News You Can Use:

New York Times, “Meet the New Common Core”: Efforts in some states to replace the Common Core are faced with the reality that what’s replacing the standards “is, by and large, the same thing in a new package,” writes Jordan Ellenberg, a University of Wisconsin math professor. Noting standardized tests “aren’t going anywhere” because of “accountability statutes long predating the Common Core,” Ellenberg says changes to states’ education standards are unlikely to yield big changes to classroom materials. That’s because new standards are largely aligned with the content of the Common Core. In South Carolina, for example, the state’s new math standards were found to be 92 percent aligned with Common Core math standards. “In other words, the math they’re asking students to learn is largely the same.” Ellenberg says that’s one reason why legislators have opted to preserve the Common Core; many of the problem-solving strategies emphasized by the standards are aligned with ways math was taught before. “The Common Core doesn’t reinvent math education, but it does change its emphasis,” Ellenberg says, to address issues that “kneecap” students in higher-level subject if not mastered.”

What It Means:   Contrary to critics’ claims that the Common Core subjects students to “new math,” Ellenberg makes a strong case that the meat of the Standards largely aligns with prior instruction and learning techniques. Like Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote previously, Ellenberg points out that the big change under the Common Core is a shift in instruction that emphasizes mastery of important skills at early grade levels, better positioning students for higher-level material. Ellenberg’s piece reinforces Karen Nussle’s analysis that it is “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,” because the Common Core incorporates the best practices and information available.


Correcting the Record:

Detroit News, “Teacher: New Tests Pose Challenges”: Paul Ruth, a Michigan high-school teacher, writes that the “upheaval” of the state’s standardized tests has created complications for educators. Explaining a “triangle of pedagogical policy” made up of curriculum, methodology and assessment measures, Ruth says, “With curriculum increasingly dominated by state and Common Core national standards, and assessment driven by outside sources,” teachers now have a more difficult task in bridging the two through methodology. “At the same time, the tests dictates whether a school is deemed viable,” the piece says. “The school, and of course the teacher, is coerced into teaching to the test.” Ruth concludes, “The teacher is left picking up the piece of a swirling education policy having to constantly shift and remold instruction for a test and curriculum that not only changes but presents itself in mystery.”

Where They Went Wrong: As Ruth makes clear, teachers carry the difficult responsibility of implementing curricula and preparing students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at higher levels of learning and ultimately in the path they choose after high school. Assessments provide educators and parents a strong tool to measure that development in children, and new high-quality assessments being implemented in most states are designed to provide better, more accurate measures – not create greater burdens for teachers. Unlike previous exams, new tests based on the Common Core require students to demonstrate their understanding, mitigating pressures to teach to the test. And while Ruth indicates the Common Core is dominating curricula, the standards ensure local authorities – educators and school board – control how and what is taught in classrooms.


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Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Testing Hours and Future of PARCC Still Unclear in Senate’s Testing Changes”: The Ohio Senate’s proposed changes to student testing align with the House on “a few key points,” but many differences in how to address testing controversies remain to be sorted out in conferences between leaders of the two chambers over the next week. On Friday the Senate Finance Committee accepted a package of amendments to the two-year budget bill that included shortening test times; protecting schools, students and teachers from negative consequences of low test scores through the 2016-17 school year; limiting testing to one round of exams; and “leaving the door open for PARCC to keep providing the tests.” Still, some lawmakers intend to eliminate the state’s participation in PARCC. “As far as the House is concerned, PARCC needs to go,” said State Rep. Andrew Brenner. “We need to find an alternative test that has been proven and is working in other states.”

Raleigh News and Observer, “Opinions Aired at Meeting on Common Core”: At a public meeting Monday held by North Carolina’s Academic Standards Review Commission, participants spoke both for and against the state’s Common Core math standards. Terry Stoops, director of education at the John Locke Foundation, said elementary students are being taught confusing strategies that “may or may not yield an accurate answer.” Kim Arwood, a high school math teacher disagreed, stating that the standards help students build a strong conceptual understanding of math functions. “Our students will not be able to compete for 21st-century jobs with students from other countries and other states who are teaching conceptual understanding,” she said.

EdNC, “Teachers Want Their Turn to Speak on Common Core”: Following a public hearing held in North Carolina by the state’s Academic Standards Review Commission (see above), some teachers question the Commission’s commitment to public input. Educators were told they would be heard in July but were later told by staff their opportunity to comment would be pushed until September, during a school day. “I think that was a very poor choice,” said Kimberly Arwood, a local parent. “I think they need to make extraordinary efforts to include teachers.” A group of 18 teachers sent a letter to the Commission supporting the state’s Common Core Standards.

New York Times, “John Kasich, Ohio’s Republican Rebel, Nears Run for President”: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vigorous supporter of the Common Core, appears to “on the verge” of launching a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Gov. Kasich indicates he has not yet made up his mind, the article reports, but will likely announce his decision in July. Still, he has increased his travel to key states, including South Carolina and New Hampshire, and will visit Iowa for the first time in this election cycle next week.