News You Can Use:

Wall Street Journal, “GOP’s John Kasich Isn’t Backing Off Support for Common Core”: When pressed about his position on CCSS during a visit through New Hampshire this week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich reiterated his support and said much of the opposition has overhyped. “Sometimes things get to be political, they get to be runaway Internet issues. I’ve looked at it. The federal government did not tell us what test to give, the federal government did not tell us what the standards ought to be,” Gov. Kasich told reporters. “It was set by governors. And some of the governors that set the standards are now saying they don’t like the program. You ought to ask them the question.” Gov. Kasich added that he publicly defended CCSS at a November meeting of the Republican Governors’ Association, and no one disagreed. “I said, ‘If I don’t know what I’m talking about, please correct me,’ and I was met with profound silence,” Gov. Kasich said. Of Sen. Ted Cruz, Kasich said, “I don’t anything about him or what he’s talking about or proposing.”

What It Means: Unlike some other presidential hopefuls, Gov. Kasich remains resolute in his support for Common Core Standards, and has repeatedly rejected the notion that the Standards were forced on states by the federal government. Polling suggests his conviction could help him win conservative voters, should he decide to run, and, unlike several other candidates, he will not have to explain shifts in his position. Studies continue to indicate that parents overwhelmingly support high education standards, and educators who have worked closely with CCSS strongly support implementation.

Arizona Republic, “Common Core Offers High Standards”: Controversy that has exploded around Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards is “both misplaced and counterproductive, writes Dr. Ildi Laczko-Kerr, vice president of the Center for Student Achievement. “Academic standards provide teachers, administrators and parents the essential tools to measure whether students are learning and schools are achieving,” Laczko-Kerr says. “Arizona made adjustments and added standards prior to the final affirmative vote by the Arizona State Board of Education. These standards are truly Arizona’s own.” She adds that the Common Core Standards set a minimum set of expectations, and schools can build on them further. The Standards are not a “federal takeover” and are not “curriculum, resources or textbooks.” Replacing the Standards “would be a terrible mistake and setback for our students and schools at a time when we can least afford it,” Laczko-Kerr concludes. “Now is the time to finally put aside the political sideshows.”

What It Means: CCSS set high academic expectations to better ensure more students graduate high school with the skills to competently step into college or a career. As Laczko-Kerr points out, the Standards set a minimum for student learning and states are adding more requirements to them. In fact, Arizona already made the standards specific to the needs of Arizona’s students prior to adopting them. After years of preparing for CCSS, to change course now would pull the rug out from under educators and create greater uncertainty in classrooms.

Times Picayune, “Common Core Will Help Louisiana Students Thrive”: Courtney Brown, a Louisiana elementary-school teacher, says Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to remove CCSS amounts to “political maneuvering” that “does not put our children’s interests first.” “After five years of teaching with Common Core in place, I can firmly attest that the standards have improved my students’ reasoning, writing skills and comprehension,” Brown writes. “I believe that Common Core is a great vehicle for producing success in the lives of our kids. Unfortunately, Gov. Jindal seems to be more concerned with securing a Republican Party nomination for president than the progress of Louisiana’s young people.” Contrary to claims CCSS is a federally mandated, one-size-fits-all approach, Brown says the Standards provide a framework “from which teachers can launch beautifully creative learning experiences to help students find deeper meaning and application.” She adds, “Our trajectory will yield results only if we stay the course.” “I respectfully propose that we prioritize the futures of our children over politics,” Browns says in closing. “Changing the route now could prove chaotic and catastrophic for many years to come.”

What It Means: Brown describes Gov. Jindal’s plan to remove CCSS as little more than his latest political ploy and makes clear that the move would put students at a disadvantage by creating greater uncertainty and subjecting children to inferior standards. Like Brown, teachers who have worked closely with CCSS strongly support implementation, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities.

Washington Post, “A Struggle Worth Having for Students”: Kyle Schwartz, a Denver elementary school teacher, writes that despite initial concerns that CCSS would be a “flash in the pan,” she now firmly believes that they will help improve student outcomes. “The more I teach under Common Core, the more I love it,” Schwartz says. She adds that initial unfamiliarity with the Standards helped push teachers to dissect them and develop a full understanding of the changes. “It struck me that the work we were doing as teachers mirrored the work that we ask of students under Common Core…our in-depth exploration of the standards made us better teachers.” Schwartz concludes, “The Common Core State Standards are new, different and challenging. But it is in the struggle that our teachers define what meaningful instruction looks like. And it is in the struggle that our students discover, explore and make their own learning.”

What It Means: CCSS set rigorous expectations for students, which requires that teachers also adjust instruction to meet these learning goals. Yet, like Schwartz, teachers who have worked closely with the Standards find they create greater flexibility and helps them to address students’ learning needs. A Scholastic study last fall found that more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with CCSS support implementation, and more than two-thirds say they have seen an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Educators for High Standards, “Ohio Students and Educators Need Common Core”: Lisa Bass, a nationally certified first-grade teacher and consultant for the Ohio Department of Education, writes, “Common Core supports strong learning and guides our educators to meet the demands that parents and communities have on 21st century learners.” Bass points out that the Standards create cohesive, high expectations for all learners, yet do not require that students learn in the same way they are accustomed to learning. “Through Common Core, students are now taught to analyze and find the results,” instead of through “rote memorization” alone. Bass emphasizes that teachers have “complete control” over how to teach students and the resources they use to meet the benchmarks set by CCSS. “Removing Common Core State Standards from our academics would restrain Ohio education and allow student learning to slide into downward spiral,” Bass says. “Common Core Standards are stimulating, challenging, and must remain in place.”

What It Means: Bass’ message reflects the sentiments of countless teachers: that CCSS are helping more students develop the critical thinking and analytical skills to succeed at high levels of learning by setting rigorous learning goals. More than eight in ten teachers who have worked closely with CCSS support implementation and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Breitbart News, “More Military Families Choosing Homeschooling over Common Core”: More military families are choosing to homeschool their children over traditional classrooms, a report by the Air Force Times finds. As much as six percent of military families could opt to homeschool their children if overall trends mirror a small sampling of military personnel stationed in South Korea in 2006, the article contends. Nationwide homeschool numbers have grown to about 3.4 percent of the school-age population, which the article attributes in part to implementation of CCSS. “More military families are rejecting the notion that the Common Core standards are the cure-all for children who experience the disruptions of frequent moves and lengthy absences from parents,” Susan Berry, the article’s author, writes. “Common Core is really just a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said one military parent. “Common Core takes away all educational choice from parents, educators, and local government, and puts it in the hands of the federal government.”

Where They Went Wrong: CCSS give children of military families greater stability in transitioning from one school to another and alleviate the risk of falling behind or relearning material those students have already covered. Gen. Ben Freakley, commanding general of the United States Army Accessions Command, has said the Standards “benefit the thousands of military dependent students whose frequent moves are often at odds with local standards.” Retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks has also pointed out that CCSS “help address academic inconsistencies,” which is especially important for children of military families, who will move on average 6-9 times in their academic careers. Results show that students in DOD schools outperform public school students on 4th- and 8th-grade math and English proficiency exams, which officials attribute largely to CCSS.


On Our Reading List:

USA Today, “Fact-Checking Ted Cruz”: calls out Sen. Ted Cruz’s argument to “repeal every word of Common Core,” which he called an effort by the federal government to “dictate school curriculum.” The piece says, “As we have said before, the standards were developed by governors and state education officials and voluntarily adopted by states, and the curriculum is set by state and local school officials.”, “Community Colleges to Use Controversial PARCC Tests for Student Placement”: The New Jersey Council of County Colleges, which represents 19 state community colleges, announced its schools will begin using PARCC scores to identify student placement. “These scores will be a valuable tool for colleges in our work to help high school students avoid remediation and begin study in college-level courses,” the group said in a statement Monday. The article notes that higher education officials have been vocal proponents of CCSS and say the Standards will help better prepare students for college and cut down on remediation needs.

Hechinger Report, “Common Core Tests Will Widen Achievement Gap – at First”: Although CCSS were designed to help address persistent learning and achievement gaps, in the short-term they will likely acerbate it, the article reports. In Illinois, New York and Kentucky, which launched early versions of exams that test to the higher standards, gaps between low-income and wealthy students increased in the first year of testing. The article notes in the long-run the assessments will do more to level the playing field, and the online format will provide additional resources to help students perform at their best. Sonja Brookins Santelises, vice president of The Education Trust, says early data from Common Core tests suggests schools previously had the wrong targets for certain groups of students. “We were clearly educating some kids to only be able to fill in the bubbles while we were educating other children to be able to write coherent, argumentative text,” she says.

New York Times, “Hilary Clinton Caught between Dueling Forces on Education: Teachers and Wealthy Donors”: As Hilary Clinton mounts a likely presidential bid, she re-enters “the fray like a Rip Van Winkle for whom the terrain on education standards has shifted markedly, with deep new fissures in the Democratic Party.” The article notes that when Clinton last ran for president she did not have to take a position on CCSS, Race to the Top or teacher evaluations. “Donors want to hear where she stands,” says John Petry, founder of the Harlem Success Academy. The article notes that Clinton has close ties with teachers’ unions, which have walked back some of their support for high education standards and that “political crosswinds” have complicated the issue further.

Arizona Republic, “Leaders Debate Common Core This Week in Peoria”: On Thursday, experts in Arizona will debate the merits of CCSS and the future of implementation. Dr. Ildi Laczko-Kerr will argue in favor of the Standards, representing Leadership West. Frank Riggs, head of the Joe Foss Institute will argue against them. The debate will be moderated by Arizona Republic education reporter Cathryn Creno.