News You Can Use:

US News & World Report, “Court Blocks Jindal’s Bid to Ditch Common Core”: Calling it an “unconstitutional interference,” the Louisiana 1st Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive orders halting standards-aligned testing and rebidding the contract. The court found that those “responsibilities [belong to] the state’s education department and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.” An attorney for Gov. Jindal called the decision “troubling” and stated their intention to appeal. The article notes that “lawmakers recently created a committee tasked with replacing Common Core with new academic standards” and that these new standards would be out of Jindal’s orbit and “subject to approval by [his] successor.”

What It Means:   Gov. Jindal continues tying himself up in knots over the Common Core as he searches for relevance among a crowded Republican field of possible presidential candidates. His claims that states were “illegally coerced” into adopting the standards has been disproven at every turn, and his cries about federal overreach don’t hold up when courts are ruling that his own actions are, in fact, government overreach. While states were allowed to use federal dollars to aid implementation of the standards, the Common Core began as a state-led initiative from governors and top educators and continues to this day as a states’ effort.

Education Post, “Let’s Not Settle for ‘Good Enough’ Schools”: Colorado fifth-grade teacher Jessica Moore writes about her experiences teaching in urban and rural schools, noting that she was “considered a more effective teacher” in the rural school because students there “met expectations for growth and achievement.” The suburban mentality at top-performing schools that “our schools are fine and don’t need higher standards or tighter accountability” is having harmful effects on other areas. The Colorado Academic Standards were developed to meet the “more rigorous college and career readiness expectations,” and, as Moore writes, “even the best schools have a chance to re-envision their work through higher standards and smart, rigorous assessments, while the lowest-performing schools have a chance to focus on the classroom practices needed to increase the quality of instruction and move all students toward the top tier of academic achievement.”

What It Means:   Colorado’s version of the Common Core State Standards is improving the educational experiences of all students, not just those in high-performing schools. Moore’s experience at varied schools has shown her the value in high-quality, rigorous standards that raise expectations for all students, not just those in comfortable suburban districts. Good schools should always strive to do better and under the Colorado Academic Standards, the “autopilot mentality” that can hold back achievement can be put aside so that educators throughout the state can feel assured that their schools are working to become great, and do great things for students.


Correcting the Record:

Wisconsin State Journal, “More Than 8,000 Wisconsin Students Opt Out of Smarter Balanced Exam, 700 in Madison”: About “7 percent of elementary and middle school students in Madison and 2 percent of public school students statewide opted out” of Common Core aligned standardized tests this school year, marking a “substantial” increase in the number of student opt-outs over last year. The article noted that 737 students in the Madison School District opted out this year, which represents “a surge” from recent years; five years ago, just 17 students in the same district opted out. Meanwhile, state lawmakers are developing legislation that would “allow parents to opt out of any tests administered by local school districts” while requiring school officials to “sell” tests to parents by explaining their value. The legislation would prohibit the state from penalizing schools “for low test participation rates,” and the primary author said he “doesn’t believe” the state’s testing participation rate would fall below the federally required 95 percent, which would “trigger federal sanctions like withholding funding for low-income students.” The article notes that “nearly half of the parents who chose not to have children tested [in Madison] have advanced college degrees.”

Where They Went Wrong: Assessments are an important tool for measuring whether students are learning — not just memorizing — the information taught in classrooms. The Common Core standards were developed in part to create better learning progressions from one grade to the next, and the aligned assessments ensure that students are on-track in their schooling. For the time first time, academic standards and assessments are comparable across state lines, and educators are getting a better sense of how students are performing overall, instead of within the bubble of a specific district. What’s more, assessments have historically been useful in identifying and narrowing achievement gaps, which is why 12 civil rights groups released a statement yesterday highlighting the importance of annual assessments. The more students who opt-out of standardized testing, the less meaningful the measuring tool becomes in aiding educational outcomes for all students.

Times Record, “Fort Smith Hosts Common Core Debate”: The latest stop on the Arkansas Common Core “listening tour” brought forth opposition that referred to the standards as “rooted in evil” and that will force states “to accept anything regardless of poor quality that comes along and explicitly aligns with Common Core.” Speaking to the crowd of about 100, a representative from Concerned Women for America criticized schools as “testing factories” and said testing should be done to “find out what students know so teachers will know what we need to teach them.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the assertion, the Common Core is not “rooted in evil” but rather rooted in proven, successful academic practices. Leading state educators, business communities and governors were so concerned about the lack of foundation knowledge and practical skills being taught in schools that they developed standards of such high quality rigor that the handful of states that have tried to create their own have found it impossible not to replicate the Common Core. Furthermore, the aligned assessments were developed to test what students have learned in the classrooms to ensure that they are on-track to meet the standards’ grade-level benchmarks, and to give educators and parents more accurate feedback on where students are struggling.


On Our Reading List:

News Journal, “Delaware Senate Passes Opt-Out Bill With Wider Scope”: A “fiercely debated bill” designed to kill the Common Core aligned assessment in Delaware passed in the State Senate “but only after adding amendments that broadened its scope” to let parents opt-out of any “districtwide exams.” Due to the amendments, the bill’s sponsor says the legislation no longer accomplishes his goal of narrowly targeting the bill to eliminate the Smarter Balanced assessment. Parents and teachers who oppose the aligned assessment say that it “is of no practical use” to them and will “unfairly punish teachers and schools.” Gov. Jack Markell and the State Department of Education strongly oppose the bill, saying “test data is vital to making smart education decisions” and have rallied civil rights leaders who say the test scores “are essential to making sure low-income and minority students aren’t left behind.” Business leaders also oppose the legislation, noting that “scores allow for strong accountability in education, the program on which the state spends the most taxpayer money.” The legislation will return to the state House for consideration, and Gov. Markell has not indicated whether he will veto the legislation if it makes it to his desk, but the article notes that the “lopsided margins in support of the bill in both houses raise the possibility that lawmakers could override a veto.”

NNSTOY Blog, “Looking Forward”: West Virginia’s 2013 Teacher of the Year penned a retirement note, stating that he “fully intend[s] to be an advocate for the common core standards and positive education shifts in West Virginia and anywhere else people might listen.” Noting that he has seen education shifts due to benefits of the Common Core being realized in classrooms, Michael Funkhouser says that teachers and schools are adapting to the “mobile” students working “in groups” and that “there is often more than one component of the lesson going on at the same time” in stark contrast to the staid “row formation” of the past.

Louisville-Courier-Journal, “Matt Bevin investment embraces Common Core”: Despite vowing to repeal the Common Core in Kentucky, Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin “owns part of an education technology company that embraces” the standards. The software company Academic Merit out of Maine, notes on its website that “its products are aligned with the Common Core.” Bevin vowed during the primary to “withdraw” the state from the standards, and his campaign spokesperson told the newspaper that the company’s products do not affect Bevin’s position. The Associated Press reported that Bevin “did not disclose his position with Academic Merit and a second company (Bevin Bros. Manufacturing of Connecticut) in a disclosure form he filed as a candidate for governor this year with the Kentucky Executive Ethics Commission.”

Fordham Institute’s Eduwatch 2016, “Donald Trump Quotes About Education”: On the heels of Donald Trump’s announcement that he will join the crowded Republican field of presidential hopefuls, the Fordham Institute’s Eduwatch 2016 blog pulls together a roundup of Trump education positions. He would likely yell “You’re Fired!” at the Common Core, having referred to it last year as “a disaster,” but he also said the in terms of education in an international context, the United States is “twenty-sixth in the world” and risks “becoming a third world country” in this regard.