News You Can Use:

Christian Post, “Military Families Get Short-Changed in Education: They Deserve Better”: Dr. Gus Reyes, a board member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and a former Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, describes his experience of not being well prepared enough to move onto second grade after changing schools as a child. His mother tutored him over the summer so he could retake the test and proceed to the next grade, but for “most parents and families, a summer committed to teaching is not an option.” “How many problems we could solve if everyone benefited from consistently high quality education that begins right from the start,” Dr. Reyes writes. “I am concerned for military families who face the same challenges when moving from one state to another…Every single one of those children deserves better than to hear that their academic progress is below grade-level at a new school because of varied state academic standards…Common goals and standards which can be compared across states are offering hope for military families, migrant families, every American family.”

What It Means: Rigorous, comparable education standards are especially important for military families and others that move frequently to ensure children don’t fall beyond or have to sit through material they already learned. As Dr. Reyes points out, the Common Core helps to address such problems by providing consistent academic expectations for each grade level that ensure students are on track to graduate high school prepared for college or a career – especially a career in the military. The standards ensure that all students have reliable access to a high-quality education, which Dr. Reyes calls the “road to success.”

Education Week, “A ‘Common-Core Math’ Problem: How Many States Have Adopted the Standards”: Providing a map that shows 43 states and the District of Columbia continue to implement the Common Core, the article points out, “Even in states that have officially dropped the Common Core, it’s not clear the standards are truly gone. Indiana replaced the Common Core last year with standards that are quite similar. South Carolina adopted new standards earlier this year that are also closely aligned with the Common Core.” It concludes, “The vast majority of states are sticking by the Common Core for now, despite several repeal efforts in states this year.”

What It Means: Despite more than two years of targeted attacks, most states continue to stick with the Common Core. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt Common Core Standards continue to use them or some very similar version. This year more than a dozen legislatures voted down bills to replace the standards, many in the most conservative-leaning states in the country. One reason the standards have persevered is that parents fundamentally support rigorous academic expectations and accountability, and as Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote, “It is impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Washington Post, “How Chris Christie Trapped Himself in a Political Quandary”: On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he will seek the Republican presidential nomination. Noting few other candidates have as aggressively positioned themselves as being “brave ‘truth tellers,’” the editorial says, “One price of staking your campaign on telling hard truths and governing straightforwardly is that every deviation from those ideals becomes fair fodder. And there are deviations in Mr. Christie’s record. He flip-flopped on Common Core, giving in to the overblown right-wing objections to the state-driven standards.” The Bloomberg editorial board agrees: “Chris Christie made a name for himself of the quintessential New Jersey tough guy… Christie announced he will run for the White House on a platform of ‘telling it like it is.’ If he follows through on that promise, voters will finally learn…why Christie flip-flopped on the Common Core education standards he had long supported.”

What It Means: As Karen Nussle wrote recently, Gov. Christie’s call for a review of New Jersey’s Common Core standards amounts to a “toothless” political calculation that very well may work against him. “Gov. Christie’s reversal sends a mixed signal to teachers, students and parents… As pressure from the far right has intensified, Gov. Christie’s tough-guy persona seems to have gone soft. With his recent announcement, Gov. Christie now holds a nuanced position: opposing the phrase ‘Common Core,’ but endorsing Common Core-aligned tests, all while launching an unoriginal review that will likely result in a reaffirmation of the existing standards.”

Daily Caller, “Jindal’s Common Core Crusade: Principle, or Opportunism?”: For Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, his “furious line of attack” against the Common Core “masks an uncomfortable reality for the governor: He spent years as a strong cheerleader for Common Core, and his subsequent switch lacks an obvious cause, other than what opponents say is ambition for higher office.” Noting Gov. Jindal has “gone above and beyond” other candidates with his criticism of the standards, the article reports, “In the past, Jindal didn’t just support Common Core, but also endorsed the specific aspects he now cites as the reasons he flipped on the issue.” Gov. Jindal signed the Common Core Standards Memorandum of Agreement, which outline the roles both states and federal authorities would play, and sought RTTT funding on three different occasions, “so his claim that the process was ‘hijacked’ rings hollow…Jindal’s sudden emergence as a leading national critical of Common Core, then, is totally at odds with his actions and statements barely a year beforehand” and “comes at a time where federal encouragement of Common Core is actually decreasing rather than increasing.” “If you were a parent in this state, to have the governor absent on this issue, other than political statements, was very disturbing,” says Chas Roemer, head of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

What It Means: The article makes clear that Gov. Jindal’s opposition to the Common Core has everything to do with his political ambitions, not the interests of students and teachers across Louisiana. Gov. Jindal strongly endorsed the Common Core and repeatedly applied for RTTT funding, before changing his tune to criticize the standards as he considered a presidential campaign. While his criticism may win points with a small faction on the far-right, most voters continue to overwhelmingly support high education standards and increased accountability. That’s one reason why states continue to use the Common Core. As Karen Nussle wrote earlier this year, “It is virtually impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that both bear no resemblance to Common Core, and adequately prepare students for college and career,” and facts have refuted opponent’s attempts to misrepresent the standards.


Correcting the Record:

Daily Caller, “Don’t Shrink Fiction in America’s Common Core Reading Lists”: Novelist Warren Adler writes that he was dismayed to learn “fiction, according to Common Core, is being shrunk in favor of non-fiction.” “Any scrap of informational reading is absolutely essential to a well-rounded education and deserves a prominent place in the education of young minds, but not at the expense of fiction,” Adler says. “Fiction provides the soul of education, without which students cannot truly attain a deep understanding of what makes us human…[Fiction] is far more important than our technologically obsessed authorities realize…Of course non-fiction has its place but the truth and wisdom embodied in fiction is of equal if not paramount importance to equip a student to shoulder the burdens and complications of an increasingly complex world.”

Where They Went Wrong: While Adler suggests Common Core’s emphasis on non-fiction texts precludes educators from teaching fiction, the standards have empowered teachers to reinforce students’ natural affinity for literature with historical documents and other resources. To be clear, reports that the Common Core eliminates fiction texts from the classroom are erroneous. Common Core is designed to provide students with an appropriate balance of fiction and non-fiction to stimulate creativity while also preparing them for college level coursework.  “The Common Core allows me to do exactly that – and more,” explains Meaghan Freeman, a New York English teacher, of how the standards’ emphasis on non-fiction helps her engage students. “I need appropriate and valuable strategies to help my kids comprehend and analyze nonfiction texts…[the standards] push me to expose my students to more challenging and diverse texts.” “The Common Core challenges teachers to provide high school students with an appreciation of the foundational works of American literature,” adds Jeff Baxter, a Kansas English teacher. “The standards elevate the English language, invite students to discover the enduring relevance and wonder of great literature, and have improved my teaching of [classic novels].”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Ohio Dumps the PARCC Common Core Tests after Woeful First Year”: On Tuesday night, Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio’s two-year budget bill, removing the state from the PARCC testing consortium. The bill agreed upon by both the State House and Senate bans the state from spending money on PARCC products and requires the Ohio Department of Education to find a new test provider. State Sen. Peggy Lehner, who ran a review committee this spring, said she would have given PARCC a second year to improve, but added, “The people of the state of Ohio seem to have spoken loudly that they don’t want the PARCC.” “The General Assembly felt it was necessary to intervene based off the many concerns expressed from administrators, teachers and parents,” said a spokesperson for House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger. The bill also limits testing to one round of administration and shortens the time allot for testing. It does not change Ohio’s use of the Common Core Standards.

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments are one of the strongest tools parents and teachers have to hold schools accountable to rigorous education standards and to identify and address students’ learning needs. One of the strengths of assessments like PARCC and Smarted Balanced is the comparability they affords states to measure their progress against counterparts across the country. Ultimately, states are responsible for deciding which assessments to use, and Ohio now has an obligation to teachers and students to find or develop an equally strong testing model to support its high education standards.


On Our Reading List:

Time “What Common Core Teaches Us about the Future of Testing”: Noting the Common Core aims to better ensure that “a diploma from a suburban California school should mean that a student is as well prepared for college and the workforce as a student from rural Iowa or urban New York,” the article focuses on three implications of the related tests: contextual learning, new testing directions, and critical thinking and fluency. “One feature of the Common Core that resonates with students, parents and schools alike is the increased importance of understanding concepts in their natural contexts,” the article notes. “Students no longer learn simple word definitions; they learn to decode the nuances of a word as it is used.” It adds that the emphasis on “context and fluency of knowledge” has made tests more interactive, and that new tests prioritize “critical thinking and reading comprehension over simple memorization.”

NBC News 10 Rochester “State Education Department to Release Material from Common Core Exams”: The New York Department of Education announced it will release material from the state’s Common Core exams to help teachers prepare students for next year’s tests. The material will allow schools and districts to use the information for summer curriculum writing and professional development activities, the article reports.