News You Can Use:

EdSource, “Teachers Back in School to Master Common Core Standards”: Officials representing six California school districts say several hundred of their teachers are participating in summer professional development courses aimed at improving both the teaching and implementation of Common Core State Standards. The district-provided courses are meant to ensure teachers are adequately prepared to help students adapt to the standards. The events are expected to attract as many as 20,000 educators. “We’re seeing a combination of resources, need and desire,” says Kristen Soares, president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. “What I’ve gotten out of this is how to talk about math with my kids,” explains one teacher. “It’s made me more excited.” In California, course offerings range from single- and two-day events to 10 half-day sessions, and many are funded by philanthropic donations. Soares says the training is “a really good thing given their importance to our students and our state.”

What It Means: Like California, states across the country are developing and providing teachers with professional development opportunities to ensure they have the resources to teach to and help implement Common Core State Standards. While the transition to the standards has been challenging, teachers have overwhelming embraced it. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and more than eight in 10 said they are enthusiastic about implementation. Similarly, a Teach Plus study found 79 percent of teacher participants believe new high-quality assessments that test to the Common Core are better than those their states used before.


Correcting the Record:

Newsworks, “Pa. Says 2015 Standardized Test Scores Dropped Precipitously because of Added Rigor”: The Pennsylvania Department of Education released general data from new, more rigorous assessments aligned to the Common Core, which show that the number of students who met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks fell by 35.4 points in math and 9.4 points in English language arts. “It isn’t useful to compare these 2015 student results directly to past results, because the tests are different,” a spokesperson explained. “Student performance hasn’t changed, but the test has changed considerably.” Noting “high-stakes accountability measures” have been tied to the tests, the article quotes one an assistant director for one of the state’s teachers’ unions: “You have essentially moved the target for teachers to get their student to, and then you raised the bar with these cut scores, all in combination with funding cuts…It’s almost like a perfect recipe to attack teachers in many ways.” “There have been very concerted efforts to undermine confidence in public schools, specifically efforts that use standardized test results to label schools as ‘failing,’” former executive director of the state Board of Education Adam Schott added.

Where They Went Wrong: Scores from the new assessments, which measure against academic expectations that set students up to graduate fully prepared for college or a career, provide a more accurate measure of student development than previous assessments. This is a necessary step to provide students, parents and teachers with an honest assessment of how well students are being prepared to succeed at higher levels of learning, and to identify and address learning needs. The state must determine how to use the scores in teacher evaluations, but the change is necessary to set a new baseline that ensures students are college and career ready upon graduating high school.


On Our Reading List:

New York Times, “Senate to Vote on Revisions to No Child Left Behind Law”: Lawmakers plan to vote on Thursday on a bipartisan Senate bill to overhaul the No Child Left Behind, a day after voting 86-12 to limit additional debate on further changes to the bill and move forward to a vote on final passage. The Senate’s legislation would keep annual testing requirements but prohibit the federal government from requiring or encouraging specific sets of standards. Any bill that emerges from the Senate will have to reconciled with the more conservative bill that passed in the House last week.

New Mexico Political Report, “Judge Dismisses PARCC Bid-Rigging Lawsuit”: A Santa Fe district court judge threw out a challenge presented by the American Institute for Research that claimed Pearson unfairly won a state testing contract because of a biased bidding process. First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton wrote that AIR didn’t have standing to protest the contract because it didn’t submit its own proposal. “Appellant does not qualify as a ‘bidder’ or ‘offeror’ because it did not submit a proposal prior to its protest…There is little evidence that the Legislature intended to provide standing to interested parties who have yet to submit proposals.”

Deseret News, “The Textbook Industry Just Keeps Making People Mad”: Despite frustrations with publishers that label repackaged classroom materials as “Common Core-aligned” – an issue former Education Secretary Bill Bennett wrote about – many economists don’t’ anticipate things will change soon. An review by EdReport found only 11 of the 80 textbooks they reviewed met Common Core State Standards. However, as more digital resources become available, some anticipate classrooms will transition away from traditional texts.