News You Can Use:

Education Post, “A Matter of National Security: Improving K-12 Education for Military Families”: Rigorous education standards are an important issue for any parent, but especially for those who serve in the United States Armed Forces and move frequently, writes Jim Cowen, director of military outreach for the Collaborative for Student Success. “If U.S. soldiers are left with no other option than to place their children in substandard schools in or in schools in which the education standards vary greatly from one to the next, Army leaders worry that troops might well vote with their feet and leave the service,” Cowen says, citing a recent Stimson Center report. The Army is conducting an evaluation of schools surrounding military installations, and outgoing Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno emphasized that quality of education offered in areas will factor into closure and relocation considerations. Inside Sources notes there are more than 300,000 school-age children in military families affected by varying education standards. “The Stimson Center report highlights one solution: the use of high, consistent academic standards like the Common Core,” Cowen notes. “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…they deserve a guarantee that their children are receiving a standard of education that will prepare them for their futures.”

What It Means: Underscoring the findings of the Stimson Center study, Cowen makes clear that rigorous, comparable education standards like the Common Core are critical for military families and military preparedness. On average, military families move more than six times during a child’s K-12 career. Consistent education standards better ensure those students will not fall behind or have to sit through material they already learned when they transition schools. In addition, about a quarter of high-school graduates cannot pass the basic military entrance exam. By setting high learning goals and holding schools accountable to them, the Common Core ensures more students will graduate high school fully prepared college or a career – including a career in the military.

Stars & Stripes, “Stronger Schools Improve Army Communities”: Writing about the importance of consistently high education standards to provide military families access to quality education options, a point emphasized by a Stimson Center study, retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks says failure to provide such resources “could spell trouble for some states” and could “ripple across the U.S. economy.” Noting his own family moved frequently during his career with the Army, Maj. Gen. Marks says “it is important to look at the military from a family perspective.” “On average, soldiers will receive orders that require relocation once every two to three years… The risk of military children being enrolled in underperforming schools or schools that have low academic standards has always been a gamble their parents have had to accept…[The Common Core] significantly reduced that risk and for the first time, hundreds of thousands of military families could be assured that their children would be attending new schools on-track academically.” Noting that military bases have a significant economic impact on surrounding areas, Maj. Gen. Marks says, “So many communities in the United States are intimately tied to the fortunes of the local base…Communities ignore the importance and inextricable link between K-12 standards and economic dependency at their peril.”

What It Means: High, consistent education standards like the Common Core ensure that children in military families, who move on average three times more often than their peers in non-military families, are able to more easily transition between schools without falling behind or relearning material. The Stimson Center report makes clear that Servicemembers consider the quality of education when deciding whether to continue their service at a particular post. States that do not provide that assurance by implementing high academic expectations risk facing closures, which would have a big economic impact on surrounding communities, and could hurt the Army’s ability to retain talented men and women.

Foundation for Excellence in Education, “Why Does Proficiency Matter?”: Today, the Foundation for Excellence in Education launched a new interactive website,, detailing student proficiency levels for each state. “Achieving proficiency ensures every student graduates prepared for success in college, a career or the military,” said Patricia Levesque, the Foundation’s CEO. “Yet, because of low expectations, all children are not equally prepared for the challenges of college or today’s workforce. Our education systems must raise proficiency expectations to ensure every child masters essential knowledge and skills.” The website notes that state proficiency scores are on average 31 points higher than NAEP levels, a reality noted by Achieve’s Honesty Gap analysis earlier this year. Inflated proficiency rates convey a false sense of student achievement to parents and educators, which ultimately hurts students later in college or when they enter the workforce. About half of students entering community college require some remediation, which ends up costing about $7 billion each year.

What It Means: Like the Honesty Gap analysis, the website makes clear that for too long states systematically lowered the bar on students instead of doing the hard work of improving performance outcomes. Most states have begun to address the problem by implementing higher education standards through the Common Core and administering high-quality assessments. Alabama, for example, narrowed its proficiency gap by nearly 50 points after adopting more rigorous standards and assessments. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of the Common Core closed gaps and have since made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Denver Post, “In Education, Combining Local Control and Accountability”: In response to an op-ed by Colorado Board of Education member Steven Durham arguing there is a conflict between local education control and accountability, Denver teacher Drew Madson says new PARCC exams bridge the divide. PARCC tests require students to demonstrate analytical thinking skills, Madson explains. “College and career readiness requires the application and analysis of knowledge, not memorization…My experience hasn’t been ‘local control vs. accountability,’ but local control combined with accountability. Common Core and PARCC’s focus on skills enable me to teach those skills through content aligned to my local community’s values and then measure students’ mastery of those skills.”

What It Means: Madson makes clear that the Common Core and high-quality tests that support the standards do not undermine teachers’ control of what or how they teach, but actually bolster it. By setting rigorous learning goals, the Common Core sets clear benchmarks for teachers and students and gives full control of how to meet those to local educators. Student assessments like PARCC hold schools accountable, helping to close Honesty Gaps. A recent study by Teach Plus found 79 percent of teacher participants believe new assessments like PARCC are better than those their states used before.


Correcting the Record:

New York Times, “The Revolt against the Common Core Standards”: In response to a recent opinion piece by Jordan Ellenberg noting that Common Core Standards reflect much of the content of states’ former education standards, William Crain, a CUNY profressor, writes asks, “Why, then, is it provoking such resistance?” “A major reason is that [Common Core] comes at a time when many parents and educators have had their fill of the standards movement in general, of which the Common Core is a part,” Crain says. “Parents and educators have watched even kindergarten become so academic that children have little chance to play, explore nature or engage in artistic activities. They have seen standardized testing force out exciting school projects.” He concludes, “The revolt is against an entire standards and testing movement that is destroying children’s natural love of learning.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Crain’s claims, parents overwhelming support education standards that fully prepare students for higher levels of learning and ultimately for college or a career. A recent Louisiana State University study found more than two-thirds of participants support rigorous, consistent education standards even if they dislike the term “Common Core.” A Fairleigh Dickinson University study earlier this year found opponents have been successful in distorting perceptions of the Common Core, but, as Karen Nussle wrote, parents fundamentally support high education standards and increased accountability to ensure their child is prepared to succeed.


On Our Reading List:

Associated Press“Kasich to Announce 2016 Plans July 21”: Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to announce whether he will run for president on July 21. Since January, Gov. Kasich has been traveling extensively to “in a nationwide effort to line up necessary support,” including trips to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa. Gov. Kasich has been an outspoken supporter of the Common Core and is known for “pulling no punches about political positions he sees as practical though they might anger fellow Republicans.”

Washington Post“Save the Tests”: The editorial board writes that it would be a mistake for Maryland schools in Montgomery County to eliminate final exams for high school students, arguing that “is not the way to ensure better teaching and learning.” Noting that this year Maryland schools began using PARCC exams, which it calls “valuable tools for gauging student achievement,” the editorial board asks official to reconsider “many of the tests piled on top of” PARCC and Maryland High School Assessments. “These assessments should go on the chopping block in favor of alternative modes of evaluation.”