News You Can Use:

McClatchy News Service, “Some States’ School Tests Say Kids Are Fine, but National Tests Say They’re Not”: Yesterday, in partnership with Achieve, the Collaborative released new analysis that exposes the often significant “Honesty Gap” between state-reported proficiency rates and those indicated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is considered the “gold standard” of student assessment. More than half of states demonstrated a 30-point or more discrepancy in fourth-grade reading or eighth-grade math. ‘Too many states aren’t leveling with students or parents. They’re being told students are proficient, but by external benchmarks they’re not prepared at all,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. This picture is expected to change in upcoming years because many states have raised their academic standards and started using new tests this year, the results of which will be available this fall, the article notes. “My hope is we will see a closing of the gap,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who joined the call announcing the findings. “This is a time to stay the course even in the face of political pressures.” Some states, like Alabama, Kentucky, New York and Tennessee, have made progress toward closing the gap by implementing rigorous standards and high-quality tests. “To see how closely our efforts are aligning with powerful, statistically significant data, it’s very exciting,” said Jeff Langham, Alabama’s assistant superintendent. “When we have validation like this, it just puts fresh wind in our sails to keep up the good work.” Monday’s Daily Update will provide a comprehensive analysis of the findings and related coverage

What It Means: The Honesty Gap findings show that under political pressures states artificially inflated indicators of student development, giving parents a misleading picture of how well their child was progressing, instead of doing the hard work of addressing the problem. Fortunately, many states have begun to correct course by implementing Common Core Standards and new high-quality assessments. As Karen Nussle told reporters yesterday, “This is not a classroom problem or a teacher problem, it is a political problem in need of a political solution,” and now is not the time for leaders to become “politically weak-kneed” or “bullied into turning back.”

The Nation’s Report Card, “NAEP 101: An Introduction to The Nation’s Report Card”: The National Assessment Governing Board created a video as an introduction primer to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. The interactive video describes the plethora of subjects and areas that NAEP tests, and how it’s a crucial resource in our education landscape. As the video states, “The Nation’s Report Card is our best source of data on where we stand in education – but it’s about more than just numbers. NAEP provides our country the tools to help improve education practices to get all students where we want them to be.”

What It Means: The NAEP test, which is widely accepted as the definitive assessment of student based development for college and career readiness, has shown us that proficiency rates are lower than state-reported rates nearly across the board. That means in most states, many parents have been told their child is on track to be college- and career-ready, when in fact NAEP would suggest not. Learn more from the new Honesty Gap website.

Fordham Institute’s Common Core Watch Blog, “Thanks to Common Core, Most States Will Finally Close the ‘Honesty Gap’”: In response to the Honesty Gap findings, Fordham Institute President Mike Petrilli writes, “It’s critically important that states tell parents, teachers and kids the truth.” “Many states have been defining ‘proficient’ at levels dramatically below… the level that would indicate that kids are on track for college and career. But thanks to the Common Core aligned assessments that most states are using for the first time this year, the illusion – and the gap – is about to disappear…Policymakers in these states deserve a ton of credit for taking this politically difficult, but morally correct, step,” writes Petrilli. Jessica Joiner, policy analyst, adds: “Telling the truth can be scary, particularly when the truth is predated by a history of reporting inflated proficiency rates…But students, families, and the public deserve to know the truth about student achievement, even if it’s not pretty.”

What It Means: Parents expect that when they send their child off to school they will get a fair and accurate assessment of their progress. Sadly, in the past, they often did not, and for many this reality did not become apparent until a student was forced into remediation or job training after graduation. Many states, like Kentucky, New York and Tennessee have already begun addressing the problem with promising results. Alabama, for example, closed a 50 percentage point gap after implementing more rigorous assessments, and New York, which also adopted the Common Core and new tests, now has proficiency requirements more rigorous than NAEP, ensuring students who meet those benchmarks are truly prepared for college or a career.

Chalkbeat Tennessee, “Most Common Core Standards Are Keepers, According to Tennessee’s Public Review”: A six-month public review of the Common Core State Standards in Tennessee, which garnered over 131,000 comments, found that more than half of the input was supportive of the standards. At least 73,000 votes opted to ‘keep it,” regarding the Common Core. The majority of participants were teachers (1,164 in total) followed by parents (320). Gov. Bill Haslam called for the review last October. In April, the state legislature approved a bill to build on the review process, opting not to scrap the standards. “All of the discussion about Common Core and some of the political issues around that, we were determined to not have that distract us from having great standards in Tennessee,” Gov. Haslam said Thursday. “What we said is these standards have been in place for four years. We’ve had teachers teaching them for four years. We’ve gained a lot of understanding and experience. Let’s go now and look and review and make certain that we come out with even better standards.”

What It Means: The public review underscores parents’ and educators’ commitment to rigorous academic standards and high-quality assessments. Tennessee, one of the earliest adopters of the Common Core, has experienced some of the biggest educational improvements in college- and career-readiness scores and student proficiency rates. By contrast, states like South Carolina and Oklahoma have run into serious setbacks after moving to get rid of the standards largely for political reasons. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, one reason the Common Core is so resilient is because the public “fundamentally supports higher standards.”

Northwest Arkansas, “Teachers Turn Out to Support Common Core Standards”: Teachers came out strongly in support of the Common Core at an Arkansas hearing on Thursday, making up most of the 114 people in attendance. “[Students] need to be thinking critically, they need to be given challenges and not just answering questions, just so they can get the question right,” said one teacher. “I want to express the hope that Common Core would be judged on the standards and not on people who were afraid,” added Kirsten Johnston, a parent in attendance. “I want to make sure that when my daughter is a student in 10, 20 years from now, and all other kids, that they have the ability to keep up with what the best standards are,” said another parent. “The standards are absolutely necessary,” said Karen Hearth, a high school math teacher. “This really is about listening,” said Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin of the event.

What It Means: The turnout in Arkansas demonstrates the overwhelming support for rigorous, comparable education standards. As evidenced by the event, educators continue to strongly support Common Core State Standards. A Scholastic study last fall found more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core are enthusiastic about implementation, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. And a Teach Plus study found 79% of teacher participants believe new high-quality tests are better than those their states’ used before.


Correcting the Record:

Diane Ravitch’s Blog, “Bizarre: NY State Tests Harder than NAEP”: In response to the Honesty Gap findings, which indicate New York’s new assessments mark a small percentage of students as proficient compared to NAEP – indicating those that meet benchmarks are truly prepared for college or a career – Diane Ravitch writes, “New York State has bumbled into bizarre-O land.” “State officials are pleased that their standards are beyond the reach of most students. For some strange reason, high failure rates are a source of pride. Bizarre,” the piece says. “The more they design tests to fail most students, the more the Opt Out movement will grow. When did education fall into the hands of technocratic sadists? They think education is a test of endurance where only the stirring survive. Parents see education as a process of development, not a cruel race.”

Where They Went Wrong: The Honesty Gap analysis demonstrates that New York is one of the few states where political leaders have already shown the political courage to implement high-quality assessments that give parents an honest measure of student development. Because the state has applied rigorous standards and tests that hold schools accountable to them, it now has a system in place that ensures if students meet proficiency benchmarks they are prepared for college or a career. Going back, just so parents might receive a rosier picture of their students’ capabilities, however misinformed, would be a disservice to students, parents and teachers.

On Our Reading List:

Times Picayune, “Common Core Compromise Bill Passes La. House Education Committee”: The first of three pieces of legislation that make up a new Common Core compromise moved forward Wednesday in the Louisiana House Education Committee, the article reports. HB 373, which lays out a process for reviewing and possibly updating the state’s education standards, passed out of committee with no objections. The bill would require review of the Common Core Standards and allow the state to keep, tweak or overhaul them as it sees fit. “I couldn’t imagine that this would ever happen,” said Rep. Brett Geymann, an opponent of the Common Core. “Hopefully this will be a very good day for everyone and the kids.”

Associated Press, “Gov. Doug Ducey Lays Groundwork for Major Education Overhaul”: Yesterday Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey outlined a framework to overhaul the state’s education system largely structured in changes in funding and replicating successful schools. Joined by former Louisiana State Superintendent Paul Pastorek and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Gov. Ducey said, “I believe that too many have fallen into a doom-and-gloom cycle where everything is wrong, where the cynic is winning, telling others that nothing is right…I’d ask you to avoid the mindless negativity that permeates so much of our public discussion and debate these days.”