News You Can Use:

Daily Caller, “The Long-Term Security of America Depends on the Quality of Education Given to Military Families”: Writing on the importance of a strong national security policy, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says the United States’ long-term strength requires high, comparable education standards. “It is structured on the ideals and liberties we champion: competitiveness, innovation and free-thinking. To sustain these pillars, we must raise up each generation with the skills and knowledge to carry such a serious mantle.” The decline in U.S. student achievement is “a product of the patchwork of academic expectations that for years allowed states to lower the bar on student achievement.” Citing the Stimson Center study, Gov. Brewer notes, “For military families, who already sacrifice so much for our country, the Common Core provides much needed stability.” “Common Core Standards help ensure a military child does not fall behind or have to sit through lessons they’ve already learned…Fortunately, parents remain committed to rigorous academic expectations for their children and increased accountability for their schools.” Gov. Brewer concludes, “We owe it to the men and women in uniform, if not for the long-term security of our country, not to turn back on the good work states have begun to implement the Common Core.”

What It Means: By setting high, comparable learning goals for each grade, the Common Core better ensures students who move frequently, like those in military families, have access to a consistently high-quality education. The Stimson Center report notes that stability is necessary for the Army to attract and retain top talent. Gov. Brewer points out that a quarter of high-school graduates cannot pass the basic military entrance exam, but by setting rigorous learning goals the Common Core will ensure more students graduate are prepared for military service. A Scholastic study last year found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Military Times, “Poor Quality Schools Could Cost Military Communities”: Servicemembers’ access to a quality education for their children could affect the Army’s ability to retain top talent and affect decisions about base closures, according to a new report by the Stimson Center. Military bases have a big economic impact on their surrounding communities, and some areas “are challenged by less rigorous academic standards at the state level or inadequate performance at the school and district levels,” the study finds. “The Army is focusing on education and intends to factor it into force structure decisions,” says Matthew Leatherman of the Stimson Center. In 2013, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said policymakers should “start paying attention to the schools that are outside and inside our installations.” Leatherman adds, “If soldiers don’t see education being as consistent or as high-quality as they expect, that may factor in to how they perceive the value of their compensation and whether they choose to stay in the force longer.”

What It Means: The article makes clear that military families, which move three-times more frequently than their civilian counterparts, expect consistent access to a quality education for their children. By creating comparable learning goals for each grade level, the Common Core better ensures that students are able to transition from one classroom to another without falling behind or relearning material. The Stimson Center report emphasizes that stability could affect the military’s ability to retain service members and could influence upcoming decisions about base closures. By setting rigorous learning goals and holding schools accountable to them through high-quality assessments, the Common Core and related tests ensure more students will graduate high school prepared for college, a career or military service.

Capital New York, (Paywall), “State Ed to Get $8.4 Million to Address Testing Concerns”: The New York legislature reached a deal that will include an $8.4 million allocation to address concerns related to state assessments. The legislation would also eliminate a “gag order” policy prohibiting educators from talking about the contents of assessments. The bill “also calls for a review of the Common Core looking at issues like age appropriateness and time appropriateness on exams according to State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “So our whole focus…is about parents and students…and student outcomes, professional development, good things for teachers…This allows for more student involvement, more student knowledge, more parent involvement and, frankly, I really do think, underlying this, is extraordinary professional development for teachers.”

What It Means: The move in New York demonstrates practical steps to address educators’ and parents’ concerns about over-testing while building on the foundation of high education standards espoused by the Common Core. High Achievement New York released a statement applauding the Governor and legislature, “We support the Governor’s and our legislative leaders’ plan to…continually work to improve the standards. Above all else it is clear that five years since their adoption, our leaders recognize that higher standards are taking root and paying off for our students in higher graduation rates, improved test scores and deeper learning in the classroom.” States across the country have launched similar reviews which have reaffirmed the strength of the standards and built on them further, as they were designed. This year at least a dozen legislatures have voted down efforts to replace the Common Core. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, one reason is that parents continue to fundamentally support high education standards and increased accountability.


Correcting the Record:

Wilmington News Journal, “Lawmakers OK Letting Students Skip Standardized Testing”: On Thursday the Delaware State Senate approved a controversial bill that would allow parents to pull their children out of the state’s annual assessments, sending the bill to Gov. Jack Markell’s desk. Gov. Markell opposes the opt-out legislation but has not indicated whether he would veto it. He has 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto. “The Governor has not said whether he will sign the bill,” a spokesperson said. “He has made clear that he has concerns about what he’s heard from civil rights leaders and the business community, as well as about a potential loss of federal funds.” The state Parent Teacher Association and the Delaware State Education Association say the opt-out bill would prevent school districts from “coercing” parents into keeping their kids in testing. “We are thrilled,” said Yvonne Johnson, a vice president at the PTA. “We really hope that [Gov. Markell] does not veto it.”

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments, like those implemented in Delaware, are one of the strongest tools teachers and parents have to monitor student development and to identify and address learning needs. The Honesty Gap analysis made clear that adopting meaningful student assessments was an important step to provide educators and parents an honest evaluation of student progress. “We’ve gotten to a point in our country where…we’re not being honest with kids about what they need to be proficient,” Gov. Markell said earlier this year. “When we tell a kid they are proficient based on a test that’s only given in our borders, but then they have to compete for college and jobs around the country and around the world, we’re not being honest with them.”


On Our Reading List:

Tennessee Commercial Appeal“Decline in Reading Scores Dark Spot in Otherwise Sunny Test Score Trends”: Reading scores for Tennessee students fell from last year, with 48.4 percent of third through eighth grade students meeting proficiency. But the trajectory was very different for math, the article reports, with 55.6 percent of students in the same grade meeting the proficiency bar, a 4.3 percentage-point gain over the previous year. Tennessee students have increased their math proficiency by 21 points since 2010. The state experience sharp gains in Algebra II scores where more than 54 percent of students performed at grade level, up from less a third in 2011. “We have a lot to celebrate in these results,” Gov. Haslam said. “I also want to use these results to examine where we need to improve.”

TVNewser “Campbell Brown Vows to Take On ‘the Entire Education Establishment’”: Speaking about the upcoming launch of her education advocacy website, The Seventy Four, former CNN host Campbell Brown says she will not shy away from controversial issues or taking sides. “The special interests have dominated this conversation for too long,” Brown says. “It’s everybody. It’s the entire education establishment that is in power.” She adds her mission is to hold “them accountable, which I believe we have failed to do for way too long.” “Any time you challenge a big powerful person or special interest, there’s going to be blowback.”