News You Can Use:

The Stimson Center, “The Army Goes to School: The Connection between K-12 Education Standards and the Military-Based Economy”: A Stimson Center report released today finds that for the more than 240,000 active-duty members of the Army with children, access to a quality education can be a determining factor in where and whether they continue to serve – which has big economic and readiness implications for military bases. “If host communities do not offer soldiers’ children a consistently high-quality education, they risk the economic challenges that result from losing support of a major employer,” the report states. The Military Times notes, “Schools that offer a lower quality of education could end up costing their communities if the military places a high priority on that factor in its base closure decisions.” Military families move between six and nine times during a child’s academic career on average. Discrepancies in academic expectations between states and even districts means that children may find themselves left behind or relearning material, depending on what was taught at their previous school. In 2012, the Department of Defense Educational Activities (DoDEA) adopted the Common Core in the 181 military schools it oversees. As the Stimson Center report finds, by setting consistent learning goals for each grade level, the standards ensure students can more easily transition between schools, alleviating soldiers’ concerns about the quality of education their child will receive.

What It Means: The Stimson Center report makes clear that rigorous, consistent education standards are critical for military families, which move frequently, and for military preparedness and retention. By setting learning goals that are consistent from school to school, the Common Core better ensures that students in military families are able to transition from one classroom to another without falling behind or relearning material they’ve already mastered. As Jim Cowen, director of military outreach for the Collaborative, points out, “Soldiers expect a certain level of care for their families as part of their service to our country – and that care must now include education. As Service members and their families move from post to post, they deserve a guarantee their children are receiving a standard of education that will prepare them for the future.”

The Hunt Institute, “The Role of Strategic Communications in the Transition to New Academic Standards and Assessments: Case Studies of Tennessee and Kentucky”: No recent educational reform has been as ambitious as setting academic standards that fully prepare students for college and career readiness. Like any change, this transition has been difficult, attended with implementation struggles, classroom adjustments and political wrangling. Looking at successes in Tennessee and Kentucky, two early adopters of the Common Core that have experienced impressive academic improvements since implementing the standards, the Hunt Institute report provides several lessons for other states currently in transition. They include: proactive communication, especially to educators, to build support; coordinated communication among policymakers; direct engagement with educators about changes; providing easily understood information; and listening to and involving stakeholders.

What It Means: Like any major policy initiative, implementation of high, comparable education standards in states across the country has experienced setbacks. Yet, the success the Common Core is having in early-adopter states like Kentucky and Tennessee, where proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have steadily increased over the past three years, demonstrates that the standards are working. As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, for too long old models of education enabled states to systematically lower the bar for students. Most are now doing the difficult work of addressing this reality by implementing rigorous standards and high-quality assessments. Now is not the time for policymakers to become politically weak-kneed and turn back on the important work to implement education standards that fully prepare students for college or a career.

Politifact, “Chris Christie Says Parent and Teacher Complaints Prompted Change on Common Core”: Examining New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s claim that his reversal on the Common Core came as a result of complaints he heard from parents and teachers, the fact-checker gives the decision a “Full Flop” rating. “Christie’s 180-degree turn on Common Core occurred in slow-motion,” the analysis states. In 2011, Gov. Christie praised the Common Core as “a building block in our state’s education system meant to ensure that teachers and districts can innovate within a framework of high expectations and accountability.” As recently as 2013 he maintained his support, saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and are going to continue.” Noting its analysis has repeatedly rejected claims that Common Core is a federal program or mandate, PolitiFact notes, “Common Core itself remains a state-based, voluntary program.” While Gov. Christie attributes the change of heart to a lack of support from parent or teachers, “there is one element of the standard’s implementation he’s not phasing out: PARCC testing… We rate his change of position a Full Flop.”

What It Means: As Karen Nussle wrote recently, Gov. Christie’s decision amounts to a “toothless announcement in that it changes very little about New Jersey’s academic standards. But what’s counterintuitive is that the move may also prove a bad political gamble.” Gov. Christie’s move sends mix signals to the state’s teachers, students and parents. At the same time, it undermines the Governor’s reputation as a straight-talker willing to “tell it like it is.” “Gov. Christie now holds a nuanced position: opposing the phrase ‘Common Core,’ but endorsing Common Core-aligned tests, all while launching an unoriginal review that will likely result in a reaffirmation of the existing standards.”


Correcting the Record:

PBS Newshour, “What Does Bobby Jindal Believe? Where the Candidate Stands on 10 Issues”: This week Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Looking at his position on several issues, the article notes the Governor’s aggressive opposition to Common Core Standards, even though he initially strongly advocated for adoption of the standards. Gov. Jindal has filed both federal and state lawsuits to stop implementation and tried to remove the standards by executive order, all of which have been unsuccessful. As Forbes’ Maureen Sullivan reports, Gov. Jindal has accused the U.S. Department of Education of “violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, and violating existing federal laws by trying to force a federal common curriculum, through Common Core, onto the states…We have never given the federal government in this country the power to make local curriculum decisions. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do with Common Core.”

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Jindal’s change of heart on the Common Core amounts to little more than a thinly-veiled political ploy to appeal to a small segment of conservative voters. After initially supporting the standards, Gov. Jindal began to criticize the Common Core as a federal takeover of local education. Yet, the Common Core began as, and remains, a state-led, voluntary initiative, and objective analysis has repeatedly reached the same conclusion. This year more than a dozen legislatures voted down bills to replace the Common Core, many in the most conservative-leaning states in the country, and last year a Louisiana district judge found Gov. Jindal’s lawsuit against the Common Core did “irreparable harm” to the state’s students. While Gov. Jindal’s criticism may resonate with a small group of activists, most parents continue to fundamentally support high education standards and increased accountability, the very principles the Common Core stands for.


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Associated Press, “Del. House Approves Bill Allowing Students to Skip Tests”: On Tuesday, the Delaware House approved a revised bill that would allow students to opt-out of state exams. The bill is aimed at the Smarter Balanced assessment, adopted by Delaware, the article reports. The revised version allows high school juniors to skip the statewide test without parents’. The bill will go back to the Senate for consideration and faces a possible veto by Gov. Jack Markell should it move forward.