News You Can Use:

Education Post, “Just ‘Tell It Like It Is,’ Chris Christie: The Standards Are Working”: In response to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent decision to review and amend the state’s Common Core Standards, Karen Nussle writes: “This is a toothless announcement in that it changes very little about New Jersey’s academic standards. But what’s counterintuitive is that the move may also prove a bad political gamble… Gov. Christie now holds a nuanced position: opposing the phrase ‘Common Core,’ but endorsing Common Core-aligned tests, all while launching an unoriginal review that will likely result in a reaffirmation of the existing standards.” For Gov. Christie, who prides himself as a straight-talker, the move hurts “his self-professed status as the guy who will tell the hard truths.” Contrary to Gov. Christie’s justification that the standards aren’t working, New Jersey appears to be on track towards closing its Honesty Gap. “With his Common Core decision, Gov. Christie has shown that he neither had the courage to forcefully flip-flop on the standards, nor the fortitude to stand by them…Unfortunately, lost in all these horse-race calculations is the impact” on teachers, students and parents.

What It Means: While opposition to the Common Core has become a rallying cry for a sliver of the far-right, parents and voters still fundamentally support rigorous education standards and increased accountability. As Nussle points out, at least a dozen legislatures have voted down bills to repeal the Common Core this year, voters have said support for the standards is not a disqualifying issue, and all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core still use the standards or a similar version. Observers see Gov. Christie’s decision for what it is: a short-sighted political calculatio, while putting students and teachers at a disadvantage.

New York Daily News, “New York City’s Common Core-Aligned Curriculum Rollout Gets High Marks”: New York City has taken the adoption of Common Core State Standards seriously and the curriculum-implementation process has been successful by and large, according to a new study by the Manhattan Institute, writes Charles Sahm, director of education policy for the organization. Two-thirds of principals have switched to one of the math and English curricula recommended by the city’s Department of Education, and a “large majority of principals express satisfaction with their curriculum materials and feel that teachers are faithfully implementing them in classrooms.” “The curriculum-adoption policy that the city has employed…seems to be working,” Sahm adds, and charter-school leaders too are taking implementation seriously. “New York’s education leadership, city and state, deserves credit for steps taken to improve curriculum quality. But more data would help officials make the most of curriculum investments and improve student performance.”

What It Means: Big academic improvements in states like New York, Kentucky and Tennessee, which adopted the Common Core early and have put their support behind implementation, suggest that the standards are working. As Sahm points out, in New York City, principals are overwhelmingly implanting curricula aligned with the Common Core. Last year steady gains in state math scores led the Daily News to write, “The chorus of ‘can’t’…was wrong.” Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest Common Core adopters, have experienced some of the biggest improvements in math and reading proficiency rates and college-readiness scores nationwide. As the recent Honesty Gap analysis by Achieve found, most states have taken the difficult step of addressing inflated proficiency rates by adopting the Common Core and high-quality tests, and now is not the time to turn back.

Education Week, “Common Core Algebra Seen as Tougher”: Under the Common Core, teachers and experts say Algebra I is a more challenging course than before, in part because many of the concepts that “historically were covered in that high school class have been bumped down into middle school math.” While some say the changes could complicate efforts to put eighth-grade students in Algebra I, educators point out children are learning algebraic concepts earlier. “If you follow Common Core, there’s now tons of algebra content in the eighth grade,” says William McCallum, one of the lead writers of the Common Core math standards. “Traditionally in Algebra I, a lot of time was spent looking at linear functions. But a lot of that work now has been moved into eighth grade [under] Common Core,” says Diane Briars, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “The Common Core built much higher expectations for conceptual understanding.” Jonathan Wray, a instructional facilitator in Maryland, adds that the Common Core begins preparing students for higher level math in early grades. “You can back-map all the way to grades 3, 4 and 5 and see there’s better preparation there than there ever has been before.”

What It Means: As the experts in the article point out, common core is designed to provide students with a stronger base of knowledge and stepping stones to higher level math. By introducing students to algebraic concepts in earlier grade levels, instead of waiting to high school, students will be better prepared by the time they get to high school. Though it is important to note that schools are still able to offer high school Algebra to grade 8 students who have demonstrated mastery of the foundational skills. Though challenging, these learning goals ensure more students develop the skills to succeed at elevated levels of math, and to ultimately graduate high school prepared for college or a career. The article makes clear these changes mean that the content is being raised to ensure students have the resources they need to meet the challenges of high school mathematics.

Embrace the Core“Education Professor Shows How Common Core Works in Teacher Training”: Although sometimes messy, collaboration among teachers has played a key role in ensuring educators are able to weave Common Core State Standards into their specific curricula, says Dorie Combs, an education professor at Eastern Kentucky University. “Part of what excited teachers about the Common Core Standards, the standards are rich,” Combs says. Teachers “are now engaging in more intellectual pursuits with their students in their classrooms, and they see their students starting to think critically.” More than 1,000 teachers in Kentucky have undergone training to help acclimate them to the Common Core. As a result, Combs says teachers are collaborating more across curricula and that the state is “probably several years ahead of other states.”

What It Means: In Kentucky, the earliest adopter of the Common Core, teachers and students are experiencing improvements in classroom instruction under the standards. College-readiness scores have increased consecutively over the past three years, and reading and math proficiency rates in most grade levels have climbed. As other states continue to fully implement the Common Core, many are expected to see similar improvements. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers nationwide who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Des Moines Register, “Walker: We Changed Broken Education System”: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker writes that education reforms initiated under his leadership “are working” and have “changed that broken system in Wisconsin.” “Now, more than ever, we need to push big, bold reforms to improve our schools,” Gov. Walker says. “If we can do it in Wisconsin, there is no reason we can’t push positive education reform across the country.” Gov. Walkers goes on to criticize the Common Core as a federal intrusion. “Nationwide, we want high standards but we want them set by parents, educators and school board members at the local level. That is why I oppose Common Core. Money spent at the local and state level is more efficient, more effective and more accountable. That is why I support moving money out of Washington and sending it to states and schools…We need leaders who value quality choices and who trust parents to put the interests of their children first.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Gov. Walkers insinuation that Common Core was pushed on school districts by the federal government, states, including Wisconsin, voluntarily adopted the standards, and after two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards continue to use them. By setting high learning goals and giving schools and educators the autonomy to determine how best to achieve them, the Common Core better ensures more students will graduate high school prepared for college or a career. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core report and improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, and more than eight in 10 support implementation.


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Sunlight Foundation, “Common Core Advocates Dominate Early Messaging in Iowa”: The Collaborative for Student Success has led messaging efforts in Iowa in the early stages of the election cycle, trumping “the earliest ad buys from super super PACs focused on presidential politics in the state.” “Though CFSS doesn’t name any presidential candidates in its ads, the group appears to be targeting much of its messaging at conservative voters, who will have a wide field to choose from in the primaries.” Blair Mann, spokesperson for the Collaborative, points out, “It’s important that the public have the facts and that public officials be held accountable when they employ wildly inaccurate and deliberately misleading descriptions of the standards.”

Associated Press, “Last Bill in La. Common Core Compromise Wins Final Passage”: On Tuesday, the Louisiana House voted 99-0 to send the final bill of a three-part Common Core compromise deal to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has indicated he will support it. The bills will instigate a review of the state’s education standards with public input, legislative oversight and an up-or-down vote from the next governor, and they will place limits on the state’s use of standardized testing material from consortia aligned with the Common Core. “Attention now shifts to the fall elections, when a new governor and state school board members will be selected who could sway the standards review,” the article notes.

The Oregonian, “Oregon Risks Losing $140 Million for Enabling Kids to Skip Common Core Tests, Feds Warn”: Federal authorities could withhold $140 million per year or more from Oregon schools if lawmakers approve legislation enabling parents to more easily opt students out of state tests. House Bill 2655, which would require schools to notify parents twice a year of their right to exempt students from testing and protect schools against repercussions from low participation, could receive consideration from the State Senate as early as today. “The legislature is playing chicken with hundreds of millions in federal funding,” said Toya Fick, head of Stand for Children Oregon. “Further, the bill ensures our kids become invisible by sabotaging the results of our statewide assessment, making it much more difficult to identify gaps in our public school system.”