News You Can Use:

New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Common Core Compromise Will Get Overwhelming Approval from Louisiana Legislature”: Compromise legislation in Louisiana that “ensures that Common Core will remain in place until [Gov. Bobby] Jindal leaves office” is expected to move quickly to passage in the State Legislature. Jindal, who “hasn’t been enthusiastic about the deal,” is expected to sign it. Under the compromise, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would drive review of the standards and “possible development of new standards.” The Legislature’s education committee and next governor “would have a say in any changes made to the educational benchmarks.” Both supporters and critics of Common Core support the bill, believing it represents a win for each. The anti-Common Core crowd will look to elect enough of their own people to the Board and Legislature “to force the state to ditch the standards;” supporters “are confident they can keep pro-Common Core people” in place.

What It Means: The compromise legislation takes much of the political wind of Gov. Jindal’s sails by denying him the opportunity to be part of the review process. Leaving the standards in place instills a measure of calm into classrooms where educators and students continued their hard work despite the political storm raging around them. Other states that have stuck with Common Core have seen students’ learning outcomes improve, and Louisiana should be hopeful that it could now see similar progress. While the fight is not over and anti-Common Core advocates continue to marshall their forces, the stability this represents will give much-needed space for Louisiana’s educators to implement the standards as they were designed to be.

Colorado Independent, “Sen. Laura Woods flunks Common Core 101″: In a letter to the editor, former State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger takes a former colleague to task for “stating incorrectly that our schools’ Common Core standards ‘debunk’ American Exceptionalism with a “re-writing of history.” She continues, that the “Common Core standards do not apply to history. States chose to adopt the Common Core standards to outline learning expectations in only two academic subjects: English Language Arts and mathematics.” Zenzinger concludes that the “business community demanded change because too many students hired after high school lacked the fundamental knowledge and skills to do the job as expected. Colleges and universities chimed in, citing the huge increase in students who needed remedial courses.”

What It Means: The Common Core State Standards address English-Language Arts and math as the fundamental subjects students should master as the core of education. The standards, also, are not district- or school curriculum, a point critics continue to conflate. Academic standards are the goal posts for what students need to learn by the end of each grade level; curriculum is how students get there, and that is developed and implemented at the local level. Additionally, the Common Core was developed in response to business communities and college and university leaders seeing a need for more rigorous standards because too many students were graduating from high school without fundamental knowledge and skills.

Albuquerque Journal, “Gov. Martinez Holding Firm on Common Core”: New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and the state’s Secretary of Education both remain committed to the Common Core, despite others “bailing out” on it. Education Chief Hanna Skandera said they both “still view Common Core as the best way to measure student achievement in public schools.” Skandera also said, “Bottom line, it’s about the opportunity to raise our expectations for every student in our state. We believe in high standards, and we believe in setting our students up so they have the right skills, knowledge and the opportunity to succeed. We think these standards are the right ones for achieving our goals.”

What It Means: Political support for the Common Core State Standards comes from those who are on the ground working hard to implement it properly to the benefit of students. As an early adopter, New Mexico has seen improvements in students’ learning outcomes, and educators on the ground as well as many state leaders are encouraged by the positive progress and committed to student success, despite continued vocal opposition.

Wall Street Journal, “Ohio School District Bets on Technology in Creating New Learning Model”: Using the introduction of the Common Core State Standards to shake up its educational model, Reynoldsburg City Schools, a district near Columbus, is giving students “a personalized learning model combining computer-based and in-person instruction that the district says has held down costs, sustained above-average test scores and put students in greater control of their learning.” District Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning said, “I don’t see my grandkids having something that looks like what I had for school.” The revamp divides the district’s high schools into four specialized learning academies focused on “engineering and design; the arts; business and law; and health sciences.” The overhaul has been four years in the making and Reynoldsburg, “where about 50% of students qualify for free or reduced-price federal lunches and more than half are minorities” and has a reputation for innovation, struggled to retain students during an economic downturn. “That trend has reversed since the overhaul,” states the article, which also noted that, “The district’s four-year graduation rate has climbed in recent years to about 93% for the class of 2013 from about 83% for the 2010 class.”

What It Means: Technology and innovation are hallmarks of a world-class education and ensuring that students can compete globally is among the goals of the Common Core State Standards, which were developed in part to respond to the United States’ decline in student rankings on international benchmarks. Reynoldsburg City Schools is taking advantage of the flexibility that Common Core encourages, and have developed an academic program that truly fits the needs of students and gives educators greater leeway in helping students master subjects for success after high school.


Correcting the Record:

West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “Legislature Once Again Poised to Consider Common Core Repeal”: Citing concerns raised by parents and lawmakers, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano has directed the state Department of Education to conduct a two-part “comprehensive review” of the Next Generation Content, the state’s Common Core, beginning “this month.” Two anti-Common Core parents spoke testified during the hearing that the standards “weren’t rigorous enough to prepare students for college or career, but also complained parents are not able to help their children with their homework.” Both parents also “expressed concerns over data collection associated” with the aligned assessments, in this case Smarter Balanced. Dr. Martirano “firmly believes in the standards” but called for the review, which will give the public a chance to review and comment on the standards. Part two of the review process will be led by the West Virginia University College of Education, which will review the public comments “in conjunction with West Virginia teachers and experts from the Southern Region Education Board.” Senate Education Vice Chair Donna Boley is leading the push for repeal, and members of the Joint Committee “were presented with a draft of one repeal bill Sunday.

Where They Went Wrong: Concerns over data collection through the aligned tests continue to be off-base, but the allegation remains firmly planted in the minds of Common Core critics. The fact is, the federal government does not have access through any means to individual student data, and tests associated with Smarter Balanced and PARCC follow the same rules for student privacy as statewide tests, ensuring that they do not compromise student privacy. Educators also understand concerns raised by parents that homework looks unfamiliar but the work brought home by students reflects what is being taught in classrooms to ensure students are mastering subjects. West Virginia previously defeated repeal efforts, which did have strong support in the State House, but the progress made under the Common Core in terms of student learning outcomes is proof that the Common Core standards are rigorous and, in fact, do prepare students for success after high school.


On Our Reading List:

New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Trust in Teachers Led to Common Core compromise, John White Says:” After three years of fighting over the Common Core State Standards, “everyone finally found faith … in educators’ professional judgment,” said Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, addressing the legislative compromise that is “swiftly moving through the Legislature.” The bill “would let educators review academic standards and report back to state education officials before December 2016.” Despite the progress, White warned there is still more work to be done, and, in addressing 5,500 state educators at a teacher-leader summit, said, “Principals must be honest with struggling teachers. Experienced teachers must do more to educate less experienced colleagues, through teacher apprenticeships and mentoring.” All educators must “keep telling the people in Baton Rouge that ‘I’m a professional educator. I’m a teacher leader. I’m not pro-this. I’m not pro-that. I’m not politics. I’m all about kids.'”

Rutland Herald (VT), “Tweaks to Math Curriculum Up for Debate:” In response to students struggling with Algebra, the Fair Haven School District is looking to focus more on mathematical foundations through eighth grade so students are better prepared when they reach high school. The article notes that, “Every child that decides to take Algebra I instead of Grade 8 Math brings home a chart comparing side-by-side the Common Core standards covered in each class. In the Grade 8 column, highlighted standards are those skipped in Algebra I. Over 20 are highlighted.” “They could be a very bright child, they could be doing well in Algebra I, and they would still be missing something,” said Brooke Farrell, Addison-Rutland curriculum coordinator. Through adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards, “eighth-grade math has changed a lot.” “So many of the traditional algebraic concepts are being taught as part of the eighth grade Common Core,” according to the math assessment coordinator for the State Agency of Education.

Washington Post, “What Is Making One First-Year Teacher Reconsider Her Future? Lots of Testing:” A first-year kindergarten teacher in the Fairfax Country school district, one of the nation’s largest, discusses how kindergarten is “the new first grade” and says that “It’s not crafting or taking care of the class pet. It’s reading and writing.” Young students are “tested on a regular basis to ensure they are progressing through the required material. According to the article, federal data released in April “shows that about 10 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first year on the job, and 17 percent leave within five years” and, for the featured teacher, “testing has been the biggest stressor.”

Fordham Institute’s Ohio Gadfly Blog, “Ohio’s Bad Penny: HB 212 Is A Teacher’s Nightmare:” Efforts to repeal the Common Core State Standards in Ohio continue with the latest attempt, House Bill 212 looking like the worst yet. The blog states that, “It requires that the education board adopt new standards ‘not later than June 30, 2015.'” with an assumption that “the standards adopted on June 30 are intended for immediate use in the upcoming 2015–16 school year.” If the bill were to be signed into law, the post says that “teachers throughout the state will have less than two months to internalize the new standards, plan their curriculum and local assessments around the standards, and be ready for kids on the first day.” Furthermore, the bill “has completely erased the requirement in current law for the state board to create a model curriculum based on the state’s academic standards” that gives “schools an exemplar for how to design curricula aligned to state standards and assessments.