News You Can Use:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Proficient Now Means Prepared”: Following a joint statement by leaders from the higher education community urging states to continue implementing college- and career-ready standards, Cheryl Oldham writes that “low standards in K-12 education have led to a generation of young people who believe they were prepared for life after high school when often they were not.” Half of students at two-year colleges and 20 percent of first-year students at four-year colleges require remediation, diminishing their likelihood of obtaining a degree on time. “It’s no wonder why those in higher education are concerned,” Oldham says. “And the business community is not immune to the effects of a low-performing K-12 education system, either.” Four million jobs go unfilled around the country in part because there aren’t enough qualified candidates. “The good news is an overwhelming number of states have implemented standards that are more rigorous and aligned to college and career…In addition, states across the country have implemented assessments that are aligned to high academic standards…The bar is being raised and as a result, it’s a better reflection of how prepared our young people are…These standards and assessments are an honest reflection of proficiency and preparation…Proficient in the past has been an empty promise. Proficient moving forward means prepared.”

What It Means: The Honesty Gap analysis earlier this year made clear that for a long time states systematically inflated measures of student development by lowering the academic bar. As Oldham points out, most states have begun to address the problem by implementing Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments, providing teachers and parents with a more accurate measure of students’ preparedness. These changes, though difficult, will ensure more students are held to expectations that fully prepare them for higher levels of learning and ultimately to graduate ready for college or a career.

Huffington Post, “States Differ Dramatically in Their Academic Expectations, Study Finds”: A new report by the National Center for Education Statistics finds that what it means to be proficient varies from state to state, which can have a big impact on families that move. “For example, it’s possible for a fourth-grader to be passing reading in New Jersey, but as soon as he or she moves across the Hudson River to New York, to be suddenly considered failing – despite not knowing any less,” the article reports. Very few state’s standards measure up to NAEP’s aspirational proficiency standards, but most states set their cutoffs for fourth-grade reading below NAEP’s “basic” level. The number of states demanding higher performance for passing grades has increased with the adoption of Common Core State Standards. New York is the only state with education standards within the NAEP proficiency range for both fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading, which officials call a dose of honesty.

What It Means: Like Achieve’s recent Honesty Gap analysis, the NCES report highlights that since states have been moving towards high standards and high quality assessments, more than 20 states have raised their benchmarks for proficiency. The Honesty Gap analysis highlights New York as a “Top Truth Teller,” which is validated by the NCES report. Because the NCES report analyzes data from the 2013 NAEP cycle, other states highlighted in the Honesty Gap analysis (like Alabama) have made progress in closing their honesty gaps that is not reflected in the new report, but should also be applauded. In the past, students have often moved onto higher levels of learning unprepared to undertake the challenges and entered college or the workforce only to find they needed remedial classes or job training. Raising state proficiency requirements will allow parents, students, and their teachers to understand more accurately how students are performing academically – and whether they are on track to be college- and career-ready.

Newark Star Ledger, “N.J. Won’t Tear Down Common Core Standards, State Officials Say”: New Jersey’s top education officials said Wednesday that the state’s review of its Common Core standards likely won’t lead to major changes and will instead build on them further. “We will not be tearing them down and starting over,” Kimberly Harrington, assistant education commissioner, told the State Board of Education. Earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie called for a review of the standards, saying the Common Core was “simply not working.” “Today’s presentation proves that [Gov. Christie’s] move was about pure politics, not policy,” New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer said. The review will be completed within six months by committees made up of mostly educators, which will make recommendations by the end of the year. Education Commissioner David Hespe said New Jersey will likely follow a similar path as other states that have undertaken similar reviews. “They have spent a lot of time clarifying the standards, looking at the sequencing of the standards, but not making real sizable, substantive changes,” he said. “The basis of the Common Core, I personally believe, is good,” added State Board of Education president Mark Biedron.

What It Means: New Jersey’s decision to build on the framework provided by the Common Core demonstrates the strength of the standards. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote recently, “It’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like the Common Core.” By setting high, clear learning goals and giving local educators control of how to reach them, the Common Core ensures more students will graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. The decision not to scrap the state’s Common Core standards reaffirms Karen Nussle’s analysis last month that Gov. Christie’s decision “sends a mixed signal to teachers, students and parents” and will likely change “very little about New Jersey’s academic standards.”

Louisville Courier-Journal, “Vacation Bible Schools Align with Common Core”: Vacation Bible School programs offered by Midwest Church of Christ in Louisville, Kentucky, are aligning their lessons to support the Common Core. “We’re still using Bible stories but we’re asking questions that are tied to Common Core,” said Olivia Hanley, who develops curriculum for the programs. “What we’re trying to do is ask questions in a different way, a way that’s aligned…to the critical thinking and other questions in Common Core.” Jefferson County Public Schools has begun offering training to the Vacation Bible School leaders to help combat the “summer slide.” Lawrence Wilbon, a youth pastor, said he was surprised that some of what is emphasized by the Common Core, like critical thinking and identifying central themes, matches up with the Bible school already teaches. “It took out a lot of the academic learning and really got to the nuts and bolts of the work,” he said. “This is such a wonderful opportunity in helping children learn,” said Carolyn Lasley, a director with Vacation Bible School. “It’s just a win-win situation for our kids and our community.”

What It Means: Vacation Bible Schools’ incorporation of the Common Core underscores how the standards empower educators to tie in learning across subjects and platforms. In states across the country, leaders are finding similar, practical ways to leverage the standards to reinforce student engagement. The collaboration demonstrates the effectiveness with which leaders have embraced the Common Core. In Kentucky, the first state to adopt the standards, students have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country, including steady gains in proficiency rates and college-readiness scores.


Correcting the Record:

Brietbart News, “Rand Paul: Oppose the Washington Machine Education Bill”: Voters should oppose a “one-size-fits-all” education system and the “Washington Machine” that dictates what is taught in classrooms, writes Sen. Rand Paul, an outspoken opponent of the Common Core. “A one-size-fits-all curriculum just doesn’t work – ask any educator,” Sen. Paul says. “Our children should not be constricted to a one-size-fits-all format, as implemented by Common Core…The Washington Machine should not dictate what happens in our local classrooms. It should be local municipalities, parents, teachers and administrators who make these decisions.” Applauding charter schools, vouchers and school choice, the piece says, “We’ve set up teachers and students for failure by relegating education to the mercy of big government. An overgrown federal bureaucracy, mandating standards and discounting local input, will not lead to innovation.” Saying Congressional bills to rewrite NCLB do not go far enough to remove federal mandates, Sen. Paul adds, “The federal government is telling states when, and in which subject matters, states must implement testing…The federal government should not mandate from its ivory tower. Only parents and local teachers should be making these testing decisions, as every classroom and every student is different.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Sen. Paul’s claims, the Common Core was developed free from federal involvement, as objective analysis has repeatedly concluded, and states voluntarily adopted the standards. As experts like former Education Secretary Bill Bennett point out, the Common Core does not dictate what or how teachers lead their classes. The standards set high, clear learning goals and give control of how to meet them to local educators and school boards, the very control Sen. Paul argues for. And the Common Core is working. In Sen. Paul’s home state of Kentucky, which was the first to adopt the Common Core, students have made some of the biggest academic gains in the country. After the state implemented tougher assessments and teachers began teaching to the higher standards put forth by the Common Core, Kentucky closed its 32 percentage-point discrepancy between state and NAEP proficiency results by 15 points, according to Achieve’s Honesty Gap analysis, and students that meet all four benchmarks of the ACT college entrance exam increased by 15 percentage-points between 2012 and 2014.

Worchester Telegram & Gazette, “Anti-Common Core Group Launching Ballot Question Campaign”: An advocacy group called Common Core Forum announced it will begin a ballot campaign seeking to throw out Massachusetts’ Common Core standards. The group’s goal is to return to the education standards used in the state prior to adoption of the Common Core in 2010. “I think voters should have a choice in whether to continue with these untested education standards,” said Donna Colorio, the organization’s chairwoman. “Our ballot question’s goal is to give the people of Massachusetts a voice in that educational decision.” “With the implementation of Common Core’s standards after their adoption in 2010, we have started to decline in reading achievement. We need to stop the federal push for mediocre standards for all,” said Sandra Stotsky, an outspoken opponent of the Common Core who has endorsed the ballot initiative.

Where They Went Wrong: The Common Core Forum group seeks to replace the standards by perpetuating misleading information that disrupts constructive debate. In 2010, Massachusetts voluntarily adopted the Common Core, and the state continues to use the standards because of the value they provide by ensure more students graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, parents fundamentally support college- and career-ready education standards and increased accountability, and “it is virtually impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that both bear no resemblance to Common Core, and adequately prepare students for college and career.”


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Washington Post “House Passes No Child Left Behind Rewrite, Hoping to Boost States’ Power”: The U.S. House narrowly passed the Student Success Act – Republican-sponsored legislation to revamp NCLB – Wednesday by a vote of 218-213. No Democrats voted for the bill and more than two dozen Republicans joined the opposition, citing concerns it did not go far enough to reduce the federal role in education. Supporters say the legislation will return control to states. The House bill “sets up a far-right boundary for negotiations with the Senate, which is working through its own bill,” the article reports. President Obama has threatened to veto the House bill. The Student Success Act includes an amendment that would allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing without putting school districts at risk of federal sanctions. “Because of this frenzied obsession with high-stakes testing, more and more time is being usurped from actually classroom learning,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, who introduced the amendment. Rep. Bobby Scott disagreed. “If you’re not measuring the achievement gap, you can’t deal with the achievement gap.”

West Virginia Metro News “Department of Education Unveils Standards Feedback Website”: On Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Education unveiled a website that will allow parents and educators to submit comments about the state’s Common Core standards. The site is part of a pledge from State Superintendent Michael Martirano to include more public input on the state’s education standards. “We value the input from all of our stakeholders. Our parents, our community members, our teachers: individuals who can help improve that, we want to take their feedback,” Martirano said.