News You Can Use:

Education Post, “The Places Kids Can Go, If Teachers Lead Them There”: Jessica Moore, a fifth-grade teacher in Colorado, writes that while Common Core State Standards set higher expectations for students, “teacher may not always know how to teach to these raised expectations.” “The great thing about Common Core is that it won’t allow such an omission to take place,” Moore says. “Common Core provides tremendous guidance that supports teachers as they share deceptively simple kids’ books and turn them into fertile ground for thoughtful discussions…Under the previous standards, it would have been adequate for students to do a simple retelling of the book and answer a few basic, shallow questions…But the new standards make close and careful reading of rich texts and student-led conversations about meaning paramount.” Noting that critical reading skills, coupled with vocabulary development, foster an interest in reading, Moore says it is a “false choice” that teachers must choose between literature and creative thinking. “We as teachers must also take the initiative to learn alongside our students, using rich and relevant texts and asking worthwhile questions.”

What It Means: By putting a greater emphasis on content understanding and critical thinking, the Common Core empowers students to delve into materials in a way that goes further than simple recitation. As Moore points out, that in turns sparks a greater interest in reading and helps students develop the skills for higher level learning. Like Moore, teachers across the country recognize this change and continue to support the standards. A Scholastic study last year found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking skills and about eight in ten support implementation.

Idaho Politics Weekly, “Economic Outlook: Good Education Needed to Maintain a Globally Competitive Workforce”: To build a “family-sustaining career” in the global marketplace they will face, children today need “vastly different skills than were required even just a decade ago,” writes Randy Shumway, an economic advisor for Zions Bank. “One of the most effective ways to improve the relevance and depth of what our students know and what they are capable of doing is by implementing the Common Core State Standards.” The standards emphasize students’ ability to apply skills and to think critically to “encourage deeper, more effectual learning.” While scores on new exams are expected to drop because of the increased rigor, Shumway says these assessments “are designed to measure higher-level skills and to close the gap between state and international proficiency standards.” “Early adopters of Common Core Standards have shown that with sustained effort, student learning will improve and students will have greater ability to compete in a the global job market,” Shumway adds, noting student performance has improved in early adopter states like Kentucky. “Students have shown that they are capable of complex learning when they are well-supported by parents and teachers,” the piece concludes. “The Common Core State Standards and their accompanying assessments are a positive step forward in preparing students for the demands of today’s global workforce.”

What It Means: As Shumway points out, students today need a strong base of fundamental skills to succeed in college or a career. By setting high, consistent learning goals, the Common Core ensures more students will graduate high school fully prepared for the next step, whatever path they choose. In states that began using the Common Core early, like Kentucky and Tennessee, students have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country. Like the business community, parents remain committed to academic standards that prepare their children for college and career readiness, which is one reason Common Core is here to stay.


Correcting the Record:

Christian Post, “Don’t Give Obama More Power Over Schools”: Writing about the Every Child Achieves Act, Phyllis Schlafly, an outspoken opponent of the Common Core, writes Republican Congressional leaders “are on the verge of just rebranding the same failed programs with new and overly optimistic slogans.” “The claim that ECAA is somehow a ‘fix’ for NCLB is laughable, and equally false is the claim that it gets rid of the hated Common Core…[The] bill continues and extends the standards-and-testing mandate that Common Core was designed to satisfy.” Schlafly says the annual testing requirements in the bill ignore parents who wish to exclude their child from testing as part of the opt-out movement. She concludes, “Tell your U.S. senators and representatives to vote no on any reauthorization of a federal role in public education.”

Where They Went Wrong: Systems of accountability are one of the strongest tools parents and teachers have to monitor student development and to identify and address learning needs. Contrary to Schlafly’s claim, the federal government played no role in the development of the Common Core, and states voluntarily adopted the standards. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards continue to use them or a similar version. This year alone, more than a dozen legislatures have voted down bills to replace the standards. As Mike Petrilli wrote last winter, one reason the Common Core has proved so resilient is that “it is impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”


On Our Reading List:

Asbury Park Press “Time Will Tell in Common Core Shift”: The timeframe for New Jersey’s plan to replace its Common Core State Standards will tell whether the plan “represents a legitimate reconsideration of Common Core, or if it’s little more than a politically motivated sham to stick a new label on the same standards so they’re more palatable to conservatives,” the editorial board writes. Today, state education commissioner David Hespe is expected to outline the state’s plan. “If Hespe similarly expects such quick action, it’s a clear signal that this process is just for show to appease Christie’s desired allies along the presidential campaign trail,” the editorial adds. Coming up with new, strong education standards can’t be done “in a few months, unless the state is planning to do little more than add a few tweaks and a new name.”

Education Week “Day One of Senate ESEA Debate: Rift Over Accountability Grows”: On Tuesday, the Senate began debate on a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time since 2001. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a co-author of the legislation, emphasized that the bill would roll back the influence of the federal government and provide additional flexibility for states and school districts in choosing their accountability systems. “If you, like I do, believe high standards and teacher evaluations are the underpinnings of a great education system…you do not want to create a backlash to those efforts by insisting on them from Washington,” Sen. Alexander said. “If [states] want Common Core, they can have Common Core. If they want half of Common Core, they can have that. If they want anti-Common Core, they can have that.” Sen. Murray, the other co-author, stressed the importance of accountability systems. “States should still be required to identify the schools that are struggling the most, and they need to identify the schools in which groups of students aren’t getting enough support.”

Associated Press “Draft of New Oklahoma Education Standards Unveiled”: On Tuesday evening, the new proposed education standards for math and English language arts to replace the state’s former standards – the Common Core – were made public in Oklahoma. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister praised educators’ work to draft the new standards, which are to be implemented in the 2016-17 school year. Oklahoma passed a law last year requiring the state to replace the Common Core with a set created by state educators.

Daily Beast “The Great Common Core Textbook Swindle”: Despite many publishers repackaging textbooks and classroom materials as “Common Core-aligned,” only one in eight met the standards, according to recent analysis by EdReports. “Even five years later, the vast majority of textbooks say they’re aligned with the Common Core when they actually aren’t, creating a huge burden for teachers,” the article reports. “If you don’t have the material that you need, it makes your job incredibly more difficult,” one New York teacher says.