News You Can Use:

Education Week, “The Common Core Is Not the Problem”: In response to a Wall Street Journal op-ed  by Brian Zorn, which criticizes assessments aligned to the Common Core as putting some students at a disadvantage, Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers write that the standards are not the problem. “Standards are a good thing. Standards that are high are even better,” the piece states. “No matter to whom the test results will be attributed, progress toward the standard is key…So when you come right down to it, it is the assessments and how they are used that is the heart of the issue…At that point of interaction of child and teacher, how can every child learn and grow, how much growth can be expected and how much is enough? It is the dilemma and frustration at this interactive point that presents the currently unanswerable question.

What It Means: Berkowicz and Myers make clear that rigorous education standards are necessary to set expectations for students that prepare them for success at high levels of learning. High-quality assessments are an important tool to hold schools accountable to such standards, and states must determine testing policies that support rigorous standards. As Achieve’s recent Honesty Gap analysis made clear, most states have taken the difficult first step to address these issues by implementing high standards and assessments to support them.


Correcting the Record:

Education Week, “Maine Leaves Common-Core Test Consortium”: Last week, Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed LD 1276, which requires the state leave the Smarter Balanced testing consortium that provided assessments designed to support the state’s Common Core standards. The state will now have to search for a new assessment for math and English language arts or develop its own for the 2015-16 school year. Gov. LePage, once a supporter of the Common Core, came out against the standards last year. Still, the bill sent to the Governor was amended from its original version to strip out a provision prohibiting the state from aligning assessments with the Common Core. Last year, Maine launched a review of the state’s education standards, which was focused solely on improving the state’s Common Core standards, not replacing them.

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments like Smarter Balanced give states the ability to hold schools accountable to rigorous education standards by giving them ability to compare student achievement. Through the review launched last year, the state has demonstrated its commitment to building on the Common Core. Replacing assessments designed to support the standards impedes that effort and creates greater uncertainty in classrooms. However, the state is responsible for deciding which tests to use, and, as the Bangor Daily News editorial board wrote this month, Maine officials now have the responsibility to develop assessments that hold schools to an equally high level of accountability and that ensure students graduate prepared for college or a career.

Grand Forks Herald, “Common Core Opponents Sue North Dakota Officials”: On Thursday, opponents of the Common Core filed a lawsuit against several North Dakota officials alleging the state’s participation in the Smarter Balanced testing consortium was “unconstitutional.” Filed by four plaintiffs, including state Rep. Robert Skarphol and the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based public interest law firm, the lawsuit seeks to stop payment and end the state’s participation in the consortium. “The best education is the education that’s most controlled by the citizens. That’s what this is all about,” says Steve Cates, a Bismarck activist and one of the plaintiffs. “Common Core was intended to replace ‘the existing patchwork of state standards’ with a uniform, nationalized set of standards and assessments, which would not vary from state to state,” the lawsuit states. It challenges membership fees to the consortium that it says “equate to participation in and funding of an illegal entity.”

Where They Went Wrong: The lawsuit amounts to ploy to undermine implementation of the Common Core in North Dakota. Unable to repeal the standards through legitimate channels (the article notes during the last legislative session state lawmakers killed a bill to replace the standards), opponents have turned to backdoor tactics. Such moves put the state’s students at a disadvantage and create uncertainty in classrooms. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, facts have brought to light the misinformation about the standards perpetuated by opponents. States remain committed to the Common Core because it is impossible to create standards that adequately prepare students for college or a career and that do not resemble Common Core.


On Our Reading List:

Hechinger Report, “Schools on U.S. Military Installations Raising Standards, Tracking Students beyond High School”: Examining the impact of frequent moves on military families, the article reports that the Department of Defense Educational Activities (DoDEA), which manages 181 schools for military families, is in the process of raising academic standards by implementing the Common Core. To determine whether the shift is helping prepare students for college or career, DoDEA has begun tracking high school graduates who enroll in college to monitor college graduation rates. “In the past we’ve had to rely on our students to tell us where they’re going. This will give us actual data we can use to figure out how to better help our kids prepare for success in life beyond high school,” says Sandra Embler, DoDEA chief of research and evaluation.

Arkansas News, “Hutchinson Says He Can End PARCC Contract Despite Board Vote”: On Monday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson directed the state Department of Education to withdraw from the PARCC despite a recent vote by the state Board of Education to renew the state’s commitment with consortium. In a letter to education commissioner Johnny Key, Gov. Hutchinson said that under the state’s memorandum of understanding with PARCC, if the governor is succeeded by another person, the successor “shall affirm in writing to the governor’s board chair the state’s continued commitment to participate in the consortium and to the binding commitments made by that official’s predecessor within five months of office…Since I took office, there has been no action by the governor or the commissioner of education to reaffirm the state’s continued commitment and participation in the PARCC consortium.”

Wall Street Journal, “Campbell Brown to Launch Non-Profit Education News Site that Won’t Shy from Advocacy”: On July 13, former CNN host and education advocate Campbell Brown will launch a non-profit, education-focused news site, the Seventy Four. The title is a reference to the 74 million students in American classrooms. “There are a lot of entrenched interests that are standing in the way of some of the best possibilities for innovation,” Brown says. “We want to challenge and scrutinize the powers that be.” The website indicates its mission is to promote “an honest, fact-based conversation” about education. “Our public education system is in a crisis,” the site states. “In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin.”

Washington Post, “Republicans Can’t be Defined by Their Opponents”: Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, writing that Republican presidential candidates should not allow opponents to influence policy decisions, says, “Skepticism about government should not induce conservatives to fearmonger and mislead Americans about the policies with which they disagree.” Speaking to criticisms of the Common Core, Rubin writes: “Opponents of Common Core do themselves no good when they misrepresent the origins of Common Core, mislead the public about what it does and misstate its impact on state and local education systems. The public winds up tuning out the entire message about the negative consequences of excessive federal power when it discovers gross distortions and outright lies.”