core Education Program in New Hampshire Swing”: During a swing through New Hampshire on Wednesday, Sen. Paul criticized CCSS as a federal intrusion into local classrooms, an attack similar to accusation he has promoted before. “If you have a national curriculum and rules, you’ll never get to these new ideas,” Sen. Paul said during an event at a local charter school. Sen. Paul added that he would rather see local schools develop their own standards.

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS do not dictate curriculum, as Sen. Paul suggests. By setting high expectations for students and allowing local and state officials decide how and what to teach, the Standards better ensure students are prepared to graduate high school prepared for college or a career without disrupting districts’ and states’ autonomy. Polling indicates teachers who have worked closely believe the Standards are working, and that they actually equip teachers with greater flexibility and control. Additionally, across the country states are taking ownership of the Standards by building on them further and honing them to ensure they meet their students needs.

National Review, “Jeb’s Common Core Hurdle”: After defending his position on CCSS (when asked if CCSS was being used as a tool to create a national school board during an interview with ABC’s John Karl, Bush said, “Based on the facts, as I know them, that’s not the accurate…There’s this fear on the right about this massive government overreach, and I totally appreciate that, but that’s not what this is.”), Max Eden writes Gov. Bush “still ought to be indignant about how [CCSS] were adopted.” Eden says states were bribed into adopting the Standards and “coerced into retaining it.” The piece concludes by encouraging Gov. Bush to “weigh in and lay down” a marker that he believes the federal government should not be involved in local education (Bush has said so already). “If he does so, he will turn his position on the Common Core from an issue of principle into an issue of content, and have much firmer ground to stand upon in the primaries.”

Where They Went Wrong: Conservatives, including Gov. Bush, roundly agree it was a mistake for the Obama Administration to tamper with CCSS by tying federal funds to it. Still, it was hardly the coercion Eden laments; having college- and career-ready standards accounted for less than 10% of a state’s application for RTTT funds, and states were allowed to adopt any standards that met those criteria. States that didn’t adopt CCSS still received funding, and others that withdrew from the Standards still received NCLB waivers.



On Our Reading List:

CNN, “Rating 2016 Candidates by Donor Busts Conventional Wisdom”: A new political candidate ranking system developed by researchers at Stanford University, which uses donor information to predict where candidates will stand on issues, suggests Gov. Jeb Bush is largely in line with mainstream Republican on education issues. “He actually more conservative than a lot of people are assuming,” said the group’s cofounder Steve Hilton. “The data we have suggests that he’s much more in line with the [Republican] average than people are thinking.”

Philadelphia Enquirer, “In Camden, Signs of Progress”: Camden School District superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard writes the district’s schools have made providing every student with a quality education a top priority, and part of that has been implementing CCSS. As part of the Camden Commitment plan, “Our graduation rate is up six points, and our drop-out rate is the lowest it’s been in three years,” Rouhanifard writes. The piece notes less a quarter of the area’s students can read and do math on grade level, and more than half of Camden parents say they wish their child attended a different school. In the new year, we will continue working to give students and families the great school options they deserve…We will update our curricula to better align with the Common Core standards.”