News You Can Use:

Renaissance Learning, “What Kids Are Reading, And Why It Matters”: A report by Renaissance Learning finds that the average college freshman reads at a seventh-grade level. The study also shows most high school graduates don’t do much with mathematics past eighth-grade compared to students of top-performing countries. The findings also indicate children who have goals for reading are more likely to read more, read at and achieve to a higher level, and “achieve better outcomes.”

What It Means: The fact that college freshmen read on average at a seventh grade level is indicative of the low bar that has been established at the K-12 level and of how unprepared to tackle complex material students entering college or the workforce are. CCSS raise the bar by setting high expectations for all students to better ensure they have the critical thinking and reasoning skills to succeed at a high level.

Melody Arabo, “What’s Your Problem with Common Core”: Melody Arabo, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year, writes that she empathizes with parents’ concerns about new learning techniques encouraged by CCSS, but that such fears stem from a lack of familiarity with the Standards, which will help children “grapple with concepts and construct their own understanding.” “As a teacher, though, I know that this transition is important as we dig deeper into concepts and teach children the value of the little voice inside their heads,” Arabo writes. “Yes, Common Core is different than the way we learned, but shouldn’t we celebrate that and see it as progression?… Our old standards were a mile wide and an inch deep and the new standards are just the opposite. Let’s take this opportunity to add rigor to our day. Let’s give kids a chance to think deeply and persevere in their learning.”

What It MeansCCSS set a high bar for all students in order to better prepare them for the demands of college or a competitive career. In addition to traditional problem-solving methods, CCSS introduce multiple approaches to provide a better understanding of math functions and put a greater emphasize on content understanding to help students achieve to higher levels of learning.


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Hechinger Report, “Will Test-Based Teacher Evaluations Derail Common Core?”: Looking at teacher concerns about tying student assessments to teacher performance reviews in New York, the article notes the state’s transition to test-based evaluations coincided with the implementation of CCSS, which beefed up the difficulty of exams. “Essentially, two separate groups of reformers were plugging away at ideas to transform education — and they came barreling down the track at exactly the same time,” the article notes. “This was a problem for teachers now dependent on good scores to achieve a rating that didn’t also put their job in jeopardy.” At least one teacher, Sheri Lederman, the subject of the article, filed a lawsuit alleging metrics which require year-over-year improvements in student scores punish rather than reward excellence. The case is set to be heard on March 20. The article notes many supporters, including teachers unions, attribute the problem to the Race to the Top program’s emphasis on accountability factors. “We need to unhook assessments from teacher evaluations for a while. Teachers need time and support to acquaint themselves with the new standards before high-stakes consequences are applied,” says Susan Pimentel, one of the lead writers for CCSS English standards. “Once assessments are fair, transparent and trusted, our advice would be to then begin to tie student assessments to teacher evaluations. Accountability for student results is a critical component of a high-functioning system of education.”

Politico Pro, “Arne Duncan to Call for No Child Left Behind Revamp”: Sec. Arne Duncan will call for repealing and replacing NCLB on Monday, joining Republicans in Congress who are urging a rewrite of the federal education law, the article reports. He is not expected to back down from requiring all students be tested in math and reading in grades 3-8. Congressional Republicans have indicated they will consider paring back testing requirements.

Idaho Watchdog, “New Idaho Superintendent Promises Voice for Common Core Opponents”: Sherri Ybarra, Idaho’s newly elected state superintendent, said her administration would provide a voice for individuals displeased with CCSS. Ybarra is a supporter of the Standards but said in her campaign she believes there may be room to “tweak” them further. “I’ve always said from day one I am not a supporter of the entire package of Common Core. And so what that means is, we need to give back to districts local control,” Ybarra said Tuesday. She clarified that her concerns are with testing aligned to the Standards. She rejected the idea of outright repeal. “[T]o rip the rug out from underneath educators and students alike is not in the best interest of kids.”

Biloxi Sun Herald, “South Mississippi Educators Gear Up for Common Core Fight”: Gulfport School District educators plan to provide copies of the Common Core standards to state lawmakers and ask them to identify any that are objectionable, the article reports. “They’re saying Common Core needs to go, but not one can point to a standard that’s bad,” said the district’s superintendent Glen East. On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant addressed about 100 opponents gathered at the state capitol to protest the Standards. Biloxi schools superintendent Arthur McMillan said repealing CCSS would set schools back by requiring them to start over. “We need to know what to do and we need the resources to do it. We don’t want to be a political football. We need to know what to do.”

 CBS News Tampa Bay, “Florida Group Drafts Anti-Common Core Bill”: Several grassroots groups led by the Southwest Florida Citizens’ Alliance have drafted a bill aimed at “stopping Common Core,” which will be introduced to the legislature by state Rep. Ben Albritton. All bills must be submitted by Feb. 25. The major provisions of the legislation include giving schools the flexibility to selected math and English assessments, requiring all student data to have identifying details removed prior to release, and creating a pathway for parents to opt their children out of testing.