News You Can Use:


Soft Landing on Common Core / New Orleans Advocate
Louisiana policymakers’ compromise to amend the state’s Common Core Standards puts an “end to the pointless bickering” and “is a welcome dénouement,” the editorial board writes. After former Governor Bobby Jindal “fanned the flames of dissatisfaction without regard for the facts,” the Legislature and education leaders did not buckle to his pressure. “The upgrade of academic standards is a real achievement for Louisiana schools, and we congratulate those who kept the faith despite the political headwinds of a couple of years ago.” Like Louisiana, most states “have weighed the evidence and opted to build on the framework set by these rigorous, comparable education standards,” Jim Cowen explains in a recent memo.


Correcting the Record:

New Study Says Common Core Is Not Keeping Up with the Demands of College Instructors / International Business Times
“The Common Core education initiative may need to have its focus readjusted when it comes to college preparedness,” the article asserts in response to a survey by the ACT. “Far too few college instructors – a substantially lower percentage than in past surveys – report that their incoming students are well prepared for college-level work,” the study states. The report notes college instructors would like to see a greater emphasis on generating ideas for writing, and many K-12 math teachers do not believe Common Core is aligned well enough with colleges’ expectations for incoming students. Yet, the report is a measure of opinions, not evidence of the skills students need to graduate high school fully prepared for college and careers. Here is where the ACT survey gets it wrong:

Perception vs. Evidence: Common Core Is Built on the Skills Students Need to Graduate High School Ready for College and Careers

“The Common Core education initiative may need to have its focus readjusted when it comes to college preparedness,” an International Business Times article asserts in response to the ACT’s latest National Curriculum Survey.

The semi-regular survey indicates college professor would like to see greater emphasis on generating ideas for writing in English language arts. In math, many K-12 teachers said they believe the Common Core is not well enough aligned with college instructors’ expectations for college readiness.

A press release accompanying the survey carefully alleges “certain discrepancies between portions of the Common Core State Standards and skills some educators believe are most important for college readiness.”

The Common Core State Standards are comprised of about 1,300 standard spread across 13 grades and two subjects. Those were considered by 9,200 individuals in the ACT study. Understandably, respondents were able to identify “certain discrepancies” in the standards and in what they think students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college.

But it’s important to note the ACT study is a survey of opinions. The data represent perceptions—what respondents think is most important to prepare students for college and careers. That can be very different from evidence of what actually best prepares students, which is grounded in study and research.

A great deal of research indicates Common Core State Standards are built on the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college and careers. For example, researchers at Michigan State University found the Common Core is 90 percent aligned to education standards used by top-performing countries.

Likewise, an evaluation by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2010 concluded that the Common Core State Standards are an improvement over 32 states’ standards for math and 28 states’ standards for English language arts. “The Common Core math standards earn a grade of A-minus while the Common Core ELA standards earn a B-plus, both solidly in the honors range. Neither is perfect. Both are very, very strong,” the study states.

At the same time, the ACT’s motivations are reason for skepticism. The ACT has been distancing itself from the Common Core (even while the company’s website maintains the ACT Aspire exam is “aligned to the Common Core State Standards”), creating a conflict of interest.

For all the talk of states abandoning consortia exams specifically aligned to the Common Core, to date only three states have chosen to adopt the ACT Aspire and only three states require the ACT in high school. It seems the company’s true intention is to position itself as the “anti-Common Core” test.



On Our Reading List:

Kentucky Education Commissioner to Feds: Back Off on Test Changes / Lexington Herald Leader
Kentucky education commissioner Stephen Pruitt took exception to a federal proposal that would require the state to identify low-performing schools for new accountability rules using data from the old system. Pruitt said it isn’t fair to identify schools as low-performing under one accountability system and then judge whether those schools are making progress under another framework. In addition to sending a cease-and-desist letter to U.S. Education Secretary John King, Pruitt said he is prepared to testify on the issue to Congress.

With Many Exams Now Gone, Uncertainty over Oklahoma Schools’ A-F Grade System Grows / Tulsa World
After Governor Mary Fallin signed into law House Bill 3218 last week, eliminating standardized end-of-instruction exams, policymakers will now need to revise the state’s letter-grade system used to evaluate school performance. They system, which ranked schools on an A-F scale, relied in part on results from standardized exams, including a year-to-year comparison to evaluate academic improvement. Under the legislation, the state Department of Education is required to develop a new school accountability system by January 1, 2017. The Department is expected to release the latest school report cards this fall, based on results from the 2015-16 school year.