News You Can Use:

The Seventy-Four, “GOP Wrong to Run from the Common Core Because the Standards Are Working”: Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett writes that while the Common Core State Standards have “been much maligned, almost always without justification,” it is a mistake for Republican candidates, both from a policy and political perspective, to withdraw their support. Using New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as an example, Sec. Bennett says, “The political shifting of Gov. Christie and other Republicans is certainly not laudatory and, more importantly, is not politically necessary.” The piece notes “there is no more federal overreach today” than there was when many candidates endorsed the Common Core, and evidence demonstrating the standards’ success, like the Honesty Gap analysis, should give candidates leverage to defend the initiative. Noting state reviews will likely reaffirm their Common Core standards, Bennett concludes that candidates “should be courageous enough to defend the concept – both in policy and politics.”

What It Means: Sec. Bennett makes a strong case that Republican leaders shouldn’t shrink away from supporting Common Core State Standards because they are working, and for candidates who are able to articulate the value of high, comparable standards, they are an asset. As the Honesty Gap analysis highlights, states have begun to provide parents with a more accurate measure of student readiness by adopting rigorous academic standards, and early adopters like Kentucky and Tennessee have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country. Karen Nussle shared Bennett’s outlook in response to Gov. Christie’s decision, calling such moves “toothless.”

Argus Leader, “Busting Common Core Myths”: Mark Winegar writes, “There is a lot of misinformation being floated around about the Common Core,” discouraging honest dialogue about implementation. “One popular myth is that the federal government is forcing the Common Core State Standards upon us. Not true,” Winegar says. “The state decided to adopt these standards…President Obama didn’t write them either. The states did. Noting that the Common Core builds on the best evidence of what students need to know and provide a clear path towards college and career readiness, the letter encourages readers to look over the standards. “Don’t take my word for it…check it out for yourself…Then you can see the standards for your child and make an informed decision.”

What It Means: Objective analysis has repeatedly rejected claims that the Common Core State Standards represent a federal intrusion into local education control. Last year, PolitiFact noted that “[Common Core] standards were voluntary for states to adopt, not mandatory.” Common Core State Standards explicitly invite states to build on them further, and many states do so by undertaking reviews and by rebranding the standards to put their ownership on them. As a result, states have begun to close Honesty Gaps and provide parents and teachers with a more accurate measure of student development, and early adopters like Kentucky and Tennessee have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Staten Island Advance, “Survey: More Parents Satisfied with City Schools”: More parents are satisfied with New York City’s public school system and the education their children are receiving, and more believe students are being better prepared for college and the workforce, according to an annual study released Monday. School chancellor Carmen Fariña said responses “indicate high levels of satisfaction” with schools and that efforts raise the bar for students are taking root. The findings show that teachers are pleased with the quality of Common Core-aligned professional development and have seen general improvement in their schools. “Today’s survey results recognize the diligent and inspiring work of educators across the City to serve students and families,” Fariña said. “But more importantly, they also offer a blueprint for continued improvement.”

What It Means: The New York survey results offer a strong affirmation that the more rigorous academic expectations set forth by Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments are providing parents and teachers with an honest measure of the progress students are really making. The Honesty Gap analysis made clear most states have begun addressing discrepancies in proficiency levels by implementing higher standards and stronger accountability systems. And parents appreciate the honest evaluation. Sadly, the opt-out movement threatens to walk back this progress by undermining the tools that parents and teachers have to ensure students are held to high levels and to identify and address learning needs.


Correcting the Record:

Pennsylvania Public Schools Notebook, “Pa. Educators Brace for Fallout from Plunge in PSSA Scores”: Anticipating a “plunge in scores” on the state’s new student assessments, Pennsylvania educators are worrying about the repercussions while questioning the value of using the results, the article reports. Statewide data indicate that scores have dropped by as much as 40 points in some grades from last year. District- and school-specific scores will be released near the end of the month. Because of confusion during the rollout of the new exams, “Only districts well-resourced had the wherewithal over the last few years and the staff to implement anything that came out of Harrisbug,” says Christopher McGinley, a Temple professor and former district superintendent. “Everyone is playing catch up.” “People are going to raise questions on what is this data actually showing us about how kids are doing and how well teachers are teaching,” says Ben Speicher, principal of KIPP Philadelphia Elementary Academy. “It could give the opt-out movement more momentum.”

Where They Went Wrong: New assessments implemented in many states this year set a new, higher baseline for measuring student development. Because the exams set a higher bar for students, the scores can’t be compared to those from years past – which painted a misleading picture of how well many students were doing. By assessing students to tougher expectations, schools will provide parents and teachers with a more honest depiction of how well prepared their children are. As the Honesty Gap analysis emphasized, turning back now would put parents and students in a worse position and undo the progress states have made.


On Our Reading List:

Politico Pro, “Preparing for PARCC Cut Scores”: States participating in the PARCC assessment consortium are preparing to set performance benchmarks and will release scores later this fall. “We’re now going to be telling the truth to parents and students” about how students are really doing, said CEO Laura Slover yesterday. The write-up reports there was concern among leaders from Massachusetts about what exam the state will offer going forward. The Massachusetts Board of Education will vote this fall whether to adopt PARCC. “By the end of this process, whatever decision they make, what people won’t be able to say is that we didn’t examine every piece of paper,” said Susan Wheltle, part of the Massachusetts delegation.

USA Today, “Ohio Gov. Kasich Set to Jump into 2016 GOP Presidential Race”: Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to officially launch a bid for the Republican presidential nomination today at the Ohio State University. Gov. Kasich has prided himself on a “no-nonsense style” and for standing up for positions he believes in even when not popular with his party. The Baltimore Sun reports, “Kasich’s willingness to break with conservatives, by, among other things, defending…Common Core…ensure he will, at least, stand out.”

Casper Star Tribune, “Survey Shows State Schools Struggling to Adapt to New Standards”: A poll of Wyoming schools found many are still struggling to transition to the state’s new Common Core-aligned education standards two years after implementation began. The study conducted by the Wyoming Department of Education, which received feedback from nearly 1,000 teachers, 28 curriculum directors and 54 principals, reported difficulties adapting teaching methods, teachers “checking to see what is working,” and uncertainty of how to teach to the standards. Seventeen percent of teachers said they developed their own materials, and about a quarter of curriculum directors said “little” time had been spent helping teachers “develop strategies, activities, or methods” aligned with the new standards.

Florida Sun Sentinel, “Education Commissioner to Seminole: National Tests Won’t Work”: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart informed Seminole County’s Superintendent that the state should not use national student assessments, like the Iowa Test or the SAT, because they do not measure “our state’s specific education benchmarks and expectations appropriately.” “The Florida Standards are unique to our state,” Stewart said in the letter of the Common Core-aligned standards. Florida experienced technical problems when administering the Florida Standards Assessment this spring, prompting the superintendent to send the original letter. The Seminole County School Board is expected to discuss the issue further at a meeting scheduled for July 28.