News You Can Use:

Albuquerque Journal, “U.S. Needs Common Core in All the States”: The United States is losing strength in “human capital,” an area vital to success in a global economy, writes Robert Frank, president of the University of New Mexico. “The only way to keep up or gain momentum is to have a common core of educational benchmarks that are universal, standardized and measureable.” Noting CCSS-aligned testing has become controversial, Frank says states should not lose sight of the bigger purpose of assessments: achieving “educational excellence through tougher expectations that make our students more competitive and successful.” “While PARCC and Common Core are connected, they are not one in the same…consternation [over CCSS-aligned exams] should not overshadow or diminish the original intent of Common Core, to provide a standards for…college and career readiness.” Frank concludes, if “universities work with their K-12 partners through the Common Core State Standards, we can reduce, and hopefully eliminate the need for remediation altogether.”
What It Means: In states across the country the higher education community has worked closely with their K-12 counterparts to help implement CCSS. Each year, as many as 40% of college-bound freshmen require remediation. By setting high standards for all students CCSS better ensure that young people will graduate with the skills to succeed in college or a career.

Washington Post, “Let States Take the Lead in Education”: Parents and local teachers should have control over education, and the federal government’s roles should be limited to creating transparency, supporting policies with a proven record, and ensuring extra help for students who need it, writes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “In short, the federal role should be subservient to the role of states.” “Such control can work,” the piece states. “We’ve seen more than 40 states voluntarily work together to create the Common Core standards…I support such rigorous, state-driven academic standards. Some states would rather set their own standards, and that’s appropriate, provided they are high standards.” Gov. Bush concludes, “If we are to move forward on education reform, the states and local authorities must be allowed to lead.”

What It Means: Gov. Bush, who unlike several likely presidential candidates has remained resolute in his support for CCSS, makes clear that authority over education issues must remain at the local and state level. The piece points out CCSS help ensure that balance and has helped states work together to achieve better student outcomes without federal involvement. Contrary to opponents’ claims, polling shows the public strongly supports rigorous education standards and support for CCSS may help candidates who are able to articulate the value of setting high expectations.

Knoxville News Sentinel (Paywall), “Higher Standards Needed Pre-College”: The success of programs like Tennessee Promise, which provide greater access to higher education, hinge on the preparation that students receive in K-12, write Wade McCamey, Chris Whaley and Anthony Wise Jr., heads of three Tennessee community colleges. “Our colleges and universities see far too many students who have arrived unprepared for college-level work despite having graduated from high school,” the authors say. “The heart of the problem is that, in the past, standards for K-12 were not adequately aligned with the needs of higher education or career-preparedness.” Noting proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have increased under CCSS, the authors say, “As our expectations rise, so does [student] performance.” “We believe that staying the course with rigorous K-12 standards and putting new student assessments in place that measure college readiness will be critical to achieving these goals.”

What It Means: The authors point out that the higher education community remains committed to the success of CCSS and believes that high academic expectations will better prepare students for the challenges of college-level work or a career. In Tennessee, one of the earliest adopters of the Standards, proficiency rates and college-readiness scores have steadily increased under CCSS. The piece underscores that abandoning CCSS would put students at a disadvantage and undermine the worth of programs that make higher education more accessible.

Educators for High Standards, “Ask Melissa: ‘Can a State Revise Their Standards Once They Have Adopted the Common Core?’”: In the first installment of the series “Ask Melissa,” the Collaborative’s Melissa Stugart says states are able to revise and build on education standards once they have adopted CCSS. The Standards were copyrighted to protect against misuse from publishers and other individuals, Stugart notes, but no part of Common Core adoption prevents states from making their own decisions about their state standards. Stugart points to several examples, including Arizona, which added new math standards; Florida, where the board of education adopted 98 suggested changes; and Georgia, whose board of education unanimously adopted a revised set of ELA and math standards following recommendations from a review committee.

What It Means: CCSS set a baseline of expectations for what students should reasonably know and be able to achieve at each grade level in order to graduate high school with the skills to succeed in college or a career. States across the country continue to build on the Standards and tailor them to their specific student needs, exactly as the Standards were designed.

Des Moines Register, “Common Core Is about a Level Playing Field for Students”: Iowa resident Jeanette Boderman says she worries that Republicans candidates and other conservatives misconstrue what CCSS mean and how they affect the “basic right of educating our children, not only in Iowa but across the U.S.” Pointing out that CCSS have “nothing to do with teaching methods,” Boderman says the Standards help ensure students have a “consistent baseline” of information between school districts and states. States have the option of going “above and beyond” the benchmarks set forth by the Standards, as Iowa has, Boderman says, and control content. “We should ensure that a poor child in Mississippi is given the basic right of a consistently taught, common knowledge of core content as equally as a child from Iowa.”

What It Means: CCSS set high academic expectations for all students to better ensure that children from district to district and state to state have similar educational opportunity, no matter where they grow up or go to school. Boderman’s support for CCSS reflects a general consensus among conservatives. Voters strongly support rigorous education standards, and recent polling finds that support for CCSS may be an asset for political candidates in early primary states like Iowa.

Orlando Sentinel (Paywall), “We’ve Officially Lost Our Minds over School Testing”: Anxiety over CCSS-aligned assessments reached a new low after a parent called 911 over a disagreement about a writing test, writes Beth Kassab. “The opt-out movement has officially jumped the shark. We’re talking about tests. At school.” “Using a child to make a political statement is wrong,” Kassab says. “It also clouds the real issue.” Noting that former assessments in Florida meant “students were no more ready for college than an average 13-year-old,” Kassab writes low expectations and weak assessments led to high levels of remediation among college-bound students. Student assessments are “no more worthless than taking your blood pressure at the doctor’s office,” Kassab adds. “Like it or not, tests let us know where we stand.”

What It Means: Student assessments are an important tool to inform parents and teachers about how well students are developing the skills they need to reach higher levels of learning. CCSS-aligned exams are designed to provide more constructive feedback about student progress so educators can better address learning needs and ultimately devote less time to testing. While there are merits to concerns about over testing, opt-out movements put students at risk and undermine the purpose of setting high academic expectations.

Norwood News, “Letter Writing Exercise Pushes Students to Think Globally”: Students at King’s College Elementary School in New York combined global awareness with writing lessons in a recent fundraising project. “The project demonstrated a significant shift in PS 94’s curriculum strategy, now edging towards a greater combination of subjects and content thanks to the more rigorous Common Core standards,” the article reports. “The idea behind it was to integrate social studies more into our reading and writing units,” said Nicole Zippo, a third-grade teacher at the school. “[Students] aren’t just learning facts.” “I think Ms. Zippo is a really good example of taking the Common Core learning standards which people think is so rigid,” added Marana Lombardo, a curriculum specialist.

What It Means: The fundraising project highlights how CCSS help students apply fundamental skills across a range of subjects. The Standards encourage greater cross-curriculum collaboration and ask students to apply learning to real-world scenarios. Schools across the country are participating in similar efforts to help students develop basic ELA and math skills through hands-on learning.


Correcting the Record:

Politico“Colleges Not Ready for ‘College Ready’ Common Core”: Five years after states began adopting CCSS, many colleges and universities have “done little to align their admissions criteria, curricula or educational policies with the new standards,” Allie Grasgreen reports. “The inertia could make for a bumpy transition for high school students moving on to higher education.” The article notes that colleges and universities participated in the development and implementation of CCSS, but “general endorsement breaks down when it comes to the particulars.” “That muddies the sales pitch that Common Core will prepare kids for the jobs of the future – and dramatically reduce the number of noncredit, remedial courses required in college.” Although many support the Standards “in theory,” some in the higher ed community aren’t sure what to expect in practice. “It’s unclear when, if ever, students will start arriving on campus more prepared for college-level work,” the article says. Still, colleges and universities remain supportive overall, the article notes. “Common Core really represents the best effort yet in establishing graduation standards,” said John Morgan, head of the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Where They Went Wrong: Leaders of the higher education community have been some of the most outspoken supporters of CCSS because of the promise the Standards hold to help reduce the remediation needs. Last fall more than 250 college and university leaders launched the Higher Education for Higher Standards coalition to support CCSS implementation, noting the “new K-12 academic standards can help improve student success and reduce postsecondary remediation rates.” And as the article notes, colleges and universities have been involved in the successful implementation of CCSS “from the start” and continue to support the rollout of the Standards.


On Our Reading List:

Chalkbeat Colorado, “Two Colorado Colleges Move Toward Making PARCC Results Count”: Adams State University and Aims Community College in Colorado announced they will begin using scores from PARCC assessments to determine whether students are ready to take college-level coursework. “We’re proud to be the first state with institutions making a bold step toward relying on PARCC assessments to determine college readiness,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. “This marks a significant shift toward streamlining the testing process for students and helping them identify earlier whether they are prepared for higher education success.”

Newsday, “Activists Urge Parents, Students to Opt Out of Common Core”: Activists in New York are expanding efforts to encourage parents and students to opt-out of the state’s CCSS-aligned exams this spring. The number of test-takers has dropped sharply through the latest test administration in spring 2014, even taking into account a simultaneous decline in enrollment, according to state Education Department data, the article notes.

Associated Press, “Arkansas House Votes to Stop Giving Common Core-Linked Test”: The Arkansas House voted 86-1 to end the state’s participation in PARCC effective after June 30. The bill will now head to the state Senate. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson previously formed a task force to review CCSS in the state, the article notes.