News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “Chris Christie’s About-Face”: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Common Core U-turn,” in which he said the standards aren’t working, is “news to much of his state’s education leadership, which embraced them as central to preparing students for college, career and life,” the editorial board writes. “Mr. Christie’s rhetoric about the Common Core has nothing to do with education and everything to do with his possible bid for the White House.” Noting any kind of review would likely produce “something that bears a striking resemblance” to the Common Core, the piece says the process will mean added expense and possible disruption for teachers, students and parents. “If that mattered to Mr. Christie, he at least would have waited for the report, due in July, from the commission he appointed last year to review testing and standards …What distinguishes Mr. Christie’s betrayal is that he promotes himself as a straight talker willing to stand up for principle, no matter the consequence.”

What It Means: The editorial lays bare the fact that Gov. Christie’s claim that the Common Core isn’t working is little more than political posturing and runs counter to support from the state’s education community and evidence from states that have fully implemented the standards. As Karen Nussle noted on Friday, New Jersey collegiate administrators like the Presidents of Raritan Valley and Passaic County Community Colleges, the Chancellor of Rutgers in Camden, and the President of Richard Stockton College, and others continue to endorse the Common Core. And states like Kentucky and Tennessee, both early adopters of the standards, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country in recent years. As the editorial says, Gov. Christie’s calculation undercuts the notion he is one of the few “straight-talkers,” which could very well hurt him with voters, who overwhelmingly support rigorous academic standards.

NJ Spotlight, “Christie’s Common Core Flip-Flop Leaves Teachers, Students in Lurch”: Mark Webber, a public teacher in Warren Township, writes that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s call last week for a review of the Common Core contradicts the message that teachers in the state have received over the past several years. “In a fit of shameless political expediency, Christie has decided that New Jersey ought to abandon the CCSS and instead embrace standards that ‘come directly from our own communities.’ These would be the same communities that spent the past four years working to implement CCSS, only to have their efforts brushed aside casually by Christie…So we now have a bizarre patchwork of education policies that are incoherent and untenable. How, for example, can Christie think it’s a good idea for students to continue to take the PARCC exams when they are aligned with CCSS?…These questions could have been avoided – if only Christie had decided to work with teachers, rather than wage war on us.” Weber ends by saying, “I’m all for serious debate about the Common Core. But let’s not pretend for one second that Christie is engaged in one.” .

What It Means: Weber makes clear that Gov. Christie’s change of heart on the Common Core, which he attributed to a lack of buy-in from teachers and parents, ignores educators’ overwhelming support for the standards and risks undoing the investment schools, teachers, students and parents have made over the past several years. Although Gov. Christie alleges that the Common Core represents a federal takeover of education, the federal government has changed nothing since he reaffirmed the state’s commitment to the Common Core. As many are keenly aware, Gov. Christie’s move is little more than political posturing at the expense of New Jersey teachers and students.

New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, “Letter to Members in Response to Gov. Christie’s Common Core Address”: In response to Gov. Christie’s call for a review of New Jersey’s education standards, the NJPSA executive director Patricia Wright says the organization’s is “genuinely confused” about the need for such action. “Based upon our experience as school leaders charged with leading the implementation of these standards, we have seen firsthand the important progress we are making in preparing our students to achieve at higher levels…I encourage [educators] to continue to stay the course!” Wright adds, “NJPSA stands firm in our support of the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards, as the academic roadmap for our public schools. We believe that any attempt to reverse course at this juncture would do a great disservice to our students, educators and communities resulting in unnecessary confusion in our educational system at a time when we need consistency the most.”

What It Means: The NJPSA letter underscores the strong support for the Common Core among New Jersey educators, contrary to Gov. Christie’s claim that there has not been sufficient buy-in from teachers. As the letter plainly states, reversing course would do a “great disservice” to students and teachers and create greater uncertainty for schools. The letter also makes clear that any review will likely result in standards that “closely resemble the Common Core,” because, as Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote recently, “it is impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”


Correcting the Record:

CBS New York, “Christie: Reversal on Common Core Had Nothing to Do with Political Ambitions”: At a news conference on Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said his turnaround on Common Core was not politically motivated. “It’s a recognition of what I’ve heard across the state for the better part of the last two years,” Gov. Christie said. At the same time, he defended the continued use of PARCC tests. “I understand [parents] are frustrated, but here’s the problem – we will lose significant, millions and millions and millions of dollars in federal education funding if we do not test.” Political science professor Krista Jenkins disagrees the move is not politically motivated. “He is a Republican trying to cater to the base,” she says.

Where They Went Wrong: As Karen Nussle emphasized in a memo last week, Gov. Christie’s call for a review of the Common Core is a political calculation, not a policy consideration. “Indeed, this was a master stroke of political manipulation,” based on rhetoric, not proof. “If there is any new federal overreach, then Gov. Christie failed to identify what it is. And if it’s ‘not working’ he provided no specific evidence of that either.” The Washington Post adds, Gov. Christie’s rhetoric “has nothing to do with education and everything to do with his possible bid for the White House.” Sadly, that longshot calculation comes at the expense of teachers and students, who have spent years preparing for the Common Core and are now left in the lurch.

Arizona Republic, “Common Core Won’t Make Your Dreams Come True”: Arizona state Rep. Paul Boyer writes that the Common Core does not ensure access to a high-quality education, that the standards will largely determine curriculum and the state will have to should the cost of implementation. “Supports still insist schools maintain their curricular freedom,” Rep. Boyer says. “If so, then why is Arizona being told we must spend nearly $100 million we don’t have on Common Core-aligned curriculum?” He adds that developing “our own test or a menu of tests that is more in line with the curriculum we are actually teaching in our classrooms” could cost the state $582 million in federal funding. “This means our curricular decisions will be directed by decisions made in Washington, DC, not Arizona,” Rep. Boyer concludes. “Arizona ought to reverse course and instead focus our time, talent and treasure on placing excellent teachers in every classroom.”

Where They Went Wrong: Like all states using the Common Core, Arizona voluntarily adopted the standards and high-quality, state-developed assessments (AzMERIT) to support them. As a result, the state is providing a more honest measure of student achievement and holding young people to academic expectations that will fully prepare them for college or a career. According to an Arizona State University poll, nearly seven in 10 respondents support high, comparable education standards and increased accountability. A Scholastic study last year found more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core are enthusiastic about implementation and more than two-thirds reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills.


On Our Reading List:

Ledger-Enquirer (GA), “Textbooks: Center of Debate but No Longer Center of Classroom”: Despite debate about relevant textbooks, schools in Georgia are increasingly turning to online resources and other materials to lead classroom instruction. Teachers like Sherah Cash, a fifth-grade teacher, are already incorporating new technology and picking resources best suited to help students. “You have to use these things to keep the children engaged,” Cash says. “If you have them engaged and have those relationships, then you’ve got them. They can learn anything.”

Times Picayune, “Bobby Jindal, Barack Obama See Political Benefits from Issuing Executive Orders”: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been critical of President Obama’s use of executive action, has exercised the same powers as governor, including trying to block assessments that support the state’s Common Core Standards. “Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as state Education Superintendent John White wanted to continue using the tests Jindal didn’t like, and the Legislature apparently agreed with them and not the governor,” the article reports. “A judge last year chastised Jindal for overstepping his gubernatorial bounds on the Common Core testing issue.”