News You Can Use:

Christian Post, “Common Core Renews Our Commitment to Public Schooling”: Dr. Antipas Harris writes that preparing students for success at the collegiate or career level will require once again making “rigorous academic expectations the touchstone of public education.” “Students achieve to the expectations we hold them to,” Dr. Harris says. “All too often, we accept the notion that for public school students good enough is good enough…While lowering the bar may give schools an easy out to tout performance criteria, it is immoral and does not serve justice to our children.” Noting as much as 40% of high school graduates require remediation – even higher among students of color and community college students – Dr. Harris extolls CCSS for setting “high, clear learning goals” and “rigorous benchmarks for all public school students.” “I encourage parents to read the Common Core Standards for themselves. The content is not sinister; it is straightforward and aligned with what any mother or father would want for their child.”

What It Means: CCSS set high standards across classrooms at each grade level so more students will develop the skills to graduate prepared for college or a career. Dr. Harris points out that holding students of all backgrounds to similar expectations will create greater educational equality, and help low-income students and students of color who often face lower graduation and college-participation rates.

Columbia Journalism Review, “Common Problems with Common Core Reporting”: Much of the media coverage of the CCSS testing opt-out movement “has been guilty of over-emphasizing the extent of the conflict, speculating dire consequences based on little information, and over-relying on anecdotes and activists’ claims rather than digging for a broader sampling of verified numbers,” Alexander Russo reports. “The real story – that the rollout of these new, more challenging tests is proceeding surprisingly well – could be getting lost.” Looking at recent national coverage, “you’d think the whole Common Core enterprise was about to come crashing down,” when in fact the “reality isn’t so clear,” Russo says, noting recent repeal efforts have “fared poorly.” Citing several examples, Russo says that most coverage has ignored successful field tests (and the fact that most students are taking the assessments), and used anecdotal evidence to predict the downfall of CCSS. To minimize the issue, opt-out numbers should be verified and put into context, and “journalistic ambiguity” should be avoided. “The large-scale snafus that have been predicted do not seem to have occurred, did not take place last year during the trial run process, and should not continue to be reported until they actually take place.”

What It Means: The report makes clear that the opt-out narrative has largely exaggerated the scope and impact of parents’ decisions to have their children opt out of the tests, and extrapolated anecdotal evidence to predict the demise of CCSS. In fact, most students are participating in assessments, and initial indications show testing is going smoothly. As countless teacher voices point out, assessments are an important tool to measure student progress and identify and address learning needs. These exams provide more constructive, timely feedback so schools can gradually devote less time to testing and test prep.

Reno Gazette Journal, “Finding Common Ground on Common Core”: Michael Wixom and Jason Geddes, members of the Nevada Board of Regents, say before “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” parents should consider the facts about CCSS and the impact that the higher standards are having. The authors point out that the Standards were not created by the Obama Administration, nor do they dictate curriculum. “The Common Core curriculum is set by local school districts and teachers,” the piece says, adding the Standards have strong support from education and business groups. About 50% of Nevada college students and 60% of community college students require remediation, which is “much more expensive and far less effective than solid high school preparation.” “Certainly, we should vigorously discuss how we can make Common Core more effective and relevant,” the piece concludes. “We desperately need common educational standards that will prepare our students for both college and the workforce. Otherwise, Nevada may well become a third-world economy.”

What It Means: By setting a high standards for all students, CCSS better ensure more students will graduate high school prepared for college-level work or a career. The piece points out the Standards enjoy broad support from the education and business communities, which recognize the importance of improving student outcomes. In states like Kentucky and Tennesee, two of the earliest adopters of CCSS, student proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have made some of the biggest improvements in the country. Conversely, states like South Carolina and Oklahoma have created greater uncertainty for educators and unlocked new problems by opting to replace the Standards.

Sioux City Journal, “Republicans Should Support Common Core”: Charese Yanney, a Sioux City resident and an appointee to the IDOT board, says political candidates that emphasize the need for local education control but then oppose CCSS are at odds with themselves. “Common Core empowers parents by ensuring that the day-to-day decisions affecting their children’s learning are made locally,” Yanney says. “We have built on this approach through the Iowa Core program that provides a state-specific guide to the essential 21st-century learning skills students need to be successful… Iowa policymakers took the framework of Common Core’s existing standards and established a more rigorous set of expectations for students.” Yanney concludes that political candidates must answer whether they will support these high standards or “turn back the clock.”

What It Means: CCSS set high expectations for students at each grade level in order to ensure that more students graduate high school prepared for college or a career. Objective analysis finds that CCSS are higher than most state’s previous standards, and as Yanney points out, the Standards retain local control and ensure that educators have the flexibility to adjust to the different learning styles of their students.

ABC News 10 NY, “Classroom Curriculums Changing under Common Core”: New York teachers say CCSS have helped put “professionalism in the classroom” and are helping students develop life-long learning skills. “What Common Core does is they really break it down and give you a deeper understanding of what we’re doing,” said Tony Linter, a New York math specialist. In ELA classes, CCSS has turned a greater focus on technical writing and put a greater emphasis on “how thing work in the real world.” “It’s not just subject related, but it’s a whole school approach to educating a child,” said Golf Middle School Principal Matthew Sloane. “Leave it in the hands of the educators,” said a local English teacher. “We’re professionals. We know what we’re doing.”

What It Means: In schools across the country, teachers have adjusted instruction to help students meet higher expectations, and they are seeing improvements in student outcomes as a result. A study by the Center for Education Policy found in more than two-thirds of districts, teachers are developing curricula to meet the higher standards, and a Scholastic survey found more than two-thirds of teachers report seeing an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills under the Standards. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of CCSS, proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have steadily increased over the past three years.


Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “Bobby Jindal Vows (Again) to Pull Out of Common Core”: On Wednesday, Gov. Jindal unveiled a “two-prong” plan to use legislation to “get Common Core out of Louisiana.” Gov. Jindal said he will support bills that will require the state to replace CCSS and the current assessments with “high-quality Louisiana standards,” and revert back to the state’s old standards and LEAP and iLEAP tests in the interim. A second piece of the legislation would prevent the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) from entering into contracts that would “hand control of Louisiana schools to third-party entities or the federal government.” The plan would force the state to write new standards from scratch and require that all elected officials dealing with education vote on the initial draft, which would then require approval from the legislature and the BESE. “This package of legislation will help to address the growing concern and frustration surrounding Common Core and the PARCC assessment, as more and more parents opt out of these test and seek clarity for their children’s academic future,” Jindal said in a statement. Superintendent John White and BESE President Chas Roemer, who held a teleconference after Gov. Jindal’s announcement, said the move would come at “extraordinary cost,” subject students and teachers to two new sets of standards, and amount to little more than a political ploy.” “It is so clear that he is only concerned about one thing, and that is his own politics,” Roemer said.

Where They Went Wrong: As White and Roemer point out, Gov. Jindal’s plan amounts to his latest tactic to woo a small but vocal base of national voters. The proposal would introduce new layers of bureaucracy into education issues, and create greater uncertainty in the classroom by subjecting teachers and students to two new sets of standards, including going back to the state’s old criteria. Similar legislation was voted down by the Republican-controlled legislature last year, and key lawmakers have already expressed concern with the plan, including House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, who said it would be a mistake to revert back to the state’s old standards.

Diane Ravitch’s Blog, “Maine Teacher Wins $1 Million Prize, Advises Young People Not to Enter Teaching Because of Common Core and Testing”: Nancie Atwell, a Maine literacy teacher who won the Varkey Foundation ‘Global Teacher of the Year’ award, discouraged young people from becoming public teachers because of CCSS “constraints” and tests monitoring what teachers do. Atwell’s remarks came during an interview with CNN in which she said, “public school teachers are so constrained right now by the Common Core standards and the tests developed for children to monitor what teachers are doing with them…It’s a movement that has turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners, and if you are a creative, smart, young person this is not the time to go into teaching [in public schools].”

Where They Went Wrong: Atwell’s attitude toward CCSS and CCSS-aligned assessments is not reflective of most teachers’ views. Studies, including a Scholastic survey last fall, find that teachers who have worked closely with CCSS overwhelmingly support implementation and say it is going well. More than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills. Four recipients of Arizona’s Teacher of the Year award wrote earlier this month, “We strongly support [CCSS] and their continued implementation in our schools… The positive impact of these standards can be seen in Arizona classrooms every day.”


On Our Reading List:

Associated Press, “Arkansas Effort to End Common Core-Linked Test Fails”: An effort to end Arkansas’ participation in PARCC assessments died before a state legislative panel Wednesday after lawmakers said it was premature to scrap the tests. Instead, the Senate Education Committee rewrote the proposal to keep using PARCC but to also prohibit the state from extending its contract for any more than a year. Last month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson created a state task force led by Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin to review the standards and related assessments.

Associated Press, “Md. Senate Approves Commission to Look at Standardized Tests”: The Maryland Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to create a commission tasked with reviewing the state’s system for public school assessments. The 19-member commission would have a year to conduct its review and then present the findings to all state and local boards of education.