News You Can Use:

The State (SC), “Editorial: SC Shouldn’t Replace Common Core with Inferior Teaching Standards”: Weighing in on South Carolina’s decision to rewrite education standards, the editorial board says the move was largely “the result of a campaign by professional agitators to drum up anger” and calls the recently unveiled replacement standards “an incoherent mess.” “They are a huge step backwards, a dumbing-down of what students are now being taught,” the piece reports, citing 13,000 comments from teachers and parents. “[T]his boondoggle was brought to you by the people who complain the loudest about how wasteful public education is. And in this case, they’ve made it so,” it adds. The replacement process will cost SC taxpayers about $66 million. The piece concludes by encouraging state education officials to refuse to sign off on the new standards until they are “at least as academically rigorous” and “go at least as far toward teaching students the critical-thinking skills to compete in today’s job market” as CCSS, and to give educators at least an additional year to work on new standards.

What It Means: The editorial speaks volumes about the pitfalls of repealing CCSS based on political motivations. Like Missouri and Oklahoma, South Carolina introduced greater uncertainty for teachers and students and threatens to put schools at a disadvantage by replacing CCSS with inferior, rushed education standards. The piece puts it well: “Even if we wanted to abandon the standards that professionals in our state and others spent years carefully writing, even if we wanted to reject the idea that algebra is the same in South Carolina and California and that students in South Carolina should be expected to read as well as those in New Hampshire, it makes no sense to rush shoddy new standards into place.”

Hechinger Report, “New York School Beats the Odds by ‘Going Rogue’ on Common Core”: Lockwood Elementary in Gainesville, NY, where the median income is less than $23K and more than 40% of students qualify for free lunch, transition from “floundering” on state tests in 2012 to outperforming most schools in the state last year. Local educators, including district superintendent Julia Reed, attribute the turnaround to early adoption of CCSS, in-depth teacher training and ensuring direct access to Common Core material for students and teachers. Last year 65% of the Lockwood students scored proficient in math, up from 40% the year before and nearly double the state average (36%). In English, 51% of students met proficiency, doubling from the previous year. Teachers note the school did less testing last year than any recent year and “basically no test prep in advance of the state exams.” Of the challenges of meeting the more rigorous standards, one teacher said, “We didn’t expect our kids to be able to do a lot of these things. I think we underestimated them.” “You see kids learning, and having success, it really makes you keep going,” added another.

What It Means: The article emphasizes that when teachers and schools have the support and resources to properly teach to higher content aligned to CCSS they are able to help students achieve significant academic improvements. The piece makes no qualms that meeting the rigors of the higher standards ask a lot of both teachers and students, but by setting high expectations they help improve student outcomes. The evidence from Lockwood Elementary mirrors the success states like Kentucky and Tennessee, which have seen proficiency and college-readiness rates steadily increase since fully implementing CCSS.


On Our Reading List:

PBS NewsHour, “Is the New GED Test an Educational Improvement or Setback?”: The General Educational Development (GED) test is being redeveloped to meet new academic requirements outlined by CCSS. The article reports fewer people are taking and passing the exam as a result. In Wisconsin and Rhode Island, the number of people who passed the exam dropped by more than 90%; in Florida number of test takers fell by about 50%. Randy Task of GED Testing Service says the changes are necessary to reflect the more rigorous content taught in schools. The last test was developed in 2001. In the report, Lecester Johnson of Academy of Hope says the bar has been raised for the exam but not for classes preparing test takers.

Ed Week, “Governors Laud ‘Higher Standards,’ Plead for NCLB Renewal in NGA Speeches”: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, head of the National Governors Association (NGA), applauded states that are “raising their expectations of students,” but noted higher standards only is not enough to improve student outcomes. “What students learn and how well they learn will not change much unless we improve the quality of teaching and leadership within our schools,” he said in his State of the States address. Of standardized testing, he said, “It’s about quality, not quantity. When done well, students are better prepared for postsecondary education, avoid remedial classes, and are on a path to obtaining a relevant certificate or degree to enter the workforce and the middle class.”

Times Picayune, “Louisiana’s Newest Education Official Opposes Common Core”: Mary Harris, the newest member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said on Tuesday she opposes CCSS. “I would like to see something replace Common Core that’s more beneficial to our students,” she told reporters. The article reports Harris brings the number of Common Core opponents to four of the 11-member board. Gov. Jindal appointed Harris on Monday to fill the empty 4th District seat until an election is held. Harris’ predecessor, Walter Lee, resigned as part of a plea deal involving felony theft charges

Ed Week, “Where Do Special Education Groups Stand on Annual NCLB Tests?”: Special education advocates are likely to join civil rights groups and many in the business community in opposing major changes to NCLB’s assessment provisions, the article reports. “[Testing requirements have] provided so much good information we never had before about how students with disabilities are really performing,” says Lindsay Jones, of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She adds states should avoid over-testing or “bad tests,” but points out assessments provide “an important data point” to clarify “how kids with disabilities are performing compared to their nondisabled peers.” In a letter to lawmakers, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities wrote, “There is a great need for educators to have access to actionable, relevant, and timely information about student performance so that they can help students achieve. With transparent, easy-to-access, annual data on student performance, parents and educators are armed with the information needed to promote effective solutions to systemic issues at the school, district and policy levels.”