News You Can Use:


Appeal Democrat, “Gray Avenue Middle School: It’s about Collaborating”: Educators at Gray Avenue Middle School, which recently received California’s Gold Ribbon School award, say the secret of their success is greater collaboration among both teachers and students, which the Common Core has helped unlock. Principal Brian Gault notes the school adopted the standards early and has been working to get students performing at higher levels. “Traditionally, we have been an underperforming school, and we have embraced the help available to us,” Gault says. “Our goal is that everyone will be reading at eighth-grade level when they leave.” One teacher adds her students are performing at levels that weren’t “happening five years ago.” “Gray Avenue school is teamwork in action between administration, teaching staff, student support specialists, campus support personnel, parents, and students,” superintendent Nancy Aaberg says. “They have created a learning environment where staff and students are motivated and pushed to their potential through a unified and predictable approach to learning, support systems, accountability and responsibility for all.” “The result is that we are seeing students become independent learners,” Gault notes.

What It Means: By setting high academic expectations and holding schools accountable to them, the Common Core ensures more students develop the skills to succeed at high levels of learning and ultimately graduate prepared for college or a career. A Scholastic poll last fall found more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the Common Core support implementation, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Newsmax, “Report: Common Core Lesson Plan Pushes Pro-Palestinian Agenda”: A lesson plan “approved nationally for the Common Core curriculum” has drawn criticism in Massachusetts for allegedly promoting Hamas and Fatah. An article by The College Fix reports that the workshop requires middle-school and high-school students to play roles in negotiating a division of Jerusalem. The lesson plan was created by Boston University professor Carl Hobert and used by Weston High School. Charles Jacobs, president of the Americans for Peace and Tolerance, said the lesson plan seeks to indoctrinate students, and that, “Despite its bias and serious flaws, the…workshop is Common Core compliant.”

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core State Standards are not a curriculum – rather, a set of academic benchmarks to ensure students are college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school – and the standards do not dictate lesson plans or how the material is taught in classrooms, which are determined by local authorities. The article attributes the controversial material to the Common Core even though the standards do not determine what materials schools use, or cover social studies content. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett pointed out that some publishers have labeled material “Common Core aligned” to sell textbooks, and that opponents have sensationalized many of those instances to make the false accusation that Common Core promotes certain ideology. “These myths and lies spread throughout the media like wildfire, and opponents of the Common Core know that they can fan the flames of opposition far more effectively with these sensational and scurrilous accusations rather than engaging in an honest, intellectual policy debate.” Objective fact checkers have repeated rejected the idea that Common Core pushes any religious or political ideology.


On Our Reading List:

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “NCTM Calls for Changes to EdReports Reviews of Common Core Instructional Material”: In an open letter to the education community, NCTM says EdReports, which provides evaluations of teaching materials’ alignment to the Common Core, has produced “reviews that fall short of providing useful and accurate information about many critical features of materials reviewed.” NCTM President Diane Briars said, “We support the goal of EdReports to provide useful information for those who are selecting instructional materials that support implementation of the Common Core…However, the EdReports primary analysis focuses on only a subset of CCSSM standards at each grade level.” Valerie Mills, former president of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, added the reports “are doing damage” by “misrepresenting the potential of currently available curriculum materials to support implementation of the Common Core.”

Fordham Institute, “Uncommonly Engaging? A Review of the EngageNY English Language Arts Common Core Curriculum”: Though the need for standards-aligned curricula is one of the most prominent challenges for states and there is a “dearth of programs that are truly aligned to the demands of the Common Core for rigor and content,” EngageNY’s alignment is “generally strong,” an analysis by the Fordham Institute finds. It notes, “Selected texts are high-quality and appropriately rigorous, and the program allows educators greater flexibility than other scripted programs…While not perfect, the material offers educators – both inside and outside of New York State – an important alternative to traditional textbooks of questionable quality and alignment.”

Portland Press Herald, “Legislature’s Education Committee Votes to Drop Maine’s Standardized Test”: On Monday, Maine’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted 12-1 to reject a bill to repeal the Common Core. The committee later voted down another bill which would require the State Department of Education to notify parents of their right to opt students out of state tests – and voted unanimously to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced testing consortium and instead solicit proposals for new tests created with more input from educators and the public. “The transition from students sitting in their seats and getting a grade to showing proficiency is difficult and this stakeholder group is crucial to keeping momentum statewide,” said State Sen. Justin Alfond, the bill’s sponsor.

Chicago Sun Times, “Illinois House Passes Opt-Out Bill Aimed at PARCC Testing”: Illinois House members voted 64-47 to approve a bill that would give parents a formal way to opt students out of state tests. The measure will now move to the Senate. “This bill wouldn’t take PARCC away,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, a sponsor of the legislation. “All this bill does is create a clear process and take the student out of the role as the decision maker.” Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie was among lawmakers who raised concerns the measure could jeopardize federal funding, “The only test that the state mandates Is PARCC. Those other tests…come from the local school districts, not us.”

Associated Press, “Walker’s Ban on Common Core Approved by Committee”: A budget proposal by Gov. Scott Walker that would prohibit the state superintendent from requiring school districts to adopt certain education standards, including Common Core, was approved by the Legislative budget committee early Wednesday. Wisconsin public schools are not required to adopt the Common Core Standards. The proposal would also prohibit the state superintendent for advocating or promoting specific education standards. The State Department of Education reports that all districts currently use the Common Core.

Associated Press, “Lawmakers Defeat Mandatory Opt Out for Common Core Tests”: Nevada lawmakers voted down an amendment that would have required school districts to allow students to opt out of state assessments. Most districts already allow parents to withhold their children from participating in testing, but Assemblyman Brent Jones, who authored the amendment, said he wanted it in law.

KAIT 8 Jonesboro, “Common Core Review Council Makes Stop in Jonesboro”: A Common Core review panel made a stop in Jonesboro, Arkansas, as part of a statewide tour. Both supporters and opponents of the standards spoke. “I am so excited that also along with procedures and fluency in the Common Core math standards, there’s conceptual understanding,” said Jeanne Glover, a math specialist with Jonesboro Public Schools. “Working with low-performing students in Common Core, I’m seeing them perform,” added Melba Henderson, a local high school teacher. “Students that are coming up now that are coming into our build that have been through Common Core, they know their stuff,” said Anita McKinney, an assistant principal. Lt. Gov. Tim Giffin said he wants the state to “get it right.” “We’re just digging for the facts and we’re going to let the facts lead us to our conclusion.”