News You Can Use:

Mission: Readiness, “Five Years after the Common Core: State of the States”: Five years after states led the creation of the Common Core State Standards and voluntarily adopted them, most continue to move forward with implementation. The debate over whether the standards will survive appears to be settled: the high-quality college and career-ready standards are here to stay. A new infographic by Mission: Readiness illustrates that during the 2015 legislative session no states passed a full repeal of the Common Core, and in 17 states bills to repeal the standards failed to move forward or were defeated outright. Three states (LA, NJ, TN) initiated reviews of their Common Core standards that will likely result in little to no change, and in three key presidential states (IA, NH, NV) anti-Common Core legislation either failed or was vetoed. The graphic also reaffirms the military support for the Common Core. “Maintaining high standards is the best option when it comes to providing children with a quality education and preparing the next generation of Americans to defend our nation…These high-quality standards are essential for ensuring that more students are college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school.”

What It Means:Despite years of targeted attacks, the Common Core State Standards continue to prevail in states across the country. Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success writes, “The efforts of Common Core opponents to derail the standards en masse have failed to take root in state after state…While the politics around the moniker ‘Common Core’ may be polarizing, there continues to be broad public support for more rigorous, voluntary K-12 standards in math and English that are comparable across state lines. Furthermore, opponents of Common Core continue to rely on demonstrably untrue talking points as they seek to derail the standards…After enduring three intense years of political and legislative assault by activists, Common Core State Standards have proven their resiliency.”

Learning First Alliance, “Award-Winning School Counselors Discuss Transition to the Common Core”: Dan Peabody, a Maryland middle school counselor, and Cory Notestine, a Colorado high school counselor, discuss the impact of the Common Core State Standards, saying their roles are now “more aligned with a focus on curriculum and instruction, the proverbial bread and butter of educational practice.” “The traditional counselor role of promoting college and career readiness has been brought into the realm of day-to-day curriculum and instruction,” Peabody says. “The new standards have allowed me to align my work more closely with the work being done by teachers in the classroom.” “The ability to crosswalk school counselor standards…with the Common Core Standards helps students develop not only academic skills but other non-cognitive skills as well,” Notestine adds. “The biggest challenge has been aligning our curriculum and lessons with the new Common Core Standards.” Peabody concludes, “A transition like this will take years and pose significant challenges that must be understood and faced along the way by all stakeholders.”

What It Means:Overwhelmingly, educators at every level continue to support Common Core State Standards because of their promise to ensure that more students are on a track to ultimately graduate high school college- and career-ready. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in their students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and more than eight in ten are enthusiastic about implementation. While the transition to the new standards has not been perfect, educators – like parents – support the Common Core because they provide a framework to deliver an honest assessment of student development and help ensure students have the resources to succeed at higher levels of learning.

Albuquerque Journal, “Common Core under Fire from Both the Right and Left”: Even while some presidential candidates seek to distance themselves from the Common Core State Standards, New Mexico Education Secretary Hannah Skandera and Gov. Susana Martinez continue to endorse the standards and the assessments that support them. “The requirement that you have a school accountability system is a must, but the state – which New Mexico has done and done well – needs to be able to decide what that school accountability system looks like,” Skandera said. “At the end of the day, we in New Mexico chose Common Core State Standards, and they are our standards because we want high standards for our kids. We chose our PARCC assessment because it aligns to those standards. It’s the right thing for our kids, and we’ll stick to it.” Adding that opt-out efforts undermine the state’s ability to ensure students are on a path of college- and career-readiness, Skandera said, “Flexibility has to be married to accountability and expectations around students…We would be going back decades if we are not transparent and accountable.”

What It Means:Like New Mexico, states voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards and chose assessments to support them. By setting clear, rigorous learning goals, the standards ensure that more students will develop the skills to graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. While some presidential candidates have perpetuated misleading information about the standards, after two national elections all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core still use it. That’s because, as Karen Nussle and others have pointed out, parents fundamentally support college- and career-ready standards and it is impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that achieve that and bear no resemblance to the Common Core.

Education Week, “Common-Core Materials Penetrate Every State”: Despite a handful of states’ refusal to adopt the Common Core State Standards, Common Core-aligned materials are often being used in school districts within those states. Some curriculum providers say as many as one in 12 users of their material hail from states that did not adopt the standards. Educators’ reasons for using Common Core-aligned materials vary, the article reports. Some say the materials are the most well-vetted and widely available, and line up with their state’s standards. “From the classroom perspective, you’re not thinking about is this a Common Core lesson or is this not, you’re thinking about is this a good example of what I want my kids to know and be able to do,” says one Texas teacher. Others use Common Core materials because they are provided by the state and others as a matter of advocacy. “When I pull supplementary material, most of the time it is Common Core,” says a Nebraska elementary teacher. “That critical thinking has become a core piece of my instruction.”

What It Means: States’ use of Common Core-aligned material, even when they don’t endorse the Common Core, demonstrates the value of the more rigorous content espoused by the standards. One reason Common Core State Standards have proven so resilient is that the public fundamentally supports comparable, college- and career-ready standards. And as Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli writes, “It’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like the Common Core. That’s because Common Core, though not perfect, represents a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college or to land a good-paying job.”


Correcting the Record:

Reno Gazette Journal, “Nevada Students Face Another Year of Heavy Testing”: Despite prevalent testing glitches this year, even more of Nevada’s 450,000 students will be required to participate in the state’s new assessments next year, including Smarter Balanced exams. “It’s confusing for students because everything is changing,” says Sandra Aird, testing director for Washoe County School District. “The requirements for every grade are different…This year our high schools were overwhelmed.” “We had to serve some of them lunch while they were taking their tests,” adds Roberta Duvall, a Reno principal, of state exit exams. Elaine Wynn, president of the Nevada Board of Education, said the state will use the feedback to improve. “We are most interested in having this feedback, and cooperating and taking it seriously. We’re going to listen to each and every point that is made.”

Where They Went Wrong: While parents and educators are right to be concerned about over-testing, neither the Common Core nor the Smarter Balanced exams added new testing requirements for Nevada’s students. Moreover, the Smarter Balanced exams are designed to support Common Core State Standards and provide a more accurate measure of student development. As educators make clear, strong systems of accountability are necessary to ensure high education standards fulfill their purpose of preparing students for higher levels of learning and that schools are held to them.


On Our Reading List:

Cincinnati Enquirer, “Kasich’s Town Hall: Clear on Immigration, Less on Common Core”: During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Ohio Gov. John Kasich fielded questions about his support for the Common Core State Standards. “This whole business about Common Core is radio-active,” Gov. Kasich said. Explaining Ohio’s adoption of the standards and that schools still pick their own curriculum, Gov. Kasich added, “Some may call that Common Core. I don’t really know. I’m just telling you how it is in our state.”

Politifact, “Fact-Checking Scott Walker’s Presidential Announcement”: On Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced he will seek the Republican presidential nomination. In his speech, Gov. Walker said plainly, “No Common Core.” The fact-checker notes, “Such a flat statement belies his record on the school standards…We found that as governor, Walker initially showed tacit support for Common Core, then paused further implementation of the standards, then called for outright repeal – only to say later that he didn’t want school districts required to use Common Core.”

Washington Post, “How to Test What Candidates Really Know”: The launch of Campbell Brown’s education advocacy site The Seventy Four comes at a time when political candidates “need to be pushed to answer tough questions,” writes conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin. “The questioning should focus on what candidates have done, not what they say they will do. Getting away with stock answers (Abolish Common Core! Promote school choice!) really is not good enough…Indeed, conservatives should be wise to organize forums on all sorts of topics, including executive power, foreign policy, immigration and the like. That will test who really knows his or her stuff and who has simply learned a few one-minute answers to get through a debate.”