News You Can Use:

Governing Magazine, “Common Core Critics Are Loud but Losing”: Although CCSS have become a hot-button issue, they aren’t likely going away. “For all the pushback against the Common Core…more than 40 states are still on board,” the article reports. “Most states are now four or five years into the process. Ending Common Core would mean a lot of wasted effort and money.” “The impression in the media is that there’s all this controversy and therefore this thing must be dead,” says Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute. “But the full-court press by Tea Party groups to get Republican legislators to repeal the Common Core has only been successful in Oklahoma.” Most states are moving forward with the Standards, the article says, and even in states like Indiana, which dropped the brand, “the essential elements remain intact.” “Over a period of time, the best way to defend [CCSS] is to see the results,” says Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.

What It Means: After two national elections and nearly five years of classroom preparation, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use the Standards or some similar, rebranded version. The fact that Republican-controlled legislatures in many of the country’s most conservative states have killed efforts to repeal or replace CCSS speaks volumes about the strength of the Standards, and about public support for high education standards. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters, student proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have made some of the biggest improvements in the country since implementation of CCSS.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, “Repeal of Common Core Wrong for Montana”: The editorial board writes that the notion that CCSS is “somehow a top-down federal seizure of public education” is a “‘dog whistle,’ something only those of a certain mindset can hear.” Instead, it says, “Common Core is a simple outcome-based initiative to improve education results… Under this plan – which states can opt in or out of – all control of curriculum rests in the hands of the states, local school boards, school principals and individuals teachers.” The editorial board rejects claims that the federal government oversaw development of the Standard, calling them “simply false.” “Common Core may need some adjustments,” the piece states, “but it shouldn’t be abandoned.”

What It Means: The editorial board emphasizes that while CCSS may be a rallying cry among a small but vocal group of activists, most parents strongly support high, comparable academic standards and effective assessments. That is one reason why all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to use them or some similar version. In states like Kentucky and Tennessee – two of the earliest adopters of the Standards – students have made some of the biggest educational improvements since implementing CCSS.

Arizona Republic, “Education Board President Speaks Out on Controversies”: President of the Arizona State School Board Greg Miller says Gov. Ducey’s call for a review of the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards demonstrates that, “this issues of standards is not one where just destroying the existing educational system with nothing to replace, which would bring chaos.” Miller says repealing the state’s standards, which are structured on CCSS, without equally strong standards and assessments “will not provide our students, their parents, teachers and administrators with the tools to ensure our economic future. It could create a real, not manufactured, takeover of Arizona educational systems by the federal government.” Miller adds that CCSS meet his definition of “strong rigorous standards and assessments,” but it is the state’s congressional delegation’s job to determine if and how to “unhook the ‘federal oversight’.”

What It Means: Arizona and at least five other states with Republican-controlled legislatures have voted down bills seeking to replace CCSS this year. The fact that conservative states continue to stick with CCSS underscores Standards’ strength of content and public commitment to high academic expectations. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote, “It’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Fresno Bee, “Need a Real Common Core Discussion”: In response to a recent op-ed that recited “just ‘talking points’ in opposition to Common Core,” Roger Duncan, a California parent says such arguments drown out constructive debate. “Can we not, as an educated society, discuss matters on their merits rather than pretend to be serious yet simply parroting talking points of others, proclaiming [CCSS] Nazism and unconstitutional, and equating the Gates Foundation to some evil plot. To make these inane claims paints the parents’ organization…as possibly an uneducated and ill-informed group that couldn’t pass these tests. Talk about a need for better education.”

What It Means: As experts like former Sec. Bill Bennett have pointed out, distortions and misleading information perpetuated by opponents have largely edged out productive discussion about the merits of high education standards. Instead, efforts would be better directed by focusing on how states can build on and improve CCSS further rather than convoluting the issue with myths that inaccurately portray the Standards.


Correcting the Record:

Daily Caller, “Senate Republicans Vote Unanimously to Block Federal Mandate of Common Core”: Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a budget amendment introduced by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter prohibiting the federal government from “mandating, incentivizing, or coercing states to adopt specific academic standards, including the Common Core.” The article says the amendment is an “attempt to end federal involvement in Common Core, a complex set of K-12 math and language arts curriculum benchmarks as well as high-stakes standardized tests.” “Parents, along with local teachers, principals, and education leaders in our communities, know best on how to best educate our kids,” Sen. Vitter said in a statement. “We should reduce the size and scope of the federal government in our classrooms and return curriculum decision-making and use of taxpayer dollars to those closest to the students.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to the language of Sen. Vitter’s legislation, states voluntarily adopted and are now implementing CCSS, and no state has faced any federal “penalty” simply for opting out, as the Common Core Fact Checker notes. Additionally, the U.S. Congress recently defunded the Race to the Top program, which opponents often criticized as incentivizing CCSS, meaning that no state will, whether they’ve adopted the Standards or not, be able to get more funding through the program. Because they are a set of standards – not curriculum – CCSS allow educators to maintain local control – giving teachers the freedom to adjust to the multiple learning style of students.

Oregonian, “I’m a Teacher and I’ve Opted My Daughter Out of Smarter Balanced”: Ashley Wilson, an Oregon teacher with 16 years of experience, says she was “appalled” by the content of Smarter Balanced assessments, which led her to opt her daughter out of taking them. “Not only is the SBAC testing kids on subjects and skills that aren’t grade-level appropriate, but it also appears that the test makers are attempting to brainwash kids into thinking that only core subjects matter,” Wilson says. “Rather than relying on standardized tests as a gauge for competent teaching and student strengths, I encourage the powers that be to come in and visit. …Don’t use a one-time standardized test to judge what I do so passionately, every day.” Wilson concludes, “I will not accept that the test results accurately or comprehensively define my abilities or those of my students.”

Where They Went Wrong: Strong assessments that support high education standards are an important tool to provide parents and teachers an honest measure of students’ progress, and to identify and address student learning needs. Assessments that measure progress toward the higher standards of CCSS provide more constructive metrics for parents, educators and schools, and because the exams require students to demonstrate their learning – but thinking and analyzing more deeply – they alleviate pressures to “teach to the test.”



On Our Reading List:

CBS News, “Poll: Who Would Americans Consider Voting for in 2016?”: According to a CBS News poll, six in 10 Republican voters who oppose CCSS say they would consider supporting a candidate who supports the Standards. The survey also found 56% of all respondents are “flexible” on education policy. More than half of the study’s participants do not know enough about CCSS to have an opinion, but 38% of Republicans say it is a bad idea, compared to 10% who say it is a good one. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a supporter of CCSS, remains the potential candidate with the most support among Republicans with 51% saying would consider voting for him.

Jackson Clarion Ledger, “Common Core Consortia Illegal, Attorney Says”: At a Liberty Luncheon hosted by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy and the Federalist Society, John Sauer, a St. Louis attorney, said the state’s involvement in the Smarter Balanced testing consortia violates the Constitution and should be dismantled. Sauer described the situation as an “interstate compact,” which would require congressional approval. “I’m not education expert,” Sauer said, “but even if these were the best standards in the nation, I believe they were implemented illegally.”

Baltimore Sun, “City Schools Report Smooth PARCC Testing”: Balitmore public school officials report that PARCC assessments have gone smoothly despite initial concerns that the new exams would test its technological capabilities. The district administered nearly 44,000 exams and more than 4,500 are still being given. “As with all things that are new and related to technology there have been some kinks,” officials said. “This is the year to iron those out, figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what we can improve on for future years.”

Arizona Republic, “Education Leaders Debate Common Core”: On Thursday, Ildi Laczko-Kerr, vice president of the Arizona Charter School Association and CCSS supporter, and Frank Riggs, a former Arizona gubernatorial candidate, debated the merits of the Common Core. “I have no problem with Common Core being completely voluntary, and I have no problem with using Common Core to create our own standard,” Riggs said. “But I have a real problem with standards being imposed on us.” Laczko-Kerr said much of the opposition to CCSS stems from misconceptions. “Standards are a set of goal statements that we have. They describe a set of aspirations that we want kids to know and be able to do in school,” she said. “It’s a myth the standards have been dumbed down.”