News You Can Use:

Tennessean, “Let’s Use Common Sense with Common Core”: Under old education standards, students “had grown so accustomed to aiming for the right answers and trying to put A, B, C, or D to it that they had lost all focus of the process,” writes Shawn Hayes, a special education teacher in Memphis. As a result of CCSS, the special education population has greatly improved, including the highest growth and achievement in two of the last three years. CCSS “are not a curriculum but, rather, a roadmap…so every child in this country has a chance to learn at a high-level,” Hayes says. “This autonomy has allowed me to take ownership of the standards and the learning of my students.” Changing course on the Standards would disrupt the hard work and investment of teachers and students, the piece notes. “Educators and parents want and deserve classroom stability, and are asking for the threats of repealing and rewriting the standards to stop.”

What It Means: Like Hayes, teachers in states across the country who have worked closely with CCSS overwhelmingly support implementation. Unfortunately, much of the debate has been dictated by misleading information and myths, largely drowning out teacher voices and legitimate concerns. As Hayes points out, in Tennessee, one of the earliest adopters of CCSS, students have made some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Birmingham News, “Ann Marie Corgill: Open Letter to State Sen. Rusty Glover”: In an open letter to Alabama State Sen. Rusty Glover, Teacher of the Year Ann Marie Corgill urges Glover and fellow lawmakers to reconsider Senate Bill 101, which seeks to replace CCSS. “Repealing the Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards would be detrimental and destructive to the futures that we’re building in classrooms across the state,” Corgill says. “The standards are a roadmap for our teaching; they are a catalyst for student learning. They do not dictate our innovation, our creativity, our curriculum, or our relationship with children. They do not control us, nor does our federal government.” Corgill adds that going back to the state’s previous standards would send a message of distrust to teachers and students and squander years of hard work. “If you truly believe in local control, please listen to those at the most local level – the classroom teachers and children who live and learn in Alabama classrooms every day.”

What It Means: Corgill’s letter underscores the sentiments of countless teachers who have worked closely with CCSS. After more than four years of preparation, most states are teaching curricula fully aligned to CCSS for the first time this year. To revert back to old standards would pull the rug out from under educators and students, and create greater uncertainty in classrooms. More than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with CCSS strongly support implementation, and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical abilities.

Fordham Institute’s Common Core Watch“Moral Facts and the Common Core”: In response to a New York Times opinion piece by philosophy professor James McBrayer, the Fordham Institute’s Kathleen Porter-Magee writes that it is unnecessary and unfair to attribute pervasive “moral relativism” in classrooms to CCSS. “A quick glance at pre-CCSS state standards reveals that fewer than five states asked students to distinguish between fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment,” Porter-Magee says. “The Common Core, by contrast, acknowledges that there exists a third possibility: reasoned judgment. Far, then, from reinforcing the idea that either statements are objective facts or de facto opinions, the Common Core leaves the door open for precisely the discussion that McBrayer hopes to see.” Porter-Magee adds that McBrayer’s oversight is made worse by ascribing to the Standards anything that happens in the name of implementation, and notes that the standard McBrayer cites applies to grades 6-12 when students are of age to use reasoning judgment. “Far from reinforcing the prevailing moral relativism in our schools, Common Core actually provides a path forward for students themselves to find their way back to moral facts,” Porter-Magee concludes.

What It Means: Porter-Magee makes a strong case against criticisms that CCSS impose morally ambiguous thought on students, which can be more narrowly applied to claims that the Standards introduce political or religious ideologies. As Porter-Magee points out, CCSS emphasize critical thinking and reasoning skills in order to help students identify and build on moral facts and objective knowledge.


Correcting the Record:

Chicago Tribune“District 214 Takes Stand against PARCC Tests”: In a letter to parents, an Illinois superintendent expressed concern that PARCC exams could conflict with the district’s mission of ensuring “curriculum is relevant beyond high school and prepares students for success in college and careers.” District 214 superintendent David Schuler said CCSS-aligned exams will “require a tremendous investment of time and resources,” and added, “it is our hope that the Illinois State Board of Education carefully review all possibilities regarding state-required assessments before we begin the 2015-2016 school year.” Last month the state board of education decided to administer the exams to avoid losing funding. Schuler said, “At some point, we need to move to a new generation of assessments,” and characterized PARCC exams as providing “irrelevant data that’s even less relevant” because of conflicts with college entrance exams. “If the test looks the same next year as it looks this year, we’re all going to be very frustrated.”

Where They Went Wrong: Strong assessments are an important tool to ensure parent and teachers have an accurate measure of student progress. All can agree that teachers and schools must have adequate time to adjust to new CCSS-aligned exams but putting them off indefinitely, as Schuler suggests, will only reinforce old tests that fail to reflect the more rigorous content of the Standards. CCSS-aligned exams are designed to provide more constructive, accurate metrics about student progress to help identify and address learning needs and ultimately allow schools to devote less time to testing.


On Our Reading List:

Vox, “The Next President’s Biggest Education Issue Won’t Be Common Core”: Debate over CCSS has taken away from the “bigger, more consequential fight” over the role the federal authorities should play in K-12 education, the article states. “The next president can’t do much about Common Core. But he or she could have huge influence over how the federal No Child Left Behind law is overhauled.” Noting support for CCSS may not be a liability for candidates, the article reports, “Bush has adopted what’s becoming the Republican party line among Common Core supporters – that the standards themselves are good but the Obama administration went too far in getting states to adopt them…And because standards really do remain a state issue, that’s not the most critical question the next president will face on education.”

Arizona Republic, “Common Core Testing ‘Opt Out’ Bill Passes Ariz. House”: HB 2246, which seeks to give parents the option to pull their children out of CCSS-aligned testing, passed the Arizona state House this week. State Rep. Chris Ackerly said the proposal is not intended to be a direct attack on CCSS or the corresponding assessment, AZ Merit. “Common Core has definitely intensified the debate, but the controversy over excessive standardized testing already existed,” Rep. Ackerly said. The bill will now head to the Senate for a vote.

The State (SC), “S.C. Education Committee OK’s Standards to Replace Common Core”: The state Education Oversight Committee in South Carolina on Monday approved the proposed standards for math and English to replace CCSS by an 11-1 vote. The state board of education is expected to give the standards their final approval on Wednesday, paving the way for their use starting next fall, the article reports. Some critics have already panned the new standards, calling them a “warmed over” version of CCSS.