Common Core Standards Daily Update // January 5, 2015

News You Can Use:

Washington Post: “Common Core Standards Aren’t So Easy to Replace”: Michael Petrilli and Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute write, “if our fellow Republicans move to embrace standards that are even higher than Common Core, they’d better have a realistic plan for putting them in place.” Noting the much of the strength of CCSS “stems from its rigor, not its sameness,” the authors point out none of the states that have indicated they want to replace the Standards have written higher college- and career-readiness criteria. “The basic problem is that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like CommonCore” because CCSS incorporate the best evidence of what students need to know to graduate high school ready for college or career level work. Petrilli and Brickman add that starting from scratch “pulls the rug out from under educators who have spent almost five years implementing Common Core in their classrooms.”

What It Means: As Petrilli and Brickman note, calls to repeal CCSS without a plan of how to replace them with equally strong standards amounts to “political posturing and pandering at the expense of our children.” CCSS are structured on evidence-based criteria of what students need to know to be college- and career-ready upon completing high school, and states which have fully implemented the Standards, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have seen steady gains in student outcomes.



Tennessean: “Standards for Incoming College Students Are Too Low”: John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, writes that about 70 percent of college-bound high school graduates aren’t prepared for college-level work, forcing them into remediation before they can begin credit-bearing coursework. “The gap in college preparation comes at a cost. Students and their families pay tuition for non credit-bearing remedial courses while the state and institutions invest scarce public resources into strategies to catch students up,” Morgan says. “The problem is our expectations have been too low. Setting a higher bar for children in elementary and secondary school will ultimately result in better prepared high school graduates.” Since implementing CCSS, Tennessee has made “dramatic improvements” in college-readiness scores. “We cannot afford to back up on several years of training thousands of teachers on the new standards, or the investment of millions of dollars to implement them. There is too much at stake,” Morgan concludes.

What It Means: States like Tennessee, which have fully implemented CCSS, have experienced some of the biggest academic gains across the country as a result of holding all students to higher educational expectations. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards say they have seen an improvement in students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills. As more states continue to move forward with CCSS, they will see gains comparable to states like Tennessee.



NPR: “The Man Behind Common Core Math”: When educators and experts from 48 states began developing CCSS, they “knew the transition would be tough,” but none could have anticipated the political struggles that would ensue – including Jason Zimba, one of the lead math writers. “It was not our job to do the politics while we were writing,” said Phil Daro, another of the math writers. The Standards evolved out of the recognition that academic expectations varied widely from state to state and even between school districts, and that “most American grade-level guidelines were ‘a mile wide and an inch deep.’” In 2009, under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), experts from across the country began working to develop a more rigorous criteria better aligned to top performing countries that states could adopt and build on further to create a level playing field. “During the course of the next year, they consulted with state officials, mathematicians and teachers, including a union group. Draft after draft was passed back and forth,” the article notes. Political pushback and publishers stamping material CCSS-aligned even if it wasn’t (the article references a CCSS-aligned math worksheet copyrighted in 1999) muddied the fact “there’s actually very little fuzziness to the math in the Common Core.” The article concludes the success of CCSS hinges on states’ and schools’ ability to develop curricula that achieves the mission of the Standards: to improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps.

What It Means: Zimba addresses the misconception CCSS were driven by private interests when he says, “I wish people understood what a massive process it was, and how many people were involved. It was a lot of work…Previous standards ranged from terrible to not good enough. The best of them were little more than test blueprints. They were not a blueprint for learning math.” Discrepancies between states’ standards (the article notes about a third of states didn’t require students to memorize multiplication tables) left holes the education system and produced high school graduates unprepared for college or a career. CCSS aim to reduce the need for, and costs of, remediation, and better prepare all students to graduate with the critical thinking and reasoning skills to succeed in a competitive environment.



Miami Herald: “Smart Conservatism Is at the Core”: Helen Aguirre Ferré writes CCSS has become controversial because “it shakes up the status quo,” but implementing rigorous standards is critical to ensure student graduate high school prepared for college- and career-level demands. “States and district boards of education should be concerned about Common Core, but not because their power to create policy may be siphoned. They should be concerned that they are not up to snuff to create and implement successful educational programs that will make students more competitive worldwide,” Ferré adds. She concludes, “By supporting Common Core, [former Gov. Jeb Bush] opens up the discussion as to what our national academic standards should look like. For that debate, Bush is at the right place and at the right time.”

What It Means: As Ferré points out, CCSS “asks much more of schools, students and their families.” By setting higher expectations for all students, the Standards ensure children are on track to graduate high school prepared to meet the challenges of college or a career, regardless of where they grow up or go to school.



Stars And Stripes: “Uniform Standards Will Help DODEA Students”: Common Core is especially beneficial to children in military families, writes retired Major General Bennie Williams, a 35-year Army Veteran. “My family moved 17 times during my military service. My children did a great job adapting to new school environments, but they also had to work extra hard to catch up and learn content that was not covered by their previous schools.” The Common Core State Standards can help ensure that children are receiving a consistent, high-quality education no matter where they live and go to school. Williams also underscores the need to raise standards so that graduating students are prepared to enter the military: “According to the Department of Defense, an estimated 71 percent of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to join the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, are physically unfit or have a criminal record.”

What It Means: Major General William’s’ remarks highlight the importance of consistent, high-quality standards and aligned assessments for not just our military families, but our national preparedness as well. Just as business and industry need a highly qualified workforce to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, our armed forces need the same highly-qualified soldiers, sailors, Marines, and aviators to protect our national security.



Correcting the Record:

Washington Post: “Immigration and Common Core Stand in Jeb Bush’s Way”: Conservative pundit George Will writes “for some Republicans, [Gov. Jeb Bush’s] virtues and achievements are vitiated by his positions on immigration and the Common Coreeducation standards.” Will adds Gov. Bush’s position that a candidate must be willing to lose the primary to win the general election is comparable to stealing first in baseball. Of CCSS, Will says the Standards open the door to greater federal control of education. “The federal government will not stop short of finding in Common Core a pretext for becoming a national school board…standards will shape what is tested, and textbooks will be ‘aligned’ with the tests.” Will ends, “If Bush does not see the pertinence of this episode to Common Core, which is the thin end of a potentially enormous federal wedge, he should not be put in charge of the executive branch.”

Where They Went Wrong: Objective analysis has refuted the idea that CCSS represents a federal overreach into state education issues. As former Gov. Bob Riley pointed outrecently, CCSS are designed “to make sure there was a firewall between the federal government coming in and dictating policy to each individual state.” As Petrilli and Brickman write, the strength of CCSS comes not only from their commonality, but from their rigor. Under the Standards, states and districts retain full control of how and what is taught in classrooms, and in many states leaders continue to build on CCSS to ensure they preserve the integrity of their schools.



New York Times: “Rage against the Common Core”: UC Berkley professor David Kirp writes the “mishandled rollout [of CCSS] turned a conversation about pedagogy into an ideological and partisan debate over high-stakes testing.” Kirp points out the Standards “invite creativity in the classroom” and emphasize critical thinking and reasoning skills, but CCSS-aligned testing takes away from valuable learning time. “Had the public schools been given breathing room, with a moratorium on high-stakes tests…resistance to the Common Core would most likely have been less fierce. But in states where the opposition is passionate and powerful, it will take a herculean effort to get the standards back on track.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS-aligned tests are designed to give educators more constructive guidance about how well they are preparing students, so that schools can gradually devote less time to assessments. The goal is better tests, not more tests. Strong systems of accountability are important to ensure high standards achieve their purpose of ensuring all students have the skills and critical thinking abilities to succeed in a career or at college-level coursework.



Washington Post: “How Hard Would It Be to Replace the Common Core with Something Better?”: In response to the piece by Michael Petrilli and Michael Brickman explaining the difficulty of replacing CCSS is “that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core,” (see above) Sandra Stotsky, a vocal opponent of CCSS, says, “Their claims have no legs to stand on.” Stotsky points to Massachusetts’ former standards, which “looked nothing likeCommon Core,” as a “basis for classroom curricula, for professional development for practicing teachers, for licensure regulations and test for prospective teachers.” “Almost all the students at the Advanced level and about 80 percent of the students at the Proficient level who had enrolled in four-year public colleges and universities in the Bay State in 2005 needed no remediation in mathematics or reading,” Stotsky writes. “I know that it was easy to implement the Massachusetts 2001 English language arts and 2000 mathematics standards. How do I know? Because I was there.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Stotsky’s claims Massachusetts’ former standards looked nothing like CCSS, a study by the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) found “substantial concurrence between the Common Core standards and the comparison standards [those of Massachusetts, among others].” Additionally, Stotsky conflates writing standards with implementation. In states like Missouri and South Carolina, educators have run into problems trying to develop new standards that are equally as rigorous as CCSS.



PBS NewsHour: “What Will Sink and What Will Survive as States Test Common Core?”: Drawing comparisons to an overcrowded lifeboat, the report says, “who gets thrown over, that’s a great way to think about the Common Core these days.” Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute notes, “We moved to a system of national standards without ever having had a meaningful debate about doing that…You will reward teachers based on it. You will evaluate schools based on it.” Catherine Gewertz, a journalist at Ed Week, adds, “Teachers are not getting what they need at all…The states are nervous. Any time more kids don’t meet the proficiency mark, it’s a politically very difficult position for states.” CCSSO’s Chris Minnich provides some balance, pointing out, “There are states that have had — have great implementation stories…In the places where it’s not, we need to make sure that we tweak that and we solve those problems. But, quite frankly, this is going well across the country right now.” The report notes at least 38 states are continuing to hold course with CCSS but concludes, “This spring’s Common Core tests could produce another storm.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the notion CCSS is a sinking ship, after two national elections and more than nearly five years preparing to implement the Standards all but one of the 45 states to adopt CCSS continue to use them or a rebranded version of them. States that have fully implemented the Standards, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have experienced some of the biggest academic gains in the country, and others will see the similar results as the move forward with the more rigorous expectations. More than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards say they have seen improvements in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and about eight in 10 teachers say the feel prepared to teach to the Standards, according to a recent Scholastic poll.



On Our Reading List:

Washington Post, “20 Conservative Resolutions for 2015”: Columnist Jennifer Rubin compiles a list of New Year’s resolutions “conservatives would be well advised” to stick with, including: “Get the facts right on immigration, Common Core, gay marriage and other hot-button issues. Pay attention to what actual voters think, not what right-wing media and Beltway money-grubbing groups say,” and “Keep in mind the kind of GOP candidates who won in 2014. Find more of them for 2016, at every level.”

Washington Post, “Republicans in State Governments Plan Juggernaut of Conservative Legislation”: With control of 31 governorships and 68 of 98 partisan legislative chambers, state Republican leaders plan to push a “new tide of conservative laws,” the article reports. Among those efforts CCSS will be a target. “Some states will attempt to join those [Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina] in leaving the program altogether. Others will try to change testing requirements or prevent the sharing of education data with federal officials. In recent interviews, several Republican governors who supportCommon Core say they expect debate in their forthcoming legislative sessions.” A US News article adds that opposition to the Standards “won’t dwindle in 2015.” “With Republicans taking control of the House and Senate as well as several gubernatorial positions across the country, it’s likely there could be an even greater effort to scale back the standards.”

Associated Press, “Gov. Cuomo Rejects Teacher Evaluation Change”: On Dec. 29, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rejected legislation that would have put a two-year moratorium on tying CCSS-aligned tests to teacher evaluations. In a statement, Cuomo called the bill “unnecessary” because it wouldn’t “fix the foundational issues with the teacher evaluation system.” Less than 1% of New York teachers were rated ineffective; 95% were deemed either effective or highly effective. Earlier this year Gov. Cuomo said he supported the bill. Gov. Cuomo said he will propose “comprehensive reforms” next year to improve the teacher assessment process. The New York United Teachers union said it will protest the decision this afternoon. “With this veto, the governor has decided that teachers are the only ones who should be held accountable for the state’s failed implementation of theCommon Core,” the union said in a statement.

Washington Post, “Third-Graders Won’t Take New Common Core Test in Spring”: Ohio third-grade students will continue to take the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Assessment next spring instead of CCSS-aligned tests. Last week, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that pushes back the use of PARCC tests for third-grade reading. The article reports districts leaders worried introducing the new test could complicate whether the state would use the fall or spring exams to determine whether students meet proficiency requirements to move onto the next grade.

Arizona Daily Star, “New Schools Chief: Common Core Changes Gradual”: Arizona’s newly elected superintendent Diane Douglas, who ran on an anti-CCSS platform, tempered her campaign rhetoric by saying she will not seek to immediately dismantle the Standards. “I’m not going to whip a set of standards out of my back pocket and say, ‘This is what it’s going to be now,’ because that’s as bad as what was done before,” Douglas said. She added that teachers should be involved in crafting new standards and maintained that CCSS were “controlled by federal bureaucrats in Washington.”

Memphis Commercial Appeal, “Education, Taxes among Top Mississippi Issues”: As Mississippi’s three-month legislative session begins on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn — all Republicans — have expressed displeasure with Mississippi’s use of Common Core academic standards, the article reports. “However, with an independent state superintendent of education and Board of Education, it’s unclear how much influence the Legislature will have on repealing or revising the standards.”

Associated Press, “10 Things to Watch in ’15 ahead of Iowa Caucus”: In the Republican primary candidates have “more similarities than differences,” and CCSS could become an explosive point of contention among leaders, the article notes. “The issue could emerge as a deal breaker among many conservatives who hold great sway in Republican primaries.”

Washington Post, “Huckabee to Depart Fox News to Consider 2016 Presidential Run”: Former Arkansas governor and host of the political commentary show Huckabee Mike Huckabee announced on Jan. 3 he will leave Fox News to consider a presidential bid in 2016. “There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for President. And if I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show. But I can’t make such a declaration,” Gov. Huckabee said on Saturday. Gov. Huckabee has been a strong supporter of high education standards, calling them “near and dear to his heart,” even though he later walked back support for CCSS saying the brand had become tarnished by political debate.

US News, “Regaining Control of Public Education”: Discussing successes in education under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former education chancellor Joel Klein says CCSS set rigorous and appropriate expectations for students. “I think the CommonCore sets a realistic approach to standards across the country that the governors have adopted and are now implementing. I think it’s more demanding than virtually any state standards that existed prior to it, and I think we need standards that make sure when our students graduate, they’re college ready. So Common Core is an important anchor.”