News You Can Use:

CNN, “Common Core Can Help Latino Students”: Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson writes that while a time to celebrate, graduation season underscores the need for “more work to be done and progress to be made to prepare our graduates – especially Latino students – for the journey ahead.” Noting graduation rates and college-enrollment among Hispanics lag those of their white peers, Gov. Richardson says, “Right now, too many states suffer from an ‘honesty gap’ between state-reported student proficiency levels and how those same students actually scored in English and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.” “In 2010, New Mexico took the first step in making sure all students were college and career-ready when it adopted the Common Core State Standards…By raising the bar for our students, we are ensuring that every child has the opportunities he or she deserves…while some naysayers continue to misrepresent the Common Core as a federal takeover of education that won’t help students improve, states such as Kentucky are already seeing improvements.” Gov. Richardson concludes, “With time and persistence, these standards will yield even more results. We can and must continue implementing them so our students are ready to succeed.”

What It Means: As Gov. Richardson points out, prior to the Common Core the patchwork of education standards allowed states to artificially inflate proficiency scores and other measures of student development, evidenced in Achieve’s recent Honesty Gap analysis. By adopting high, comparable standards of the Common Core and high-quality assessments, most states have taken the first step to addressing this problem. By setting rigorous learning goals for all students regardless of race or where they live, the Common Core will ensure more students will be held to academic benchmarks that fully prepare them for college or a career.

Educators for Higher Standards, “Raising the Bar on Expectations for Student Learning”: In April, Ouida Newton, an Arkansas teacher with 37 years of experience and the most recent recipient of the state’s Teacher of the Year Award, testified before the Common Core Review Council. During her testimony, Newton says, “There have been a lot of misunderstandings about what the Common Core Standards are and what they ask of our students.” Using an example from her classroom, Newton demonstrates the applicability of problem-solving techniques encouraged by the Common Core. “Since implementing Common Core, my teaching has changed drastically and I believe for the better,” she says. “The focus now is on students being able to think critically and use information, not just being able to perform an algorithm…the class has moved from learning at the knowledge and comprehension level to application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.” Noting the Common Core is not a curriculum but a guide, Newton concludes, “Our education system is going to have to develop critical thinking skills [to prepare future generations]…I believe implementation of Common Core is the first step.”

What It Means: Newton demonstrates the real impact Common Core Standards are having on student learning within classrooms. As she points out, in addition to traditional problem-solving techniques, like memorization and standard algorithms, the standards encourage multiple techniques, collaboration and real-world application to create greater conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and early adopter states, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have experienced some of the biggest academic improvements in the country using the standards.

Bangor Daily News, “Maine Is Wrong to Abandon Smarter Balanced, But It Can Choose Its Next Test Responsibly”: After a bill to remove Maine from the Smarter Balanced testing consortium with “virtually no opposition,” which Gov. Paul LePage appears likely to support, the editorial board writes that the state is “making an all-too-sudden run for the exit after just one year” of the new standardized tests. “It’s unfortunate that Maine is on track to prematurely abandon an initiative before educators and policymakers have had a fair chance to judge it by any measure other than anecdote. Noting the new assessments were designed to be more challenging and emphasize critical thinking skills, the piece says real reason for getting rid of the exam is public discontent with testing. “The best Maine can do now is go about searching for its replacement in the right way.” A 22-person committee will review proposals from new vendors, and the tests will continue to be based on Common Core Standards and administered by computer. Noting Maine will invariably “lose from this change” because of uncertainty from giving three tests in as many years and not being able to compare results to other states, the piece concludes that the state “can take the right steps to find a tests that’s challenging and academically useful.”

What It Means: Student assessments are one of the strongest tools parents and educators have to measure a child’s progress. New high-quality assessments like Smarter Balanced and PARCC were designed to provide a more accurate measure of development and to hold schools to greater accountability by allowing them to compare their results to others across district and state lines. As the editorial argues, by withdrawing from the Smarter Balanced consortium, Maine creates greater uncertainty for students and teachers by subjecting them to three tests in three years, and it undermines the ability to compare performance results to others in the consortium. The state must ensure new exams are rigorous and fully support the high standards put forth by the Common Core.


Correcting the Record:

Fox News, “Todd Starnes: The Problem with Jeb Bush”: Writing about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement yesterday he will seek the Republican presidential nomination, Fox News host Todd Starnes criticizes Gov. Bush’s support for the Common Core. “In the past he’s called criticism of Common Core ‘purely political’ and ‘troubling,’” Starnes says. “Folks, Common Core teachers kids to hate America. One lesson compared the Boston Tea Party to an act of terrorism. Another portrayed the presidents on Mount Rushmore as racist slave owners. Under Common Core, the Islamic faith has been given accommodation in American classrooms. Children are being taught there is no true god but Allah. And yet, Governor Bush seems to believe the critics of such nonsense are the problem.”

Where They Went Wrong: Starnes perpetuates inflammatory, misleading information about the Common Core by conflating the standards with lessons and materials, which are determined by local education authorities. The Common Core sets rigorous learning goals for each grade level; it does not dictate how teachers get students over those benchmarks, or what materials they use. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett addressed these kinds of attacks earlier this year. “These distortions of the Common Core have taken a toll on the education reform movement towards more rigorous standards,” he writes, addressing a Fox News article that made similar claims (the workbook in question was printed nearly a decade before the Common Core was developed). “Sensational, even if false, news stories attract far more attention than nuanced policy debates…These myths and lies spread throughout the media like wildfire, and opponents of the Common Core know they can fan the flames of opposition far more effectively with these sensational and scurrilous accusations rather than engaging in an honest, intellectual policy debate.”


On Our Reading List:

Wall Street Journal“New Evaluation Rules Set for New York Teachers”: The New York Board of Regents tentatively agreed on Monday to new rules for teacher evaluations which make it easier for school districts to delay overhauling current systems. An April budget law pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo required the board to create regulations for a new rating system to differentiate between strong and weak teachers, the article reports, and districts must get approval by Nov. 15. During Monday’s meeting, the Regents sought to balance the need to obey the law with concerns that increasing the use of state test scores would create an unfair and inaccurate approach. “I don’t believe any of us is very happy with the evaluation system we are obligated to enforce by law,” said Board of Regents Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar.

New Orleans Advocate, “Common Core Back on BESE Agenda”: A committee of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected today to approve 101 nominees to four panels that will review the state’s Common Core education standards. Under new state laws, the committee’s recommendations will go to the BESE, then onto lawmakers and finally to the governor for more study. The State Department of Education released 92 nominees for the committee last month. A 26-member steering committee will oversee the work of the other three committees; a 29-member committee will study what students in kindergarten through second grade should know; another will review what students in grades 3 through 12 should learn in English language arts; and another still will review what students in grades 3 through 12 should learn in math.”

Washington Post, “Ups and Downs”: In a recurring post about political trends, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin says that “Flip-floppers on Common Core” are up, while “Cogent explanations for why Common Core should be repealed” are down.