News You Can Use:

BAM! Radio Network, “Real-World Lessons: How One State Rolled Out the Common Core”:  In an interview with Common Core Radio, Dr. Christy Stanley, a high school English language arts teacher in North Carolina, says her state did a “solid rollout” of Common Core State Standards, which helped to establish clear academic expectations. Noting teachers are developing curricula to support the standards, Dr. Stanley says “there is still work to be done” as teachers continue to learn about the Common Core. “North Carolina did a very good job of providing us foundational tools,” she adds. “In our recalibration process, [we] are redefining and unpacking resources and working with new teachers…for a deeper understanding of the standards.” Discussing the politics in some states and the uncertainty it creates for teachers, Dr. Stanley says, “I have yet to speak to a teacher who has anything negative to say about the Common Core…They like the consistency, they like the clear spiraling, they like the opportunity to collaborate that they didn’t have before…I would hope if there are changes made they would be minimal.”

What It Means: Like Dr. Stanley, educators in states across the country continue to support the Common Core State Standards. A Scholastic study last fall found that about eight in ten educators who worked closely with the standards continue to support implementation, and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills. As the Honesty Gap analysis indicates, states’ adoption of the Common Core and implementation of new high-quality assessments are providing parents and teachers with a more accurate measure of student development, helping ensure students are fully prepared for higher levels of learning.

Associated Press, Few Parents Opt Elementary Children Out of New State Tests”: Despite campaigns to encourage parents to withhold their children from state tests, few Washington parents with elementary students actually chose to opt-out, according to data released Thursday. More than 95 percent of children in grades 3–8 participated in new statewide assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards, though only about half of the state’s high school students participated. Opt-out rates varied widely from district to district. The state will release more detailed results including district-by-district scores in August. “I want to emphasize that these numbers are still preliminary and we cannot draw absolute conclusions based on what has been reported to OSPI so far,” said Kristen Jaudon, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Public Instruction.

What It Means: Despite targeted efforts to discourage participation in new assessments designed to test to higher levels, parents in states like Washington overwhelmingly opted-in. One reason is that parents recognize that high-quality assessments, like those administered for the first time this year, provide one of the strongest tools to measure student development and to identify and address learning needs. A recent Teach Plus study found 79 percent of teacher participants believe new assessments like PARCC are better than those their states used before.

New Jersey 101.5, “Common Core Is Not the Problem, Assemblyman Says”: In response to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a review of the state’s Common Core standards, chairman of the State Assembly Education Committee Pat Diegnan said the move disrupts the good work occurring in classrooms as a result of the standards. “It’s really a sad situation that this late in the game, they’re doing a timeout, saying let’s reevaluate the Common Core,” Assemblyman Diegnan said. “It’s confused, and confusing, and ultimately a negative process… It really is undermining the trust that parents, teachers, principals [and] administrators have in the whole system.” On Wednesday, state Education Commissioner David Hespe said the review will build on the framework provided by the Common Core. “This is an opportunity to improve, inform and communicate what our academic expectations are.”

What It Means: As Karen Nussle wrote last month, Gov. Christie’s move to distance himself from the Common Core amounts to a “toothless” political calculation that “may also prove a bad political gamble.” Assemblyman Deignan points out that the move sends mixed signals to parents, students and educators and creates uncertainty in classrooms. One teacher summed up the situation as, “We now have a bizarre patchwork of education policies that are incoherent and untenable…[Gov. Christie’s] naked ambition and cynical disregard for the consequences of his turnaround” will confuse teachers and parents as they seek to bolster the positive impact the Common Core is having.


Correcting the Record:

Rapid City Journal, “Legislators Aim for Special Session to Eliminate Common Core Education Standards”: A group of six South Dakota state lawmakers announced Thursday they will seek to convene a special legislative session to vote out the state’s Common Core standards. The group said they have been shut out of a review of the standards called for by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “We don’t agree with the way the Blue Ribbon Task Force was set up,” said State Rep. Elizabeth May. The lawmakers criticized Common Core for not affording teachers the flexibility to stray from curriculum and that implementation has been too costly. To convene a special session, a two-thirds majority of state lawmakers need to assent to the request. Instead of Common Core State Standards, South Dakota should revert back to its former education standards, said State Rep. Lance Russell.

Where They Went Wrong: By suggesting South Dakota’s Common Core standards limit flexibility in the classroom or dictate curricula, the lawmakers are perpetuating misleading information. The introduction of the ELA standards reads, “The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations…No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom.” Instead, the Common Core sets rigorous learning goals and maintains control for local educators in deciding how best to meet them. Karen Nussle pointed out recently, “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.”


On Our Reading List:

Westchester Journal News“Pearson Loses Out on N.Y. Testing Contract”: On Thursday, the New York State Department of Education announced it will give the contract to develop the state’s math and English language arts assessments in grades 3–8 to Questar Assessment, ending a five-year agreement with Pearson. The contract will pay Minneapolis-based Questar $44 million over the next five years pending approval by the state comptroller and attorney general. In addition to providing test questions, the deal requires Questar to develop computer-based testing applications. “New York State teachers will be involved in every step of the test development process,” said education commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “Teacher input is critical to building a successful state test, and that’s why the new contract emulates the collaborative process used to develop the Regents Exam.”

Southwest Times Record“Arkansas Education Board Oks Switch to ACT Tests”: The Arkansas Board of Education voted Thursday to authorize state education officials to pursue a sole-source contract for ACT and ACT Aspire assessments for the 2015-16 school year, setting up the state to drop its involvement with PARCC. Four members voted in favor of the change, two voted against and two members abstained. The vote reverses the Board’s previous rebuff of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s request that the state withdraw from PARCC. Since June, Gov. Hutchinson replaced three Board members whose terms ended, and all three voted in favor of the switch to ACT. “I applaud the Board of Education for its vote in switching from PARCC to ACT / ACT Aspire,” Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement. “The board members were thoughtful and deliberate on this issue and reached a final decision that I think is best for our students and teachers over the long term.”