News You Can Use:

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “New Common Core Tests Will Test Skills and Reasoning, Not Memorization”: Examining sample questions from Ohio’s spring CCSS-aligned tests, the article notes the material will require students to “think about questions and reading more deeply.” The assessments will qualify students’ reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than knowledge of specific facts. “This isn’t a memorization test,” said Char Shryock, a state curriculum director. “This is a concept, skills and how do you apply your knowledge test.” A Ohio Department of Education official notes the focus on content will alleviate pressures to “teach to the test.” “You’re going to see the tests aligned to the teaching.” The article includes a link to sample questions from the upcoming exam.

What It Means: CCSS put a greater emphasis on students’ ability to demonstrate their reasoning instead of simply whether they arrive at the correct answer. By introducing more problem-solving techniques and encouraging students to demonstrate their work, CCSS help develop stronger fundamental skills to reach higher levels of learning.

Oregonian, “Misguided Bill Would Nudge Parents to Say ‘No’ to State Testing”: The editorial board writes state Rep. Lew Frederick’s bill, which would give parents greater ability withdraw their child from state testing and require schools to inform parents of their right to do so, would turn an “escape hatch into an anything-goes barn door.” “The consequences of such a testing exodus would be felt locally and statewide,” the piece says. It points to a Portland school which dropped to the state’s “lowest ranking rung” because too few students took statewide exams. Additionally, “the data dearth would erode the ability of parents and education officials to gauge school effectiveness,” which ultimately “is why the state’s lawmakers should just say no.” “[Oregon] adopted the Common Core, a rigorous set of academic standards shared by more than 40 other states,” the editorial concludes. “It doesn’t make much sense to adopt ambitious standards, though, if you don’t take the trouble to see how they’re working.”

What It Means: Positive systems of assessments and accountability are one of the strongest tools parents and educators have to ensure high standards achieve their purpose: to adequately prepare students for college and careers. CCSS-aligned tests are designed to provide more constructive feedback so schools can gradually scale back time devoted to testing. And because the Standards, and tests aligned to them, put more focus on students’ ability to demonstrate reasoning, they help alleviate pressures to “teach to the test.”

Jackson Clarion Ledger, “What Common Core Has in Common with Broccoli”: Rachel Canter, director of the education group Mississippi First, writes that the public reaction to CCSS is similar to getting kids to eat their vegetables. CCSS “are the green vegetables of the education world,” Canter says. “We know from independent analyses that they are better than Mississippi’s former low-quality standards. We know that students who master them will be prepared for a better future. And we know that the alternative — going back to our former standards or coming up with new bad standards — is not an option if we want our kids to succeed.” Canter goes on to say the transition to more rigorous expectations is not easy, especially as politicians “have been tempting us” to get rid of the higher standards. “Any high-quality standards are going to look a lot like Common Core, and any high-quality standards are going to be hard — really, really hard — to implement,” Canter concludes. “For our children to do better than we did, we can’t settle for the bad standards of our own childhoods, no matter how easy or pleasing in the moment.”

What It Means: CCSS do ask more of students and teachers and as Canter points out, such transitions are never easy. Common Core Standards are more rigorous than most states’ previous academic requirements and 90% aligned with those of top-performing countries. Although implementation has been imperfect, states that have begun fully teaching to the Standards, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have seen some of the biggest academic gains in the country.

Samuel Rodriguez shared this message at The Reconciled Church Conference hosted by The Potter’s House and broadcasted by Daystar Television. Rev. Rodriguez is Gospel Today Magazine’s Kingdom Culture columnist, and President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). Rev. Rodriguez draws his sermon from a scripture in Revelation 5:9. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Rev. Rodriguez later references the importance of high education standards by asking the congregation: “What is the new song? An educational system that equips our children to thrive in the promise land instead of making bricks without straw in Egypt.”

What It Means: Individuals of faith have every reason to support holding young people to high academic expectations. CCSS set a high bar for all public school students, better ensuring they are able to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college or a career.

Educators for High Standards, “Coherency in Education Standards- Why does it matter?”: Cathy Kotlarek, a mom and educator since 2001 shares her experience with the Common Core State Standards through being an Elementary Instructional Specialist and by observing her first grade daughter’s experience with the Core’s math standards. Cathy points out that education is constantly changing and points to the addition of coherence in Michigan’s new Common Core aligned standards. “Coherence is the idea that standards build over time and progressively get more difficult.  As a student matriculates through school, the concepts that they learn in one grade level prepare them for the concepts they will learn in the next grade level and so on,” she says. She points out that prior to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards; Michigan standards did not have coherence and were “haphazard in this area at best.” Cathy witnesses coherence when she visits the second grade math class at her daughter’s school and sees that students are being asked to work on similar concepts but at an elevated level. She acknowledges that change is hard and that the standards may not be perfect but stresses that they are “leaps and bounds” above the previous standards and that coherence is in part to thank for that.

What It Means: Beginning at early grades, CCSS introduce students to the fundamental skills they will need to reach higher level content. The Standards provide a structured progression of learning, unlike many states previous standards, so that students are prepared for more advanced content and can build off the skills and knowledge they have learned in earlier grades.


Correcting the Record:

Chicago Tribune, “Common Core Tests Spurs Angst among Educators, Parents”: Following last year’s trial run tests, which some students described as the “hardest thing they’ve ever taken,” parents and educators are worried about technical capabilities to administer PARCC exams and the impact they will have on student scores. The article also cites concerns about the amount of time devoted to test preparations. “As we learn more about the assessment, we grow wary,” wrote Superintendent Trisha Kocanda to parents this month. “We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.” The article notes the percentage of students who score proficient on the test will be more in line with national NAEP results.

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS-aligned assessments are designed to give parents and teachers an honest appraisal of student preparedness. Unlike prior exams, PARCC and other CCSS-aligned tests create a new baseline for measuring progress that more accurately reflect the rigors of the higher standards and students’ college- and career-readiness.

Seattle Times, “Key Democratic Committee Condemns Common Core”: The Washington State Democratic Party voted to condemn CCSS on Saturday on grounds the Standards were pushed by private interest groups and incentivized by the Department of Education. The resolution asks state lawmaker to revoke the Standards, though as the article notes it’s unclear whether the move will carry any weight. “To date, there has been no big debate in Washington over the Common Core,” it notes. “The end goal of what we want is the same (as Republicans),” said David Spring, a caucus member. “We all want local control, by a locally controlled school board.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS began as and remain a state-led, locally controlled effort. The Standards were developed by educators and experts from across the country, and were later voluntarily adopted by state authorities. After two national elections, states like Washington continue to use CCSS. Although states were encouraged by the Department of Education to adopt college- and career-ready standards, that requirement accounted for less than 10% of states’ application for funds, and several states that did not adopt or later withdrew from CCSS still qualified.



On Our Reading List:

Bismarck Tribune, “School Board Opposes Bill Eliminating Common Core”: The Bismarck school board voted unanimously to oppose a bill which would require North Dakota to repeal and replace its Common Core-aligned standards. “This bill is fundamentally flawed and misguided,” said one school board member. “It says you can’t have these, you can’t use these, and you cannot even teach to any of the present standards that are aligned to the Common Core.” “Some school districts could have very high standards, some could have very low standards, some could have no standards. Some have no capacity built to get that standard work done,” added another.

Breitbart News, “Sen. David Vitter Introduces Bill Prohibiting Federal Mandate of Common Core Standards”: On Monday, Sen. David Vitter announced he has introduced the Local Control of Education Act, a measure that would ban the federal government from mandating the adoption of specific education standards, curricula or assessments. Rep. Joe Wilson introduced the same bill in the House. “The quality of our children’s education is too high a priority to rely on a one-size-fits-all approach,” Rep. Wilson said in a statement. “The federal government’s overreach into our schools is unprecedented.”