News You Can Use:

Reg Blog, “Common Misperceptions”: Annice Brave, Illinois’ 2011 Teacher of the Year, explains what Common Core English standards look like in practice, noting they encourage students to “read as explorers” and are designed to prepare students for college- and career-level challenges. “Now, instead of reserving rich, close-reading activities for my gifted and honors students, this is how I teach all of my classes,” Brave writes. “We certainly do not avoid grade-level appropriate texts just because the students struggle. We take the time and energy necessary to dig into rich texts and search for understanding, even though it is often difficult.” Brave adds that teachers are “feeling fatigue, not from teaching but from defending the choices we make in implementing these demanding standards in our classrooms.”

What It Means: Teachers are among CCSS staunchest supporters. More than two-thirds of those that have worked closely with the Standards say they have seen an improvement in students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skill, and 84% believe implementation is going well. It’s unfortunate, as Brave points out, much of their efforts have to be devoted to defending the Standards against ungrounded attacks instead of focused on their proper implementation in the classroom.

Tennessean, “Legislation Threatens Student Progress”: Sumner teacher James Dittes writes that as an educator, a desire to provide a high-quality education for all students permeates every aspect of his job. “But while I can focus on high standards in my own children’s education and in my classroom, sometimes I question if Tennessee’s leaders — the ones who fund schools and wield power over educational standards — really understand where our children rank,” Dittes adds, pointing out Tennessee’s education system until remained in the 1980s. Dittes applauds Gov. Haslam’s “Drive to 55” plan, and says providing greater access to college and technical schools “adds a greater need for excellence in our elementary, middle and high schools to make sure students are ready to enter college and excel there.” At three different events this month Dittes will host events to discuss the importance of CCSS for Tennessee.

What It Means: As Dittes points out, ensuring students are adequately prepared for college or a competitive career requires high standards at every grade level to put them on a path to graduate with the skills they need to succeed. By holding students to higher expectations, CCSS help students of all background master the fundamental abilities necessary for long-term success.

Lake Country Now (WI), “Districts Don’t Foresee Changes with Governor’s Call to Rid Common Core”: Despite Gov. Scott Walker’s call to allow schools to choose which standards to use, most districts don’t anticipate it will affect their use of CCSS. Educators points to the fact the will they will still need to prepare students for assessments aligned to the Standards, which provides an impetus to stick with them. “I don’t believe the issue is with the Common Core. They are rigorous standards — far more so than the previous Wisconsin Model Academic Standards — and they challenge students to develop a deeper understanding of subject matter, learn how to think critically and apply what they are learning to the real world,” said one district superintendent Roger Rindo. “The real issue, in my view, is the amount of testing we are forced to do with our students, and I recognize that much of that is out of the state’s control at this time.” “To eliminate the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and move in a different direction would mean all the work of the past four years that has gone into implementing the mandated standards would result in a significant waste of financial and human resources,” added another superintendent Craig Jefson.

What It Means: Teachers in states like Wisconsin are committed to successfully implementing CCSS because the Standards represent a big improvement on those most states used before. As the article notes, educators have made big investments over the past five years preparing to teach to the Standards. Polling finds those who have worked closely with CCSS continue to support their implementation and believe they will improve students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills.



Correcting the Record:

Daily Caller, “Common Core Is Rapidly Sinking across the Country”: Pointing to new legislation designed to limit the federal government’s involvement in state education issue, Eric Owen writes CCSS “is fast becoming a national flop.” “Now, the multistate standards are under attack in another batch of states. Nationally, Republican lawmakers are also attempting to limit the reach of Common Core.” Owen says state leaders have “been on the warpath” against CCSS, pointing to Gov. Scott Walker’s call for Wisconsin schools to pick which standards they use and a bill in New Mexico to review the state’s use of CCSS.

Where They Went Wrong: After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to adopt CCSS still use them or some rebranded version. States like South Carolina, which sought to repeal the Standards based on political motivations, have run into serious problems trying to come up with equally as rigorous academic criteria, creating uncertainty for teachers and putting students at a disadvantage. Gov. Walker even backed off of calls to replace the Standards, instead asking that districts decide which standards to use. As supporters of CCSS have pointed out, regardless of whether states use the Common Core, the Standards should serve as a benchmark for quality education requirements.



On Our Reading List:

Chicago Tribune, “Chicago Public Schools Defies Mandate on New Standardized Exam, PARCC”: The Chicago Public Schools system said it would administer PARCC exams in just 66 of its more than 600 schools this spring despite a state mandate it use the CCSS-aligned tests. The other schools will continue to use exams given in the past. “We’re not asking to be exempt, we’re not saying ‘Dump PARCC, dump Common Core,’” said district superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett. She added PARCC exams will be fully implemented next year when district wide access to computers has improved.

Washington Post, “Jeb’s To-Do List”: Columnist Jennifer Rubin writes Gov. Jeb Bush faces the challenge of defining his conservative credentials before his opponents do. Of his support for CCSS, Rubin writes, “Bush needs to explain why standards matter, how Common Core got started (a pact among governors) and put himself foursquare against federal manipulation and intrusion.”

Inside Higher Ed, “GED Numbers Down amid Transition”: The number of people who earned a GED last year declined significantly as the exam was revamped to reflect the skills students need to succeed in college or the workforce. “In 2014, roughly 248,000 people took the test. At least 86,000 successfully earned a GED, according to preliminary data from GED Testing Services. That’s far below the previous year’s numbers: 800,000 test takers and nearly 560,000 GED recipients in 2013,” the article reports. Officials say it is misleading to compare the yearly numbers because the new exams test to more rigorous material and the absolute numbers do not paint a full picture of participation.