News You Can Use:

Christian Post, “Closing the Honesty Gap in Education for Hispanic Students”: NHCLC President Rev. Samuel Rodriguez writes about the Honesty Gap for Hispanic students saying that, “Nowhere is honesty needed more today than in the discussion of justice and equity for students in public schools. There is an assumption that if our children work hard every year in school and master all of the skills expected of him or her, then they will graduate high school prepared for college level work or a job.” Data, however, show that Hispanic students “graduate high school at a rate 10 percent lower than their white classmates, and many graduates face significant obstacles when trying to earn their college degree.” Rodriguez notes that, as people of faith, there is a responsibility to hold state leaders accountable to all students. He continues, “For Hispanic students, the ‘Honesty Gap’ is no less critical than for others. Every student deserves an equitable education, for they are all created in God’s image, and every parent deserves the truth about the quality of education in their children’s local schools.”

What It Means: Hispanic students continue to do disproportionately poorly in academic rankings when compared to non-Hispanic students. Achieve’s Honesty Gap analysis shows how detrimental this is to Hispanic students’ overall success in school. Rev. Rodriguez’s call to hold schools accountable should resonate through faith-based communities and help people understand how the Common Core standards and aligned assessments can improve not just scores, but chances of success after high school.

Newark Star-Ledger, “Students Adapting, Succeeding with Common Core, Even As Christie Pivots Away”: Two New Jersey math teachers with a combined 31 years in the classroom counter Gov. Chris Christie’s rhetoric that the Common Core is “not working.” They write, “What we can’t understand is, after five years, when we’re finally about to get solid data on how the new standards are working in classrooms, why our governor would advocate for turning back the clock, essentially halting all of the hard work that’s been done since 2010.” The teachers discuss progressive learning, noting that, “As students advance through each grade, the next teacher will be assured of knowing the base knowledge of each student entering their classroom. By the time students graduate from high school, we can all be assured they will have mastered the academic subjects and mathematical concepts as well as having developed strong critical-thinking and analytic skills that will be required for success in college or a career.” The teachers conclude with a statement politicians should appreciate, “We vote to finish the job, not to start over.”

What It Means: Five years after New Jersey adopted the Common Core, classroom teachers are beginning to see the results of their hard work, which, until recently had the strong support of Gov. Christie. Two months ago, Gov. Christie supported the Common Core; his flip-flop trades on what was seen as his political strength in a crowded Republican primary field. The op-ed serves as a warning to the Governor that New Jersey’s teachers will stand up for what they see as positive progress in education and will fight against empty rhetoric to preserve academic standards that are working to improve students’ learning outcomes.


Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “Five Things People Say About Standardized Tests and the Opt-Out Movement that Aren’t True”: Reprinting part of a lengthy blog post from the administrator of United Opt Out National, the piece focuses on what the author calls “the country’s testing obsession” and push-back against the opt-out movement “by school reformers and even some civil rights organizations.” Purporting to correct the “myths about what standardized testing can and should accomplish and misconceptions about the promise of opting out,” the piece is a hodge-podge of excuses for parents to pull their children from aligned assessments that clearly benchmark how students are learning and where they are struggling. The author further confuses the issue by comparing primary and secondary educational assessments with college entrance exams, writing “Your high school will not face sanctions if you do poorly on the SAT. Your college dean will not have to worry about losing his/her job if your GRE scores are too low.”

Where They Went Wrong: The author’s perception of standardized tests does not reflect the reality of the assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Multiple-choice answers cannot fully examine how well a student has learned a subject, which is why the new assessments put a premium on real-world problem solving, writing skills, and critical thinking. The lack of high-quality, rigorous assessments forces students to memorize information for the sake of a test instead of mastering materials for a greater chance of success in life after high school. A Teach Plus survey of 1,000 teachers in five cities found that 79 percent of teachers view the aligned assessments to be a better quality assessment than previous state tests. If the author’s goal of the opt-out movement is to teach students to learn “to fight for something they believe,” then the skills assessed on the new tests are the right ones to determine how well students can analyze and communicate.


On Our Reading List:

Huffington Post, “5 Of The Most Extreme Claims Made Against Common Core In The Last 5 Years”: Celebrating the five-year mark since the final version of the Common Core State Standards were released, the Huffington Post posted an article noting the five most outrageous myths that opponents have alleged, including that they turn kids into “green global serfs,” “anti-Christian” and indoctrinate students into Nazi or Communist or Socialist ideologies.

The Oregonian, “Stop the Testing Opt-Out Hysteria”: National education policy advisor Bill Porter writes in an op-ed that “wonky changes” like Oregon’s decision to switch to the new Smarter Balanced assessment “don’t lend themselves to sound bites” but gives a voice to the majority of Oregonians who “say tests have a role to play in gauging how well schools are doing from one year to the next.” Noting that that the rollout of the new assessment had its hiccups, Porter discusses the vast improvements of Smarter Balanced over the previous test, saying the latter “didn’t tell much about whether students were learning important skills” and encouraged “meaningless test prep skills like choosing the right multiple choice answer.”

Asbury Park Press, “State’s Teachers Are Doing Their Jobs”: The newspaper’s editorial board opines on the “first round of New Jersey’s new teacher evaluations tied in part to test scores” resulted in fully “97 percent of the states teachers being rated effective or better.” Good news for educators and students, but bad news for Gov. Christie who, the paper says, “wants some blood in the water” to back up the fight he’s been picking with teacher unions. “After years of bashing teachers and the quality of public-school education in New Jersey, Christie doesn’t want to hear that nearly all teachers are doing a good job,” the editorial says, but finds solace in the fact that Gov. Christie’s “obsessive disdain for teachers isn’t shared by more rational minds.”