Year in Review: Straight from the Classroom

2015 was a good year for the Common Core State Standards. Despite a spike in efforts to derail the standards, states weighed the evidence, saw past the rhetoric and overwhelmingly continue to implement rigorous academic expectations and high-quality assessments. Today, the Collaborative for Student Success takes a look back at some highlights from coverage of the Common Core during the last year.

Our Favorites from 2015:

Political Attacks on Common Core are Driven by Pandering
Washington Post
Criticism of Common Core State Standards on the campaign trail “border on the absurd,” writes education advocate Campbell Brown. “Let’s be clear about what the Common Core is. It spells out what students should know at the end of each grade. The goal is to ensure that our students are sound in math and literacy and that our schools have some basic consistency nationwide.” The piece closes with advice for presidential hopefuls: “If you want to campaign against core standards, perhaps you should try having core standards of your own first.” Like Campbell, education experts like former Education Secretary Bill Bennett have cautioned that mischaracterizations and baseless falsehoods have disrupted honest debate about high education standards.

The GOP Is Wrong to Run Away from Common Core –  Because the Standards are Working
The Seventy-Four
During the Republican presidential primaries, the Common Core State Standards have been “much maligned,” writes former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, but candidates have every reason to support the standards because they are working. Steadily, states are closing their Honesty Gaps and states leading implementation have achieved some of the biggest academic gains in the country. Like fellow conservative Mary Scott Hunter, Bennett says Republican leaders “should be courageous enough to defend the concept – both in policy and in politics.” “If a state ends up tweaking and renaming the standards, it will be acting in a way that is entirely consistent with how the Common Core was designed to function – as exemplar standards for states to improve and build upon.”

Common Core Can Help Latino Students
Ensuring all students are held to rigorous academic expectations is necessary to begin closing achievement gaps, writes former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. “Throughout the education process, parents deserve to have a true picture of how their children are performing and whether they are prepared for college…Consistent standards and assessments for students throughout the country mean more students will receive exceptional education and have an equal chance to succeed.” Gov. Richardson notes that most states are continuing to build on the Common Core framework to ensure their standards meet students’ needs and help prepare more for success in college and careers.

Hispanic Evangelicals Could Determine GOP Presidential Nominee
Des Moines Register
Latino voters likely hold the keys to the White House in the next election, and therefore both Republican and Democrat leaders should “continue to champion high education standards,” writes Reverend Samuel Rodriguez. “We have a responsibility to hold all young people to rigorous academic expectations… The Hispanic faith community will be listening closely to where candidates stand on reforms that align with the word of God and respect the dignity of all his people.” Like Rev. Rodriguez, civil rights leaders have ramped up calls for high, consistent education standards and high-quality assessments.

Some States’ School Tests Say Kids are Fine, but National Tests Say They Are Not
McClatchy News Service
Often immense discrepancies persist between state-reported proficiency rates and those identified by the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), giving parents and teachers inaccurate information about student readiness. “Too many states are not leveling with students or parents. They’re being told students are proficient, but by external benchmarks they’re not prepared at all,” Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, explained. The findings come from Achieve’s Honesty Gap analysis, which found more than half of all states had a 30-point or more differential between state-reported proficiency rates and that found by NAEP.

How to Keep the Army in Missouri: Improve Schools
St. Louis Post Dispatch
As the Department of Defense considers military base allotment, states should make access to quality education a priority, a Stimson Center report in June concludes. The study emphasizes the inconsistent academic expectations make it nearly impossible for military servicemen and women to determine what kind of education their children will have access to if they are relocated. Common Core State Standards provide greater certainty they will experience less disruption transitioning between schools by setting steady standards among schools. Mary Scott Hunter, an Air Force veteran and a member of the Alabama Board of Education, explains, “Quality education can be a real wild card – particularly when there’s no baseline to ensure quality schools.” The Common Core “addresses the lack of consistency and provides a threshold of learning expectations.”

Common Core Test Wake-Up Call Is on Its Way
USA Today
Results from student assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards are “sobering,” but parents “shouldn’t shoot the messenger,” urges Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Parents deserve to know if their children are learning the skills and knowledge to succeed at high levels of learning, but for long time states inflated proficiency rates to paint an overly rosy outlook. “Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests. They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”

How Common Core Quietly Won the War
While the term “Common Core” may still incite naysayers, the standards have become “a reality on the ground” as most states continue to implement them. “After years of hand-wringing, very few of the 45 states that fully adopted the standards have attempted a clean break — and those that did found it wasn’t easy to do…And the Common Core fits the bill for many principals and teachers. They find big advantages in having shared standards.” Indeed, as Karen Nussle points out, states overwhelmingly are sticking with the Common Core, fine-tuning the standards and building on them further.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Reversal of Bush-Era Education Law Restores Local Control
Collaborative for Student Success
On December 8, Congress approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law two days later. The law is a “huge win for conservatives,” said Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House education committee. “If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.” Karen Nussle reiterated that important point. The Every Student Succeeds Act “forever ends what has long been an Achilles Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.”