News You Can Use:

Ed Source, “Common Core Standards Emphasize ‘Math that Matters Most’”: In an interview with Ed Source, Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers of the Common Core math standards, says CCSS is the first time that a set of standards have focused on “math that matters most.” “Things are being done at the proper time, instead of everything being done at once,” Zimba says. “The standards didn’t create the reality about what’s required to be college- and career-ready. They describe it. And I think it’s a very good thing for equity, that that description be public and shared. The standards are a map. They don’t blaze the trail for you. But if we don’t have the map, then we can’t really expect to get there.” Zimba notes “hundreds of people” were involved in creating the Standards, and states’ different approaches to implementation will play out differently. Finally, Zimba cautions parents to be “beware of misinformation” and encourages educators to “provide information about the school’s instructional program.”

What It Means: Zimba makes a strong point that the Common Core math standards set a clear progression of learning so that students develop and retain the analytical skills to succeed at higher levels. Contrary to claims the Standards complicate basic math, he notes that CCSS prioritize the fundamentals at early grade levels to help establish a strong foundation, and by setting consistent benchmarks, establish a path towards college and career readiness for all students.

Toledo Blade, “Common (Core) Sense”: The editorial board writes that a recent bill approved by state lawmakers to bar Ohio schools from using CCSS-aligned assessments to prevent students from moving to the next grade level is a “back-door attempt to weaken the state’s participation in the Common Core” and Gov. Kasich should veto it. The bill would also prevent schools from losing funding if students opt-out of tests. “If lawmakers want to repeal Common Core in Ohio – which would be a colossal mistake – they should at least be forthright about it,” the piece states. Although PARCC shouldn’t be the sole measure for funding or teacher evaluations, they “are an essential tool to identify potential problems in the classroom,” the editorial says. “School districts need credible mechanisms to measure academic achievement.” It concludes, “Ohio is better off with Common Core. Educators and parents are held accountable, and future generations have a better shot at competing globally…Governor Kasich has supported Ohio’s participation in Common Core. That support must include his refusal to repudiate testing standards.”

What It Means: Strong, accurate assessments are critical to ensuring that educators are successful in teaching to high standards and preparing students for college and career. States voluntarily chose which tests to use, and efforts to undermine assessments are a backdoor attempt to subvert the Standards, as the editorial points out. CCSS-aligned exams provide parents and teachers an honest measure of student progress and help identify areas where students need additional support.


Correcting the Record:

NBC Connecticut, “Teachers’ Union Pushes for Testing Changes”: The Connecticut Teaching Association (CEA) proposed legislation in the state that seeks to scrap Smarter Balanced exams and replace them with a “progress monitoring test” in the next school year. “We’ve taken too much time and learning away from the classroom. Our position and our proposal puts it back to the classroom,” said CEA director Mark Waxenburg. “It still maintains standardized testing and accountability but does it in a way that maintains teaching and learning inside the classroom.” A spokesperson for the State Department of Education said the exams are part of an effort to raise academic expectations. “When we set higher expectations, our students rise to meet them. We also owe our students, parents and teachers a way to measure student progress towards these goals.” Waxenburg said the assessments take away from classroom learning. “Our teachers are telling us that everything stops when SBAC participation comes into play and whenever that’s going to happen we see really a deterioration of the teaching and learning.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS-aligned exams like Smarter Balanced are designed to provide teachers and parents a better measure of student progress and to help identify and address learning needs. By providing more constructive metrics, these assessments enable schools to devote less time to testing, and because they require students to demonstrate their reasoning, they alleviate pressures to “teach to the test.”

Daily Signal, “Concerns Grow about Common Core Standards”: The “haste” with which CCSS were adopted and implemented have added to concerns about Standards, writes Brittany Corona. Corona cites several CCSS critics, including James Milgram, that say the Standards did not go through adequate review and leave hole in student preparation. “The process toward the end was so hurried that an entire high school standard was left out of the final draft,” the piece quotes Richard Askey, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as saying. “Yet, there is still hope,” Corona writes. “Many states are putting forth measures to reclaim autonomy over their standards and are beginning to practice competitive federalism.”

Where They Went Wrong: As Jason Zimba points out (see above) development of CCSS was an intensive process that involved hundreds of educators from 48 states and made the Standards available for public input. While implementation has not been perfect, over the past five years states have worked to tailor and prepare to teach to them. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or a version nearly identical.


On Our Reading List:

Hechinger Report, “Mississippi Legislature Creates a New Hurdle for Common Core Standards”: On Wednesday the Mississippi House amended a bill to require that the state board of education adopt 75% of the recommendations from a committee tasked with reviewing the states use of CCSS. The state Senate previously rejected a similar amendment that would have required the board of education to accept all recommendations. “If [the Standards] need minor changes, if they need major changes, or if we need to do a total rewrite, and then at that point in time they’ll recommend to the state [board of education] what to do,” said House Education chairman John Moore. If enacted, the bill would also remove the term “Common Core” from the state’s standards. Mississippi has distancing itself from CCSS, and last summer Gov. Phil Bryant called the Standards “a failed program.” Still, repeal efforts have failed and the Republican-controlled legislature voted down a bill that sought to repeal the Standards last month.

Associated Press, “N.H. House Passes Several Anti-Common Core Bills”: On Thursday, the New Hampshire House passed several bills intended to repeal or undermine CCSS. It approved a bill that would prohibit the state board of education from adopting rules that would require school districts to comply with federal mandates that are not fully funded by the federal government by a vote of 204-136. It also passed a bill that allows districts not to adopt CCSS and that allows parents to opt students out of related assessments. All the bill will now continue on to the Senate.

Associated Press, “Wisc. Senate Committee Passes Test Reporting Delay”: The Wisconsin Senate education committee unanimously approved a bill that would delay reporting of results from the state’s CCSS-aligned exams. The bill will be voted on by the full Senate on Tuesday. The article notes a broad coalition of advocates, including teachers, support the bill, which would temporarily prevent test results from being used in teacher evaluations.

Providence Journal, “Bill Would Let Students Opt Out of Tests”: Rhode Island State Rep. Gregg Amore introduced legislation that would allow students to opt out of PARCC exams. The bill would require the state board of education to provide a formal procedure for parents to have their child opt out of the assessments and provide a form that informs parents of their right to do so.

The Atlantic, “Why Do American Students Have So Little Power?”: Reporting on a student coalition’s efforts in Kentucky to allow a student to serve on the committee that reviews superintendent nominations, the article describes a high school student who moved five times and found “his grades depended on his zip code.” “In Georgia, he was at the top of his class; in Maryland, the very next year, his grades plummeted….that’s why he thought adopting the Common Core State Standards made sense.”