News You Can Use:

Yahoo News, “Campbell Brown Says Common Core Has Hurt Education Reform But Is a ‘Blip on the Road’”: Campbell Brown, education advocate and founder of the site The Seventy Four Million, tells Jon Ward that political fights over Common Core State Standards have shifted focus away  from the substance of education reform, but that it is a “blip on the road.” The “Common Core fight is a lot of different things, unrelated things, conflated,” Brown says. “Part of our mission on the site is to break those pieces apart and restore some of the nuance and thoughtfulness to the debate.” Noting there is great confusion about what Common Core Standards are, Brown says her site will seek to provide accurate coverage. “What we want to do with Common Core is explain it. Just put honesty and truth back into the debate.” Of the future of the Common Core, Brown says, “As states individually begin to work through these problems and address them at the legislative level, the problem goes away.”

What It Means:Brown makes a strong point that the political posturing over the Common Core State Standards has distracted from the substance of meaningful education reform. States continue lead implementation and build on the framework laid by the standards. As experts like former Education Secretary Bill Bennett have noted, opponents have conflated many issues to paint the Common Core in a negative light, but the facts continue to come forth to set the record straight, which is one reason parents continue to overwhelmingly support high, comparable education standards.

Education Next, “Public Supports Testing, Opposes Opt-Out, Opposes Federal Intervention”: The ninth annual Education Next poll to be released later this month, which surveyed over 3,000 adults and 700 teachers, finds that despite some vocal opposition, most people still support annual testing requirements for schools. About two-thirds of respondents said they support testing students each year in reading and math. Twenty-one percent oppose such measures. Teachers were more likely to oppose annual assessments, yet more teachers support annual assessments than oppose them. When asked whether parents should be able to decide whether their child participates in reading and math assessments (“opting out”), a majority of parents said they oppose letting parents decide.

What It Means: The Education Next findings reaffirm the value parents and teachers find in annual student assessments. High-quality exams that hold students to rigorous academic expectations provide one of the best tools to measure student development and to identify and address learning needs. A Teach Plus study earlier this year found nearly 80 percent of teacher participants believe exams like PARCC are better than those their states used before. As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, states have begun providing parents and teachers with better information, an important first step toward improving outcomes, and now is not the time to turn back on these efforts.

Watertown Daily Times, “Schools May Drive Big Changes for Army”: Access to quality education may affect the United States Army’s decision about base closures and the military’s ability to retain talented individuals, writes Matthew Leatherman of the Stimson Center. Leatherman authored a recent report that finds inconsistencies in education standards create uncertainty for military families that move often. “Military service involves frequent moves,” Leatherman writes. “Each of these moves creates the possibility of encountering uncertain academic standards or lower-performing schools…Soldiers expect family care as part of the overall package of compensation provided in exchange for their service, and they could perceive the value of their compensation as lower if their children’s education is inconsistent or under-performing…Host communities that appear to be doing well will need to maintain this success over a longer term, and hosts who may need to improve have a realistic opportunity to do so.”

What It Means: High, consistent education standards are especially important for military families, who must relocate often, to ensure their child does not fall behind or have to sit through material they’ve already learned. Common Core State Standards create greater congruity among school districts and states to help minimize disruptions during such transitions. In 2010, the Department of Defense Education Activities (DoDEA) adopted the Common Core for the 181 military schools, and by implementing the standards states are better meeting the needs of military families.


Correcting the Record:

Grand Forks Herald, “Judge Hears Arguments in Lawsuit over Common Core Tests in N.D.”: On Monday, a North Dakota district judge heard arguments from plaintiffs, led by state Rep. Robert Skarphol, that the state’s participation in the Smarter Balanced testing consortium constitutes an unlawful interstate compact formed without Congressional consent. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit the state from spending any more money on the membership. In February, a Missouri circuit court judge ruled that the 18-state consortium violated interstate compact rules and barred the state from participating. The ruling is being appealed. North Dakota Solicitor General Douglas Bahr said the state retains sovereignty and can withdraw at any time. “It’s not about Common Core, and the results of this case will in no way impact whether the state uses Common Core,” Bahr said. “As long as North Dakota’s in this, there’s no chance, so to speak, for North Dakota to exit from the Common Core State Standards,” said the Michigan-based lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

Where They Went Wrong: One of the strengths of new high-quality assessments designed to hold students to levels that prepare them for college and careers is the ability to measure classroom progress to other states and districts. As the Solicitor General makes clear, participation in the Smarter Balanced consortia is voluntary, and states can withdraw at any time. North Dakota chose to use Smarter Balanced assessments because of the honest measure they provide parents and teachers. The plaintiffs make clear their efforts are a backdoor tactic to undermine the state’s Common Core standards, which would put students at a disadvantage.


On Our Reading List:

Politico, “U.S. Mayors Say Ferguson Could Happen to Us”: Among the findings of a Politico Magazine study of mayors across the country following last year’s unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is that a “strong majority – nearly three-fourths – expressed approval” for Common Core State Standards. The article notes the “philosophical split” was roughly even among both Democrats and Republicans. Sixteen percent cited student drop-out rates as a major concern, coming in second behind racial segregation. Only 30 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the performance of their schools.

WUKY NPR Radio Kentucky, “Ky. Business Summit Focuses on Pensions, Common Core and Tobacco”: At an annual business summit in Louisville, three speakers representing the business community defended Common Core State Standards, arguing they will help remedy the lack of skilled workers in the state. “What’s really happening is that we’re finding the emergence of some new testing companies coming into play that had not been in the business before, so I think it will probably end up being more competition,” said Gene Wilhoit, CEO for the Center for Innovation in Education. The speakers encouraged state leaders to stay the course and keep the standards in place.