News You Can Use:

Associated Press, “Fact Check: Myths in the Political Roar over Common Core”: In the political uproar over CCSS, some myths have been peddled as fact, the article says, going on to address several misconceptions perpetuated by prominent candidates. “Do the learning standards really mean the federal government is serving as a ‘national school board,’ as Sen. Marco Rubio says? That’s hard to square with the reality that the standards were developed by governors and state education leaders. Should leaders ‘repeal every word of Common Core,’ as Sen. Ted Cruz demands? Actually there’s no federal law – or even program – to repeal. Sen. Rand Paul slams ‘rotten to the core’ propaganda forced on children by an initiative that has no curriculum at all.” CCSS were developed over concerns that too many students leave high school unprepared for college or a career, and “spell out what reading, math and critical thinking skills students should grasp, while leaving how those skills are mastered up to local school districts and states.” The article adds that CCSS “is an approach to learning, not a mandate on what to teach.” It notes that federal grants through the Race to the Top program, “the root for the exaggerated, but not baseless, claims,” are being “phased out,” and concludes that “shortcuts with the facts don’t tell the full story.”

What It Means: As the debate over CCSS has escalated over the past year and a half, many high-profile political leaders, especially Republicans, have perpetuated myths and misleading information about the Standards. As the article and many education experts point out, such distortions stir concerns and drown out constructive debate about the value of high education standards. The Collaborative fact checks many of these myths on the recently-launched Fact Checker website.

Fayetteville Observer, “Killing Common Core May Sabotage National Security”: The editorial board writes that “diluting rigorous national standards imposed by Common Core will endanger the future of our military services,” a threat that “lawmakers need to take seriously.” Last week, Mission: Readiness, a national-security nonprofit organization, released a new study that found North Carolina schools are falling short of the “achievement levels our armed services need to see in their recruits.” Retired Coast Guard Read Adm. Steven Ratti said that changing course on CCSS “threatens the future of North Carolina military installations.” “Military spending is 10 percent of North Carolina’s economy, and 40 percent of this region’s,” the piece states. “If we make it impossible for the armed forces to do business here, we’re in trouble.” It concludes, “Time to focus on excellence and high achievement. National security and our economic future are two good reasons.”

What It Means: CCSS are critically important for military families and military preparedness. Recent studies found that about one-quarter of high school graduates cannot pass the basic military entrance exam. The Department of Defense adopted CCSS for all 180 of its DOD-operated schools in 2012 to provide greater stability for families who move often and to help raise student outcomes by setting higher expectations. As military leaders like retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks have pointed out, the Standards provide greater consistency between schools, which is especially important for children of military families, who will move between 6-9 times on average during their academic career.

Ed Source, “‘We Have a Clearer Pathway for Student Learning’ with Common Core”: Gabriela Mafi, superintendent of Garden Grove School District in California, says in an interview that CCSS introduce a “thoughtful vertical design which was not present in any of the previous iterations of standards.” She says the state’s previous education standards were “like a Tower of Babel of sorts, in that there was little continuity across grade levels and one didn’t necessarily see how these standards built upon each other from year to year.” With CCSS, “there’s a much greater focus on analysis and on expository reading and writing across content areas,” and a “much higher level of rigor.” Mafi says that reception among teachers has been “very positive,” and that the Standards “have caused people to want to collaborate more, to want to discuss and share more.”

What It Means: Educators continue to strongly support CCSS – largely because the Standards are having a positive impact on teaching and promise to improve student outcomes. According to a recent Scholastic study, more than two-thirds of teachers reported improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. As Mafi points out, the Standards create greater continuity in learning and empower teachers to collaborate to unlock student potential.

Hechinger Report, “Common Core Tests Went Smoothly in Florida, Despite Sensational Media Claims”: In the latest in a series of letters between Florida principal Jayne Ellspermann and New York principal Carol Burris, Ellspermann says recent assessments in Florida designed to support the state’s Common Core Standards went well, despite media report otherwise. “Based on students’ accounts, this writing assessment was much better than previous state writing assessments,” Ellspermann says. “My student said that their in-class writing assignments prepared them well for the assessment.” Ellspermann says the new assessments put a greater emphasis on text-based evidence, which is important for students like hers, 68% of which come from low-income households. “Many of my students begin at a disadvantage, followed by an achievement gap that widens over time,” the piece states. “The Common Core standards make success accessible to all students by allowing them to demonstrate their learning based, not on their life experience, but what they read in the text.”

What It Means: Strong assessments are an important tool to ensure that high standards fulfill their purpose, and to give parents and teachers an honest measure of student progress. Ellspermann contends that CCSS, and the Florida Standards Assessment that her state has administered, help ensure students of all backgrounds have the same resources to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. One recent study found that 79% of teachers said the new assessments that support CCSS are better than those previously used by states, and reports indicate testing is going well.


Correcting the Record:

Democrat & Chronicle, “Parents, Please Talk about Common Core”: New York blogger Maeve Cullinane writes, “High-stakes tests are not in the best interest of anyone’s children.” “I do not agree that learning can be measured by multiple choice questions, or that English and Math are the only ‘necessary’ subjects to master,” Cullinane says. “I do not agree that ‘college readiness’ can be measured in elementary school.” The piece says that teachers object to the Standards and tying evaluations to student performance, but have “felt constrained about speaking out.” “Regardless of a family’s decision about opting out, it’s important to set an example by talking about the issues,” Cullinane adds. She says her own daughter decided against taking exams  “to get back to learning,” which Cullinane compares to Rosa Parks or Susan B. Anthony. “Now that’s an education and a conversation worth having,” Cullinane concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: Strong assessments are an important tool to ensure that students are making steady progress to develop the skills to succeed at higher level learning, and for parents and teachers to identify and address learning needs. New assessments designed to measure progress against the Common Core State Standards ask students to think critically and analyze, rather than fill in multiple choice questions. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote recently, if a child does not do well on assessments that support high standards it does not mean the they are lost; instead it is an indication for parents and teachers to help them address those needs.



On Our Reading List:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Latest Glitch Delays Common Core Exam in Wisconsin”: On Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction said it would delay the testing window for the state’s Badger Exam because of last-minute technical glitches. The tests will now begin April 13, two weeks later than initially planned. State Superintendent Tony Evers called the problems “incredibly frustrating.”

Times Picayune, “Senate Passes Vitter Amendment to Bar Federal Pressure”: By a party-line vote, the Senate approved Sen. David Vitter’s budget amendment on Thursday, which would prohibit the federal government from pressuring states to adopt specific education standards, including CCSS. The vote was 54-46, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. “Vitter’s amendment bars the Education Department from ‘mandating, incentivizing or coercing’ states to adopt the Common Core amendments,” the article reports.