News You Can Use:

CBN News, “Faith Leaders Seek to Bridge Education, Minority Gap”: This week Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, and Elder Bernice King, head of the King Center, met with pastors to urge the faith community to support high education standards. In the interview with CBN, Elder King says, “We have a lot of work to do in terms of raising the standards in education to overcome [education gaps]…Education is the most important civil rights issue of our time.” “We have a Biblical mandate to address any and all issues of injustice,” Rev. Rodriguez adds. “It’s wrong for a 12th grader in the inner city to be reading Dora the Explorer while 12th graders in the suburbs are reading Chaucer and Shakespeare…It’s Biblically wrong, it’s spiritually wrong.” Churches can take action by making education a priority, Rev. Rodriguez says. “Use the pulpit to advance education standards that are high.”

What It Means: Although reform efforts have helped to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students, discrepancies in academic expectations have fed inequality gaps in public schools. CCSS, which set rigorous learning goals and empower teachers to help kids meet them, will better ensure more students are prepared for college or a career, regardless of where they grow up or go to school. The Standards create greater classroom equality by ensuring students of all backgrounds are held to high expectations and provided the resources to meet them.

Times Picayune, “Bobby Jindal’s Plan to Ditch Common Core Would Take Louisiana Backward”: It’s hard to tell if Gov. Jindal’s latest plan to derail CCSS is an honest policy proposal or just a political ploy to look like he’s doing something, but either way it’s bad for Louisiana, the editorial board writes. On Wednesday, Gov. Jindal announced he will support three pieces of legislation that seek to require the state to rewrite its education standards from scratch and come up with new assessments. “Not only does Gov. Jindal want to move backward, he signaled Wednesday that he wants to cut the House and Senate Education Committees out of the loop,” the piece says. “These are the lawmakers who are charged with vetting those issues and who know the most about them…If the bills [Jindal] is backing are such a good idea, why couldn’t he persuade committee members to vote for them?” It adds that CCSS are not a federal government takeover, “and he knows it.” Calling BESE-approved plans to move up evaluation of the new standards “reasonable steps,” the editorial says the most unfortunate part of Gov. Jindal’s “political posturing” is that he ignores the hard work that educators put into developing the Standards and assessments.

What It Means: Gov. Jindal’s latest political charade has little to do with sensible education policy and everything to do with his presidential ambitions. As the editorial points out, Jindal’s plan puts Louisiana students at risk and could undo the hard work of teachers. Jindal’s move comes after the Republican-controlled legislature repeatedly killed efforts to abandon CCSS and as more than 99% of the state’s public school students participated in PARCC exams. The editorial board is right that Gov. Jindal’s proposal would be a “step backward” for the state.

New Orleans Advocate, “Nothing New from Gov. Bobby Jindal”: Gov. Jindal’s announcement on Wednesday, which bears “the taint of hypocrisy,” not only abandons his earlier position, it is a “misdiagnosis of the problems facing Louisiana education in the future,” the editorial board writes. “We can’t go back, governor. And we shouldn’t.” Jindal called for more openness in the BESE despite “his own administration’s unremitting hostility to openness in his own office.” “Our suspicion is that this is only a stalking horse for Jindal to overstep his bounds into BESE authority, amid unjustified assertions of U.S. government control of Common Core standards.” “Jindal’s view is out of touch,” the piece concludes. “If the governor is honest about ‘high-quality Louisiana standards’ in schools, he’d embrace Common Core, not political opportunism.”

What It Means: In Louisiana, voices from across the political spectrum recognize Gov. Jindal’s plan for what it is: a ploy at the expense of students and teachers to bolster his national political standing with a small but vocal group of activists. Louisianans roundly agree that the plan would take school backward and undo the hard work that has been invested over the past five years.

SiruisXM POTUS 124, “Michael Brickman on Education Issues”: Fordham Institute’s Michael Brickman says states have a responsibility if they change CCSS to come up with something equally as strong or better. “The bottom line is there are always going to be similarities…The reason for that is there are only so many ways to say students have to memorize their multiplication tables,” Brickman says. “If people are only looking for something that is different…I would suggest that maybe they focus on the quality of the standards instead of just how different they are.” He adds, “Standards are merely the goals for what students should know at the end of each grade…There is a disconnect between standards, and all the methods teachers are using to meet these goals.” There is nothing wrong with states reasserting control over CCSS, Brickman says, but it takes time and “a lot of work” to come up with standards that are equally as strong and do not disrupt classrooms. Brickman says CCSS are a “prerequisite” for a good education system. “If you don’t have high expectations you’re probably not going to have high-quality results,” but it also requires follow through from districts to produce good curriculum and materials.

What It Means: Brickman makes a strong case that state efforts to retake control of CCSS is a good thing, but they must be careful to come out with standards equally as rigorous as the Common Core. Mike Petrilli wrote recently, standards alone “are just words on paper,” but they can spark instructional change which in turn will improve student outcomes. Both Brickman and Petrilli point out that it is risky for states to seek to get rid of CCSS just for the sake of repeal because “it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Tennessean, “Ramsey: Deal Keeps Common Core Standards for Now”: Tennessee lawmakers appear to have reached an agreement on legislation that keeps the state’s Common Core standards in place while seeking further review. The bill “wouldn’t move Tennessee toward creating entirely new standards.” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who previously said CCSS is “dead” in Tennessee, said there seems to be consensus around the new bill. “Everyone seems to be happy and signed off on it.” A spokesperson for Gov. Haslam said it is important that “educators are reviewing and developing Tennessee’s standards, which this latest proposal preserves.”

What It Means: The compromise in Tennessee is further evidence of states sticking with CCSS, asserting ownership of the Standards and building on them further. After five years and two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or some nearly identical version. The perseverance of CCSS speaks to the strength of content and the fact that they are built on the best practices and data available.

Educators for High Standards, “In Defense of High Quality Assessments”: Jennifer Garner, a high school English teacher with 23 years of experience, writes that there is a “tremendous difference in the rigor” of Arkansas’ old year-end exams and PARCC, which is important for students. “Just as the Common Core standards push students to achieve, similarly, the PARCC exam is intended to challenge students.” Efforts to repeal CCSS and high-quality assessments “would not only set us back considerably but would necessitate redoing years of work that has already been done, and been done well,” Garner says. “[With CCSS] I have more flexibility with the curriculum in my classroom. I am not “teaching to a test.” I am teaching skills that my students will take with them to college and the work force because the new aligned assessments measures skills, not content knowledge. In the classroom, I see students tackling difficult tasks yet succeeding with help.”

What It Means: Like Garner, teachers who have worked closely with CCSS overwhelmingly support the Standards, rigorous assessments that ensure teachers have adjusted instruction to help kids meet higher expectations, and the implementation of both. A Scholastic study found more than eight in 10 teachers who have experienced CCSS say implementation is going well, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Journal Eureka, “Teacher Backs Common Core Standards”: Jane Schmidt, Iowa’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, says CCSS are good for the state’s schools. “We need to have rigorous, relevant and results-directed curricula and instruction,” Schmidt says. “We had the best scores we ever had last year…It has really changed what we do. Iowa Core is definitely a game changer.” Schmidt adds that there is a lot of misinformation circulating and points out the Standards give teachers more flexibility and emphasize multiple problem-solving methods to help provide students with deeper content understanding.

What It Means: Teachers who have worked closely with CCSS by and large strongly support the Standards and their implementation. In addition to traditional learning techniques, CCSS introduce multiple problem solving techniques and encourage greater independent analysis and student collaboration. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopter of CCSS, proficiency rates at most grade levels and college-readiness scores have steadily increased under the Standards.

Teaching Channel, “Help All Readers Access Complex Texts”: Text complexity is an important part of CCSS, and the “staircase of text complexity” will help provide more opportunity for students to develop literacy skills necessary to succeed at higher levels of learning, writes Ryan McCarty, an education coach with Achievement Network. He adds, “Thoughtful planning holds the key to student success with complex texts.” McCarty outlines several steps for teachers to help prepare students for challenging material, including choosing texts that build knowledge, analyzing complex tests to ensure they work for students, setting aside time for students to do close readings, and using other practices like purpose setting and modeling to support close reading. “The overarching idea remains that teachers must plan intentionally to give students the support they need to regularly engage with complex text.”

What It Means: CCSS put a greater emphasis on complex texts and analytical reading, but such practices require support from teachers and parents. Fortunately, educators at the state and local level are taking the lead on providing such resources. A Center for Education Policy study found in more than two-thirds of districts teachers are writing materials to help students meet benchmarks set forth by CCSS, and most are turning to state and local authorities to help implement new teaching strategies.

Arizona Republic, “Common Core Helps More Than It Hurts”: Lisa Hoberg, an Arizona parents, says efforts to repeal the Arizona’s College- and Career-Ready Standards, which are structured on CCSS, would throw out the investment schools have made over the past four years “only to go back to much lower standards.” “This would require a massive new investment in training and classroom materials,” Hoberg says. “Of even greater concern: How should my fourth-grade son be expected to succeed in school when he has built an educational foundation on one approach to learning and set of standards, only to have it fundamentally changed in middle school and then likely to be fundamentally changed again in high school?” She encouraged readers, “Call your local school’s principal to get the facts.”

What It Means: As Hoberg points out, schools, teachers, parents, and students have invested a great deal of time and energy into preparing for CCSS over the past four years. To revert back to states’ old standards would undo that work and create greater uncertainty in classrooms by subjecting students to new standards just as they begin to use the Common Core.



On Our Reading List:

The Education Trust’s Equity Line Blog, Debunking Myths in NH’s New Assessment Pilot””: Contrary to media reports, the U.S. Department of Education did not approve local assessments to replace New Hampshire statewide tests, but rather approved the piloting of a new statewide assessment model, the article reports. “That’s an important distinction, especially as a few members of Congress suggest that districts should choose their own tests” under ESEA reauthorization. The article notes that not long ago districts were left to choose assessments, which resulted in inconsistencies and a lack of confidence in results because “virtually everybody was ‘above average.’” Statewide assessments were developed to combat this problem and ensure certain groups of students weren’t held to lower expectations. The “contours” of the New Hampshire plan provide “some guidance on how lawmakers in the ESEA debate should think about allowing innovation while still holding fast to the imperative of statewide assessment.”

Fordham Institute’s Common Core Watch Blog, “Ten Arguments against Common Core Presidential Hopefuls Should Avoid”: Tim Shanahan outlines 10 inaccurate arguments presidential hopefuls should avoid when discussing CCSS to keep from being “tripped up by a feeble or foolish argument.” They include making claims that previous standards were better; that teachers didn’t write CCSS; that they promote ideological positions; that CCSS aren’t research based; that they require too much testing; and that the Standards are pushed by big business, among others.

Arizona Republic, “This Common Core Rom-Com Is Way Too Predictable”: The editorial board compares the state legislature’s approach to CCSS to a rom-com movie “without the laughs and happily ever after part,” saying repeal bills have failed and “that’s what will happen with the last gasp for the Common Core crowd.” HB 2190, which would get rid of Arizona’s College- and Career-Ready Standards and give lawmakers the ability to prevent the state board of education from implementing standards, will likely experience the same fate as similar previous bills. “Past is prologue,” the piece states. “Everyone involved knows this. They know they’re engaged in a charade, a political drama with no chance of success — except as an issue in the next election. The irony is that many of those wasting the Legislature’s time on this doomed bill are the same ones who complain that government is rife with waste and inefficiency.”