News You Can Use:

Las Vegas Review Journal, “Common Core Is a Path to Success for Nevada Students”: Katy Scherr, a third-grade teacher in Nevada with 16 years of experience, writes that in the debate of CCSS the most important voices have largely been “drowned out by politics and heated rhetoric that is not grounded in fact or reality.” “Under the Common Core State standards, the students I teach have a better chance of seeing success in college or their eventual career, which is lost on a 9-year-old but certainly not on that child’s parents. Students are learning to think critically, for themselves, instead of solving math through rote memorization or tricks,” Scherr says. “The Common Core does not tell teachers how to teach…The core does provide for greater professional development and collaboration, because we are now speaking a common language across state lines.” Scherr says that as an elementary school teacher, her role is to equip students with the skill to succeed at higher level learning. “As both a teacher and parent, it frightens me that we are not preparing our children. I know that the Common Core standards will put Nevada’s students on the path to academic success.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional problem solving techniques, CCSS encourage multiple approaches to give students a better understanding of numbers and functions. Like Scherr, most teachers who have worked closely with CCSS say that have seen an improvement in students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Republican Leadership Toning Down Opposition to Common Core”: The energy among Wisconsin lawmakers to repeal CCSS appears to be losing steam, at least temporarily, the article reports. In his State of the State address this month, Gov. Walker softened his rhetoric on the issue by calling for greater choice among schools to choose their own standards, and certain legislators including Assembly Speaker Robni Vos have followed suit. Although at least one bill aimed at halting CCSS in the state is in the works, the article indicates lawmakers anticipate some middle ground compromise that allows districts to choose their standards without requiring the state get rid of CCSS. It notes during the last legislative session more than 100 superintendents and school board members from across the state advocated in support of the Standards.

What It Means: States like South Carolina and Oklahoma demonstrate the perils of replacing CCSS for political reasons. As the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli recently wrote, states seeking to repeal CCSS face a difficult challenge coming up with equally rigorous standards because “Common Core, though not perfect, represents a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college or to land a good-paying job — and the milestones younger students need to pass to reach those goals.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “It’s Time to End the Fight over Common Core”: In response to the recent article efforts to repeal CCSS in Wisconsin are abating (see above), the editorial board says, “Let’s hope so.” “This was always a partisan attack with little basis in reality,” the piece says. “Any futzing with the standards by legislators could potentially be a very big deal for districts trying to assess students.” The piece notes districts should be able to choose the standards they use, but most will likely opt for CCSS because of their rigor and the fact state exams will align with them. “School kids around the nation should all be expected to meet a certain level of achievement. Common Core State Standards can help them do that,” the article argues. “And so if the Republicans are ready to let Common Core go, good for them. It’s always been a fight that didn’t need to be fought.”

What It Means: CCSS are an important tool to help ensure all students are on a path to graduate high school with the skills to succeed in college or a good job. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt the Standards continue to use them, or some rebranded version. As the editorial points out, states’ efforts would be better directed by focusing on ensuring educators have the resources they need to teach to the Standards than on political posturing.

Fresno Bee, “The Real Test of Common Core Is about to Begin”: Noting “more rigorous training means more rigorous testing,” the editorial says California educators are smart to get out in front of upcoming CCSS-aligned tests, which will likely show decreases in student scores. “Though Common Core is a major upgrade from the way students here have learned for a generation, surprises in other states have made it vulnerable to needless drama and politicization,” the piece notes. It adds because the tests establish a new baseline for students, “the new and old testing methods are apples and oranges; comparing the results is like comparing 3D with a snapshot.” “it won’t come as a surprise if it turns out this spring that we all have massive room for improvement. What will be a failure is if those scores don’t rise,” the editorial concludes.

What It Means: As the editorial board points out, CCSS-aligned tests establish a new baseline for students, so it is inaccurate of opponents to say that scores will drop. In fact, the more rigorous tests offer a necessary correction to academic expectations that have been set too low, leading to a high percentage of students who graduate high school unprepared for college or a competitive career.


On Our Reading List:

Wall Street Journal, “Mississippi Drops Common Core Test Provider”: On Friday, the Mississippi board of education voted to withdraw from PARCC tests, “chipping away at the state’s original plans” for using CCSS-aligned tests. In February the state will open the application process for new test providers. A spokesperson for the state education department said the switch wouldn’t lead to any immediate changes for teachers or students.

Associated Press, “Student Testing: Deciding When Enough Is Enough”: Sec. Arne Duncan and Sen. Patty Murray are among those policymakers who agree there is too much student testing but support annual assessments to ensure students’ progress. Former Education Secretary Margaret Spelling added, “If the testing is sound and accurate and valid and reliable and aligned, all those wonky words, then teaching to the test is not necessarily a bad thing.” The article notes most students will take CCSS-aligned tests this spring.

Tennessean, “As Haslam Officially Sworn In, Battles Await”: During his recent inauguration speech, Gov. Haslam did not mention CCSS by name but said, “for too long Tennessee has remained near the bottom of state rankings in academic achievement. Let’s seize on this momentum and on the hard work of our teachers and students to continue the progress that we are making.” He added, “It is not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of the country are on us to see if we can continue to show the significant gains that we have made in the last several years.”

Washington Post, “A Quality Education Is Not Optional”: Sec. Arne Duncan writes NCLB needs to be rewritten, but states “need an annual statewide assessment” to ensure students are making steady progress. “But the tests —and test preparation — must not take excessive time away from classroom instruction. Great teaching, not test prep, is what engages students and leads to higher achievement,” Sec. Duncan writes.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Testing Report Is a ‘Good Start,’ Legislators and Unions Say, but Expect More Debate”: Initial reaction to Ohio superintendent Richard Ross’ report on testing was that “it’s a good start,” the article reports. Ross’ report Thursday, which had been ordered last year by Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature, kicks off what is expected to be a year-long debate over standardized testing in Ohio.