News You Can Use:

Baltimore Sun, “Education Officials Say PARCC Saved $2.5 Million Compared to Previous State Tests”: The Maryland Board of Education announced Tuesday that the adoption of PARCC assessments, which were first administered during the last school year, saved the state more than $2.5 million. Statewide, more than 80 percent of students took the assessments online. State superintendent Lillian Lowery said the exams set a “higher bar” for preparing students for college or careers than the previous Maryland High School Assessments, and called PARCC “the best assessment tool Maryland has ever had for determining how well students are learning and meeting state standards.” Officials added that they will continue to refine the tests to reduce times by an average of 90 minutes for each subject. “There’s more work to be done to smooth out implementation issues and restore time for our students to learn the skills they really need – like critical thinking and problem solving – rather than test taking and test prep,” said Betsy Weller, president of the Maryland Education Association.

What It Means: High-quality assessments like PARCC are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to accurately 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 tests like PARCC are better than those their states used before. The Honesty Gap analysis found that many states have taken the difficult step of providing families with better information by implementing assessments that hold students to high academic standards.

Associated Press, “Tim Griffin: Changes Needed to Common Core Standards”: Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin said Tuesday that Arkansas should keep the elements of the Common Core but make changes to build on the standards and rename them to better reflect the state’s needs. Lt. Gov. Griffin, a Republican, said he will suggest those changes to a review committee formed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, which Lt. Gov. Griffin headed, before it finalizes its recommendation on Thursday. “My view is you should not box yourself in to keeping it or rejecting it,” Lt. Gov. Griffin told reporters. “If there’s a part of it we’ve looked at and think this is great, let’s keep it. If there’s a part of it that needs changing, let’s change it. It’s not an all or nothing deal…I believe we should change the standards where they need to be changed and we should completely make them our own.”

What It Means: Lt. Gov. Griffin’s recommendations reaffirm the strength of content of the Common Core State Standards. States were always intended to build upon Common Core, which were written as model standards. Other states have conducted similar reviews that resulted in very similar education standards, and after two national elections all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core continue to use the standards or a nearly identical version. As Karen Nussle wrote earlier this year, that’s because it is impossible to produce a set of K-12 education standards that adequately prepare students for college and career readiness and look nothing like the Common Core.


Correcting the Record:

Gloucester Times, “Common Core’s Opponents Eye Ballot Question”: Common Core opponents in Massachusetts are launching an effort to put a statewide referendum on the 2016 ballot that seeks to get rid of the standards, arguing they represent a federal takeover of education issues. “We’ve already seen a drop in reading scores since the state adopted the new standards,” said Donna Colorio, founder of the Common Core Forum, the group leading the initiative. “We need to go back to the pre-Common Core standards.” To qualify for the ballot, the group needs to have the language approved by state Attorney General Maura Healey and collect at least 65,000 signatures by a November 18 deadline. State education officials warned the move would be costly and create uncertainty for classrooms years after districts began incorporating Common Core Standards. “We’d basically be throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” said Tom Scott, director of the Massachusetts Association of Superintendents. “There has been a lot of work done over the past several years to align with the new standards…There isn’t a lot of justification to go backwards.”

Where They Went Wrong: Reverting back to the state’s former standards would undo the hard work and investment classrooms have made in preparing for the Common Core State Standards and put students at a disadvantage. While Massachusetts’ MCAS standards were strong, the state voluntarily adopted the Common Core because of their increased rigor and the ability to compare student development to other states. As the Honesty Gap analysis highlighted, states including Massachusetts are providing parents and teachers with a more accurate measure of how well students are really doing by adopting Common Core Standards and high-quality assessments. And the standards are working; early adopter states like Kentucky and Tennessee have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country in the years since implementing the Common Core.


On Our Reading List:

Politico Pro, “PARCC Score Setting”: Educators, administrators and other panelists will gather in Denver today to conduct performance level, or “cut score,” setting for PARCC assessments. This is the first of three such meetings and will focus on high school exams. The event will demonstrate how student scores will be labeled from Level 1, minimal understanding, to Level 5 distinguished understanding. Scores will be released to parents and educators this fall.

Orlando Sentinel, “Seminole School Board Backs Plan to Drop FSA, Use National Tests”: The Seminole County School Board in Florida voted on Tuesday to support efforts to abandon the Florida Standards Assessments in favor of the SAT and the Iowa Test. The board also directed one of its members to draft a second letter to state education commissioner Pam Stewart urging her to consider the national tests statewide. “What’s right for Seminole County students is really right for students across the state,” said board chair Tina Calderone.