News You Can Use:

StateImpact Florida, “Why Some State Test Results Are Less Honest than Others”: A website by the Foundation for Excellence in Education,, finds that many states report much higher levels of student proficiency than those indicated by NAEP, which is considered the most accurate assessment metric. “That gap tells you, basically, how honest is your state being to parents with how their individual child is doing,” explains Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation. “We’ve been telling parents, ‘Oh no, your child is fine.’ But then when they get to college they’re actually not ready.” In Florida, which has a smaller gap than most states, 39 percent of students were proficient in reading according to NAEP, but state scores indicated 60 percent of students were. That means 21 percent of students and their parents were told their student was doing fine but might actually need more help.

What It Means: The website underscores that for a long time states systematically lowered the bar for students instead of improving performance outcomes. As Achieve’s Honesty Gap analysis earlier this year pointed out, states have begun to address this problem by implementing higher education standards through the Common Core and administering high-quality assessments. Alabama, for example, narrowed its proficiency gap by nearly 50 points after adopting more rigorous standards and assessments. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of the Common Core closed gaps and have since made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Fall River Herald News, “PARCC Is the Readiness Test”: Citing an example of a Massachusetts small business that struggles to find qualified workers, columnist Rick Holmes writes that the “readiness gap” in K-12 education is “killing the college and career dreams of high school graduates.” “Readiness is the problem the Common Core Standards and PARCC tests were created to solve,” Holmes says. “The Common Core is about developing skills – critical thinking, reading comprehension, mathematical analysis – and the PARCC tests them. It’s Ed Reform 2.0, and many of the educators who have tried it find lots to like.” Noting old education models left many students behind, the piece says those “who have turned the Common Core into a political football don’t seem to care.” Massachusetts, Holmes concludes, should embrace the Common Core and “find a way to ace the readiness test.”

What It Means: Holmes makes clear that strong systems of accountability are necessary to hold students to academic expectations that fully prepare them for college and career readiness. The Honesty Gap analysis earlier this year underscored that under the old patchwork of education standards states inflated measures of student development, painting an inaccurate picture of how well prepared they were for college or a career. Most states have begun to address the problem by implementing the Common Core and high-quality assessments. Like Holmes argues, now is not the time to turn back on those efforts.


Correcting the Record:

Daily Caller, “Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind Will Stop Federal Common Core Push”: Sen. Pat Roberts, a member of the Senate HELP Committee, writes that under President Obama, federal officials have “incentivized, bribed or in some cases, coerced states into implementing Common Core education standards.” “The administration has required states to adopt Common Core standards to receive federal funding under the multibillion-dollar Race to the Top program,” the piece states. “They have threatened to withhold waivers from onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind if states do not adopt Common Core, or similarly aligned standards…Parents should have a local and direct chain of accountability when it comes to something as important as the education of their children.” Noting high standards are the “right thing to do,” Sen. Roberts says, “State academic standards will once again be a state decision when the [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] passes into law.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Sen. Roberts’ claim, states were not forced into adopting Common Core State Standards. The standards were developed and voluntarily adopted by states to hold students to higher academic expectations and provide a more accurate measure of student development. The college- and career-ready standards requirement in Race to the Top funding accounted for only 10 percent of a state’s application. Some states that adopted the Common Core did not receive funds, and states did not adopt the standards or replaced them have since received NCLB waivers.

Washington Post,  “When the Teacher’s Edition Is Wrong”: Louisiana-based statistician Mark Palko writes that debate over Common Core should focus less on content and more on implementation. Palko says reviews’ attention to Common Core-alignment and not on the accuracy of materials has led to a disconnect between policymakers and students, parents and teachers. The piece cites an “informal spot check” of Eureka material that found “frequent” and “big” errors. The ideal balance in material is “right but reasonable,” Palko says, but “all too often the materials from Eureka managed to do just the opposite.” “After dragging students through the most technical of definitions, the authors get the most basic of terms wrong.” “We have no way of estimating how widespread these problems are in these grades,” Palko concludes. But “the concerns cited here are still serious enough to reveal a serious quality issue… These lessons being considered the state of the art for a national curriculum – it takes politics for that to happen.”

Where They Went Wrong: Mistakes and errors in curriculum happen, but Palko makes a good point that they should absolutely be corrected. Yet, while it’s true that alignment and quality are not the same, it is impossible to have high quality curriculum without strong alignment to college- and career-ready expectations. Moreover, no one is suggesting that any curriculum, serve as a national curriculum. Rather, that teachers and students have the full benefit of high-quality options and resources that can be improved upon and locally tailored to the specific needs of classrooms. That states across the country are downloading EngageNY resources in droves and building on EngageNY’s curriculum is evidence that we need to provide teachers with more tools. Palko is right, the content debate should be over, and a meaningful focus on implementation needs to include more high quality curriculum, aligned to college- and career-ready standards in the best interests of our students.


On Our Reading List:

Las Vegas Sun, “Nevada Chooses New School-Test Overseer after Assessment Woes”: Test administrator Measured Progress lost a $51 million contract to oversee Nevada’s assessments following a year marked by technical glitches. The states renewed the contract, which expired this year, with McGraw-Hill last week instead. The decision now faces a vote by the state Board of Education next month. “Our hope is that it’s an absolutely seamless transition,” said State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga. “We want to have a vendor who can deliver.” This spring, Nevada did not meet the federal requirement of 95 percent participation in state tests after the large number of students taking exams overloaded the system’s server.

Education Week, “Growing Calls to Abandon New Test”: A week after Ohio announced its intention to withdraw from PARCC, momentum to pull out of the consortium appears to be building in Massachusetts. Last week, an advocacy group in the state launched a ballot initiative to stop Common Core as Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester came under fire for his involvement on the PARCC Governing Board. Local legislators have expressed skepticism about PARCC tests as well. “We’ve invested hundreds of billions of dollars in education in Massachusetts,” said State Rep. Jim Lyons. “To move away from the successful program without any input from parents, from teachers, from legislators is just simply wrong.”

Chalkbeat New York, “Concerns Mount over Tougher Algebra Regents Test and Officials Promise a Review”: After New York students took a new Algebra Regents exam this year without a fallback option, teachers say larger numbers of students are likely not to have passed. The response reflects an uneasiness that teachers, principals and district officials continue to have about the pace of New York’s adoption of the Common Core learning standards and the new tests meant to measure them, the article reports. “We’re in the midst of a phase-in process that people in the field are concerned is not achievable,” State Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said in June.

Arizona Republic, “Desperate Diane Douglas Is Not the Boss of…Anybody”: Columnist EJ Montini writes that while Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas theoretically has control over the state Department of Education, she has been unable to make good on her campaign promises. “Douglas wants to ditch the state’s Common Core,” Montini says. “But it’s the 11-member board (in which she has one vote) that makes policy. And the standards are going forward…I’ve got a sense that Superintendent Douglas can say whatever she wants, wherever she wants, as loudly as she wants. It won’t matter.”