News You Can Use:

Inside Higher Ed, “Higher Ed Groups Reiterate Support for Standards in K-12”: The need for higher academic standards is clear even as states have made great strides in recent years to implement more challenging expectations, leaders of three higher education groups – Higher Ed for Higher Standards, the National Association of System Heads, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association – say in a statement released today. Noting about half of community college students and 20 percent of students entering four-year colleges require remediation, the statement says this “preparation gap” puts students at risk and threatens the strength of the economy. New assessments, the leaders note, “represent a major step forward” and will ensure when met that a student is fully prepared for college-level work. “We expect initial scores to be lower than what students, families and educators are used to. This should not be cause for alarm nor an indictment of our K-12 educators. The tests are simply providing a more accurate assessment of our students’ readiness for the demands of postsecondary life…We must not back down if initial results are low.”

What It Means: These leaders of the higher education community make clear that rigorous academic expectations are necessary to fully prepare students for college and career readiness. While scores are expected to be lower on new assessments that test to higher levels, these exams provide a better, more honest measure of student development to ensure that students are fully prepared to step into college-level work. The recent Honesty Gap analysis reaffirms that states’ adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments is providing a more accurate measure of student progress and many states that have taken these steps are beginning to see performance improvements.

Glens Falls Post Star, “Group: Common Core Standards Working, Advocates Tweaks”: This week High Achievement New York issued a report, “Up to the Challenge,” which finds parents and educators believe Common Core State Standards are effective. “The educators and parents in this report are sending a clear message – higher standards are working in their classrooms and for their children,” said Steve Sigmund, the organization’s executive director. “Despite cynical voices whose solution is to ‘opt out,’ we know the standards and assessments are needed, and there are real improvements that will help make them more effective for millions of kids. We must continue moving forward to ensure that New York’s students are ready for college and 21st century careers.” The report provided several recommendations to improve on the state’s standards and assessments, including earlier score reports, fewer local tests and further use of computer-based adaptive testing. “Students in New York State are up to the challenge of more rigorous standards, as long as they have a quality teacher in the front of the classroom.”

What It Means: The report adds to the evidence that indicates the Common Core State Standards are working. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of the standards, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country over the past three years, including steady gains in proficiency rates and college-readiness scores. The recent Honesty Gap analysis finds several states have reduced huge disparities in proficiency rates by implementing the Common Core and assessments that test to higher levels. And a Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core State Standards saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “Principal: How I Know Something Is Wrong with Common Core Standards and Tests”: In the eleventh letter in a series between former New York principal Carol Burris and Florida principal Jayne Ellspermann, Burris pans Common Core Standards by way of criticizing teacher evaluations tied to student test results. “If using [test scores] as a metric comes at the cost of narrowing curriculum and teaching to the test, why would we want to include them at all?” Burris writes. “The Common Core is but one part of a failed reform strategy. The Common Core, teacher evaluation using student test scores, Common Core tests, the expansion of charter schools and other disruptive change strategies were pushed by the $4.335 billion competitive grant know as Race to the Top.” Calling herself a believer in college- and career-readiness, Burris says the Common Core won’t “do the job.” “We do our students a terrible disservice when we fail to recognize the inappropriateness of many of the standards and accept them in the name of ‘college readiness.’” Burris concludes, “It is time we move beyond the rhetoric and critically question the assumptions on which these reforms rest.”

Where They Went Wrong: Burris cites the “juxtaposition of Common Core scores” with her school’s track record of producing college-ready students as evidence the standards ask too much of children. Common Core State Standards may be more challenging than previous state standards and assessments – but rightfully so.  As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, for too long states systematically lowered the academic bar for students to paint a rosier picture of how well schools were doing. Implementation of the Common Core has helped to address that reality, and many states that began using the standards and high-quality assessments have closed these gaps and started to improve performance outcomes. With good instruction and support, students will be able to meet these new benchmarks, ensuring that they are college- and career-ready. In fact, in response to last week’s release of scores for Oregon students, Stand for Children Oregon Executive Director Toya Fick said, “When we raise the bar and do our part to help our children get there, they will rise to the challenge.”


On Our Reading List:

Mother Jones “How the GOP Candidates Are Flailing on Common Core”: Common Core State Standards have gotten caught in a “political crossfire,” and the rapid shift in opinion “has put the Republican presidential candidates in a tricky position.” Their responses have ranged from continued support to full flip-flops. The article breaks down the candidates into categories: True Believers, including Govs. John Kasich and Jeb Bush; Contortionists, who once supported the standards but “are now twisting themselves into pretzels to demonstrate consistent opposition,” like Govs. Jindal, Christie and Walker; Die-Hards, who have been against the standards “from the get-go,” including Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz; Debutantes with no prior record but plenty of opinions, like Donald Trump and Ben Carson; the Conflicted who have been inconsistent in their criticism, as have Carly Fiorina and Rick Santorum; and finally, Out to Lunch, which the article calls Sen. Lindsey Graham for knowing little about the standards.

USA Today “New Jersey to Discuss Common Core Pull-Out Plan”: On Wednesday, New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe is expected to introduce a plan to replace the state’s Common Core standards in response to Gov. Christie’s announcement in May. Hespe is expected to discuss the first steps in the review process at the meeting of the State Board of Education.

ABC 11 Idaho KMVT “Poll Released on Common Core”: According to a statewide poll by Dan Jones and Associates, 57 percent of Idahoans oppose Common Core State Standards, 27 percent of respondents supported the Common Core, and 16 percent were undecided. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said they want the system to return to how it was before the standards were adopted. The study was conducted June 17 through July 1 and polled 610 individuals.