News You Can Use:

Daily Beast, Bobby Jindal’s Common Core Crusade Could Backfire”: Ahead of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s announcement today that he will launch a presidential campaign, columnist Tim Mak writes Gov. Jindal will have to “confront his blatant flip-flop on state educational standards.” “His sudden hatred for Common Core appears to be a policy contortion to please the national Republican primary base,” the piece states, “but then couldn’t get his own fellow Republicans in Louisiana to flip with him.” The situation “has raised some significant questions about Bobby Jindal’s judgment and leadership ability,” says Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute. “[His change in position] has been a disaster, politically and substantively – it hasn’t been able to gain traction in the state, and he hasn’t been able to implement it in his state…You don’t have to be a Common Core supporter to see that the flip-flop was transparently political, more about Iowa than it was about Louisiana.”

What It Means: While the Common Core has become a rallying cry for a sliver of conservative voters, for candidates who are able to articulate the importance of high education standards, their support may be a political asset. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, such moves send “a mixed signal to teachers, students and parents,” and demonstrates a lack of political conviction. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core still use it or some similar version, and this year alone more than a dozen legislatures have voted down bills to replace the standards. Mike Petrilli noted one reason is because “it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, On Common Core, Jeb Bush and Ohio Have It Right”: Jerry Haar, a Florida International University professor, says it is ironic that for decades conservatives have lamented the decline of education and performance standards, and now that a remedy in the form of the Common Core is working, “they fulminate against it and spread falsehoods.” “As an educator who agress with their diagnosis, I resoundingly reject their prescription – a rejection of the Common Core Standards,” Haar writes. Calling claims of federal intrusion “completely false,” Haar adds, “Common Core is not a national mandate on curriculum. States voluntarily choose whether to adopt the standards and they retain full authority for implementation.” Citing former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, Haar notes remedial education costs families $3 billion each year and taxpayers and colleges $7 billion annually. The piece ends, “Those Republicans who oppose Common Core are hypocritical apostates of conservatism…At least conservatives like former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [have it right].”

What It Means: Haar makes a strong argument that premises of Common Core are built on conservative principles: greater accountability and academic expectations that prepare students for college or a career. Prior to the Common Core, the patchwork of education standards enabled states to systematically lower the bar for students instead of doing the hard work of improving student outcomes, a reality made clear by the Honesty Gap analysis. Evidence from early adopter states like Kentucky and Tennessee, which have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country, suggests the Common Core is working. As Karen Nussle said earlier this year, now is not the time for leaders to become “politically weak-kneed” or “be bullied into turning back” just as the standards are beginning to take root.

Columbus Dispatch, “Improve Tests, Don’t Ax Them”: Support for language in Ohio House and Senate budget bills that would slash funding for student testing and get rid of the PARCC tests Ohio administered for the first time this year is an “act of political pandering that could set public schools back for years.” “Worse, the bills offer no substitutes for the scrapped tests and forbid the Department of Education to even entertain proposals from the developers of the current tests,” the editorial board writes. “This is a recipe for disaster…the right response is to address the problems with Ohio’s tests, not to cast them aside without regard for the consequences.” Calling on Gov. Kasich to use a line-item veto if the legislature doesn’t fix the bills, the editorial board says, “PARCC tests, in reading and math, generally are more demanding than tests various states used before…The ideological opposition is misplaced, based on the demonstrably false idea that Common Core was developed by liberals as a tool for federal meddling in schools…Ohio should accept [the changes already made by PARCC] and, if needed, negotiate with the PARCC organization for more…Throwing away years of work, with no time to replace it, would be legislative malpractice.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are one of the strongest tools parents and teachers have to measure student development. Tests like PARCC provide more accurate information about a student’s progress so educators can better identify and address learning needs. A recent Teach Plus study found 79 percent of teacher participants believe PARCC exams are better than those their states used before. While parents are justified to be concerned about over-testing, policymakers should build on the foundation these new assessments create. As the editorial notes, getting rid of PARCC in Ohio would create greater uncertainty for classrooms and hold schools less accountable for students’ success.


Correcting the Record:

The Oregonian, “Badass Teachers Protest Common Core Testing at Conference in Downtown Portland”: On Tuesday, the anti-Common Core group “Badass Teachers” rallied in Portland to protest the Pearson Assessment Training. Several dozen members marched through the hotel where the conference was held after gathering in Shemanski Park, the article reports. “This is about the unreal amount of testing these days,” said David Richardson, a Washington high school teacher. “We had so many different tests we had to go through. All that testing takes away from students’ learning.” The article notes Pearson played “only a small role in the development of Smarter Balanced tests” given in Oregon and Washington, plays no role administering the assessments, and “makes no money off them.” Rick Stiggins, who launched the conference and who advocates for reducing the impact of the Smarter Balanced exams, said, “They are completely misinformed in linking this week’s conference to standardized testing or a corporate takeover of the school curriculum.”

Where They Went Wrong: Teachers’ and parents’ concerns about over-testing are justified, but efforts to undermine high-quality assessments creates uncertainty for classrooms and risks undoing states’ work to provide more accurate measures of student development. Achieve’s Honest Gap analysis this year found that most states have begun to provide a better reflection of student achievement by implementing the Common Core and tougher tests to support the standards. By undermining these efforts, activists seek to walk back progress of ensuring more students graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career.


On Our Reading List:

Washington Post, “Years into Common Core, Teachers Lament Lack of Materials”: Five years into the implementation of the Common Core Standards, many districts and educators continue to struggle to find teaching materials to support lesson plans. A study by the Center for Education Policy last year found 45 percent of school districts reported “major problems” finding well-aligned textbooks. Another 45 percent said it was a “minor problem.” “The need for standards-aligned curricula is undoubtedly the most cited implementation challenge for states, districts and schools,” a Thomas B. Fordham Institute report noted earlier this year. Many publishers have stamped materials “Common Core-aligned” even when they are not. “Not only do they not cover what they should, but they cover a lot of stuff that they shouldn’t,” said William Schmidt, a professor at Michigan State University.