News You Can Use:

Daily Caller, “Advice to Republican Leaders: Don’t Back Down on High Education Standards”: Mary Scott Hunter, who was recently reelected to the Alabama Board of Education despite targeted anti-CCSS attacks, writes that the poles of the Republican party should not be allowed to dictate the conservative platform, especially on education standards. Hunter rejects the idea it is “political treason” to support CCSS. “Conservative Americans have every reason to rally behind Common Core standards,” she says. “The notion of holding our children to higher standards is an inherently conservative ideal.” Citing her experience with the Standards in AL, Hunter points out CCSS ensure local control over textbooks, lesson plans and assignments. “Claims [the Standards] are a national curriculum are either disingenuous or misinformed.” “I encourage my fellow Republicans not to cede the fight for high education standards,” Hunter “Together we can better ensure our children are held to expectations that prepare them to meet the challenges of a changing world – and we can reestablish the Republican Party as the party of pragmatic leadership in doing so.

What It Means: Despite more than a 18 months of targeted attacks, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them, or some rebranded version. As Hunter points out, conservative voters support high education standards to better ensure upward mobility, and they will continue to endorse leaders who stand up for them.

Sacramento Bee, “Grit and Gratitude Join Reading, Writing and Arithmetic on Report Cards”: School districts in California are changing report cards to better reflect CCSS, the article reports. Geared toward capturing students’ critical thinking and analysis skills, the report cards reflect material complexity, problem-solving and ability to demonstrate one’s reasoning. In addition to academic grades, students earn grades to reflect their “social and emotional learning,” which plays an increased role as students are encouraged to collaborate more in the classroom. “It gives you a better understanding of how your child is developing in [math and reading],” one local parent said. The article notes under CCSS and the new metrics, children are introduced to higher level material earlier and encouraged to rely less on pictures and teacher support, and more on developing their own problem-solving skills. “The expectation is a lot higher than it used to be,” said Amy Slavensky, a district director for early education.

What It Means: CCSS set high expectations for students beginning at early grade levels to help ensure they develop strong fundamental skills to reach higher levels of learning. As the article points out, CCSS encourage collaboration and independent thought and present students with multiple problem-solving approaches to work through problems.

Peoria Journal Star, “Tremont Grade School Explores New Methods of Math Education”: First-grade students at a local Peoria school are using creative learning aids and techniques that incorporate real-world applications to approach math concepts aligned to CCSS, the article reports. “We’ve gone beyond pencil and paper and into engagement, which reflects society and the work world. There is a lot of collaboration,” the school’s principal Becky Hansen notes. Tremont District is one of 15 Illinois school districts piloting math programs to provide students with more hands-on learning opportunities. “Now we’re teaching real-world applications and asking students to look for different ways to solve a problem,” says District superintendent Jeff Hinman.

What It Means: In schools like Tremont Elementary across the country, educators are using new teaching techniques and resources to help students better understand math concepts and meet the benchmarks set forth by CCSS. In addition to traditional math techniques like memorization, the Standards emphasize multiple problem-solving methods to help students develop strong fundamental building blocks to reach higher levels of learning during their K-12 careers.

Palm Beach Post, “An Uptick in Classroom Table Orders and Other Things Educators Noticed on the Way to the Common Core”: The transition to curricula aligned to CCSS has introduced many practical classroom changes, including the use of more table seating instead of individual desks. “The tables reflected the change in instruction that moved from students listening to a teacher to students talking among themselves,” the article reports. “An emphasis on simply getting the right answer has become ‘How did you get the answer?’” “Math used to be about memorization of procedure, and we’ve changed the ballgame,” one North Carolina teacher said. Participants at the conference encouraged parents to contact teachers if they have trouble understanding their child’s homework. Assignments are no longer about “working the odd problems and checking the back of the book,” another teacher added. “We have to be judicious in what we expect from our teachers and our students.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional problem-solving methods, CCSS introduce students to multiple techniques in order to provide a stronger conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. The Standards put a greater emphasis on students’ ability to show their reasoning rather than if they simply arrived at the correct answer, which encourages greater collaboration and engagement, like the article points out.



Correcting the Record:

Ed Week, “Why It Matters If the Common Core Is Less and Less Common”: The fact some states are modifying or rebranding CCSS, or moving away from CCSS-aligned testing consortia is a big deal that gets lost in the “back-and-forth” between supporters and critics, Rick Hess writes. CCSS were propelled by the promise they were more rigorous than states’ previous standards, and that they would allow educators to collaborate across district and state lines. “The most interesting thing to me in all this has been how Common Core advocates have seemed ready and willing to toss commonality overboard in their quest to get states to make a paper pledge to adopt ‘higher’ standards,” Hess writes. “Along the way, advocates have been forced to imply that a paper commitment to their preferred standards is going to make a big difference for students and schools—even as the standards, tests, and exercise grow increasingly fragmented. I think that’s a dubious assumption.”

Where They Went Wrong: Hess conflates states’ ownership of CCSS as “fragmentation” or a sign they are abandoning CCSS. Yes, states are reviewing the Standards, building on them, and making changes where necessary. That shouldn’t be confused with repeal. All but one of the 45 states that initially adopted CCSS continue to use them or some nearly identical version. CCSS do not dictate what tests states should use, but even so a majority of those that adopted the Standards continue to use PARCC or Smarter Balanced. Although rollout has not been perfect, states have shown a commitment to comparable standards.      



On Our Reading List:

Philadelphia Enquirer, “Time Out for Teachers Who Counseled to Opt Out of Tests?”: Several teachers at the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences could face disciplinary action for encouraging parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. Earlier in the school year the teachers held pickets to disseminate fliers and discuss with parents options for having students skip the state exams. “We don’t know if the district will take action, but we want to make sure we have all the facts,” said a district spokesperson. “We don’t know if it was made clear to the parents that this represents the personal views of the teachers, not the School District of Philadelphia or the principal.”

Washington Post, “The GOP Needs Donald Trump to Go Away. Now.”: Aaron Blake writes Donald Trump’s intra-party bashing (at the Iowa Freedom Summit he criticized Mitt Romney and separately Jeb Bush for supporting CCSS) “has diminishing – if any – returns for the Republican Party.” “It’s no secret why Trump is doing this. He’s not getting as much attention for his potential presidential candidacy this year, and there’s no better way to get attention than to start fighting with your own party,” Blake writes. “Trump has moved from a sideshow with a base to a sideshow without a base…[F]or a Republican Party that is trying to broaden its appeal going forward, dealing with its Donald Trump problem would be a pretty good start.”