News You Can Use:

Stars and Stripes, “Common Core Brings Needed Continuity”: Retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks argues the fact that too many students graduate from K-12 without the skills to step into college, a career or the military is a matter of national security. Noting one in three high school graduates cannot pass the basic military entrance exam, Gen. Marks says, “We must do better to match their desire to serve their country by ensuring a diploma holds the promise that they are prepared to meet and exceed the demands of service, no matter where they live or go to school.” He adds that “huge discrepancies” in academic expectations often put young people at a disadvantage. CCSS help address those inconsistencies by holding all students to a high bar. “Unlike many states’ previous education requirements, they stress depth of understanding so that students are able to apply what they’ve learned. In the military, as in any other walk of life, that kind of applicable knowledge is invaluable.” Gen. Marks adds that comparable standards are especially important for military families, who move frequently. “By creating greater consistency among school systems, Common Core standards give military families better assurance their child will be able to transition between schools without falling behind their peers.”

What It Means: CCSS hold great value for military families and military preparedness. By holding all students to rigorous academic expectations, CCSS better ensure students graduate with the skills they need to succeed after high school, including in military service. And for families who move often, like those in service, the Standards ensure greater continuity between schools to better ensure students don’t fall behind. Gen. Marks makes an important point that DOD schools have fully adopted CCSS, and students in those schools regularly outperform national averages.

Chalkbeat Tennessee, “Common Core in Tennessee Survives First Legislative Challenge”: The sponsors of a bill to remove CCSS in Tennessee said on Wednesday they will go back to the drawing board to avoid another costly transition to new academic standards, the article reports. Instead, they’ll seek to incorporate legislative feedback in a new proposal that would expand the standards review process to more subjects. “We’ve got to be good stewards, and we’ve got to address this issue in a way that everybody in this state doesn’t have to suffer just because of the political wish of someone like me,” said state Rep. Bill Spivey, a co-sponsor of the bill. This is the second time the bill has been pulled from subcommittee. “The change of heart signals that Tennessee’s Common Core critics are stepping back from the political backlash” that has been building over the last year, the article adds.

What It Means: After nearly two years of targeted attacks, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt CCSS continue to stick with either the Standards or some nearly identical, rebranded version. The move in Tennessee comes after several other states with Republican-controlled legislatures have voted down bills seeking to repeal CCSS, including Arizona, North Dakota and South Dakota. CCSS’ resiliency underscores the value of the Standards and public commitment to high academic expectations, and is reinforced by recent polling that finds support for CCSS can help political candidates who are able to articulate the purpose of rigorous education standards.

Wall Street Journal, “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Parents: Don’t Opt Out of Tests”: On Wednesday Gov. Christie encouraged parents not to opt students out of CCSS-aligned testing. “We are going to have to test. We need to know where your children stand,” Gov. Christie said. “The further education gets away from the community, the tougher it is for parents to have an impact on it and the less reliable I think it’s going to be.” New Jersey began administering CCSS-aligned exams this week and some districts report high numbers of students refusing to take the assessments.

What It Means: Student assessments are an important tool to give educators and parents an honest snapshot of student progress and to help identify and address learning needs. CCSS-aligned exams like PARCC will provide more constructive, timely feedback so educators can adjust instruction and ensure students are developing the skills necessary for higher levels of learning.

Shreveport Times, “Coming Together over Common Core”: Chas Roemer, head of Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), writes that agreement among state lawmakers to review and build on CCSS is a rare moment of sanity that shouldn’t be squandered. Noting that graduation rates and college-readiness scores have increased under the Standards, Roemer says that the call for review is a prudent move that rises above the politics of the moment. Regulations require that educators review state standards every seven years, and Superintendent John White and some lawmakers have called to move it up to this year. “Doing so will ensure that the standards adjust as needs change while remaining comparable to expectations in other states,” Roemer says, adding review and input should be an ongoing process. “A timely standards review should put to rest lingering concerns,” Roemer concludes.

What It Means: Roemer’s and other state officials’ calls for an earlier review of the state’s use of CCSS is a practical step to ensure the Standards meet student and teacher needs. Across the country other states have undertaken similar reviews. Although opponents have often conflated those as repeal efforts, it’s exactly how CCSS were designed – to give control local authorities.



Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “New Consumer Reports for Common Core Finds Learning Materials Lacking”: Ed Reports, a non-profit launched yesterday that calls itself the “Consumer Reports” of K-12 textbooks, found that most materials reviewed failed to meet its criteria for being aligned to CCSS. Of 20 sets of K-8 math materials, only one was found to fully meet the group’s requirements. The article notes that amid the adoption of the Standards, many textbook publishers have slapped ‘CCSS-aligned’ labels on materials even though few actually follow the Standards. Ed Reports next plans to review high-school level math and English materials.

Where They Went Wrong: The Ed Reports analysis confirms what many schools and teachers have been saying: that publishers are not moving fast enough to truly align materials with CCSS. Yet, it is important to note textbooks do not equate to curriculum, and in states across the country teachers are using the resources they have to continue to teach to the Standards. A recent Center for Education Policy (CEP) report found that more and more teachers are developing curricula aligned to the Standards themselves and sharing best practices. About 80% of districts are using locally developed curricula, according to the study, further underscoring the local control CCSS foster.



On Our Reading List:

Politico Pro, “Common Core Hits Airwaves”: The Collaborative for Student Success is launching radio and print ads in Iowa urging prospective presidential candidates to answer substantive questions about CCSS. The ads (radio and print), which feature former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, will get heavy play across state markets ahead of an agricultural summit this weekend, the article notes. “These sound academic standards are worth fighting for,” Sec. Bennett says in the spot. “Learn why so many conservatives are taking another look at Common Core.”

Arizona Republic, “Critics: Common Core Fight Not Over”: Although the Arizona state legislature voted down two bills seeking to repeal CCSS, opponents say the fight is far from over. “Common Core is lower than the standards we had before,” said Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute. “I don’t think the AIMS was the greatest test, but to say a set of national standards is better is incorrect.” Many parents and educators disagree. “Those against Common Core can say nothing specific other than ‘Common Core is bad,’” said one parent. “We have spent five years training our teachers on the more rigorous standards, purchasing curriculum that our community, staff and board approved and then working on the higher order thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills that go along with the rigorous standards,” one district superintendent said, adding that going back would undo their work.

Cincinnati Enquirer, “Schools Won’t Lose State Funding for Opt-Outs”:The Ohio Department of Education reassured school officials that they won’t lose state funding for students who opt out of CCSS-aligned tests, though they could still be liable for restriction placed on federal funds tied to assessments. State Superintendent Richard Ross sent an email to district superintendents on Tuesday explaining the process. “We will continue to fund each student in your district, regardless of participation,” Ross said in the email. “Testing shows evidence of student progress. It provides much needed information to classroom teachers and others so they can monitor and improve student learning…I hope you will explain this critical relationship between testing and teaching to the parents of your communities and encourage them, as much as you are able, to allow their students to take Ohio’s New State Tests.” The Ohio Senate was expected to vote Wednesday on a bill that would prohibit the state from withholding funds for students who opt out of tests.

Ed Surge, “Graph of the Week: Common Core vs. Obamacare vs. Justin Bieber”: Google Trends indicates the term “Common Core” was searched more than any other key issue keyword in the 2014 election. “Common Core” regularly led search terms after April, 2014, and “dominated” searches between mid-August and the two weeks before the November 4 midterms. The article notes, “To be sure, not all of the search traffic for [top] terms was 100% connected to the election…But this data still suggests that the Common Core was an issue important to politicians and voters in 2014.”