News You Can Use:


Knoxville News, “Test Score Gap Closes, but More Progress Needed”: In response to the Honesty Gap analysis released last week, the editorial board writes that while the state has made good progress in closing discrepancies in proficiency reporting, Tennessee students “still lag far behind their peers in other states.” “The Achieve report, while positive, should not be cause for celebration. The more rigorous national assessments show more than six in 10 Tennessee students are falling short of academic benchmarks. Closing the gap between state and national test scores is not as important as closing the gap between Tennessee students and their counterparts in Massachusetts and other higher-performing states.”

What It Means: Tennessee, like many states, has begun to provide parents and educators with better information about student developments by implementing rigorous education standards and high-quality assessments. That is an important first step to begin addressing performance issues, and already the state has started moving in the right direction. One of the earliest adopters of the Common Core, Tennessee has achieved some of the biggest academic gains in college- and career-readiness scores and proficiency rates in recent years.

Education Week (Paywall), “State Teachers of the Year Defend the Common Core”: More than 20 state Teachers of the Year write: “We are united in our commitment to educate our students in a way that puts them on the road to success after graduation…We are also united in our frustration about the maelstrom of misinformation on the Common Core State Standards that has become so pervasive as to be considered truth. Unfortunately, false statements on the Common Core have been perpetuated by some of our professions’ most respected teachers…We want to set the record straight by explaining what the Common Core is – and what it isn’t.” Noting the standards are “not a federal takeover of our schools,” the letter says they in fact give “educators the flexibility to adjust to students’ multiple learning styles while allowing those same students to progress at their own pace.” “Moreover, the standards preserve and strengthen local control by ensuring that classroom teachers make the day-to-day decisions, and that longer-term curriculum planning is done at the district level…The Common Core creates a pathway to success. But it’s just the path. The steps on that path are taken by teachers and parents alike who bolster students through academic frustrations and celebrate their achievements.”

What It Means: Like many experts, these educators point out that much of the criticism against the Common Core has been based on misleading and often flat-out false information. In fact, the standards retain local control and empower teachers to address student needs, while better ensuring more students develop the skills and knowledge to succeed at higher levels of learning. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and states like Kentucky and Tennessee, early adopters of the standards, have shown some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.

Bangor Daily News, “How Common Core Standards Improved Teaching and Learning in My Classroom”: Jennifer Dorman, a Maine middle-school English teacher, writes that despite initial concerns Common Core would cause her to “lose control of what I teach, and more importantly, how I teach,” today she is “teaching the same material I have always taught, but I am asking students to delve deeper and to apply higher-level thinking skills.” Dorman says she now uses “increasingly complex texts,” structures lessons around the critical thinking skills students need to develop the building blocks for higher level material, requires students to use evidence to support claims, and integrates “literacy across content areas.” “In my classroom, I am not only teaching important skills like inferring ideas and identifying central themes in literature, but I am teaching students about the world around them.” Dorman concludes, “For those of you wondering about the new Common Core State Standards, don’t let the fear of something new persuade you into believing the standards are bad for our students.”

What It Means: Like Dorman, educators continue to overwhelmingly support the Common Core. A Scholastic poll last fall found more than eight in 10 teachers who have worked closely with the standards support implementation, and more than two-thirds report an improvement in students’ critical thinking and analytical skills. Similarly, a Teach Plus study found 79% of teacher participants said new assessments designed to test to the standards are better than those their states used before.

NBC 9 News Colorado, “Teachers Use Fly-Fishing to Teach Students about Ecology”: Educators at Boulder’s Gold Hill School are using fly-fishing to teach students about local ecology and to tie in lessons from across subjects. “It’s an experiential education opportunity,” says Natalie Littlefield one of the teachers. “Students are getting out. They get to do things instead of just paper and pencil activities.” Christine McCaul, another teacher participating in the project, adds, “We’re looking at all the standards and all of the grades and making sure that we are tying it all into this project.” While the Common Core only covers math and English, the project demonstrates educators’ flexibility to try new things under the standards. “I think you can learn a lot more when you’re actually doing it rather than sitting down writing stuff that you already learned,” says one of the students.

What It Means: While Common Core Standards only cover math and English, the Gold Hill School project demonstrates the creativity and cross-curriculum collaboration the standards empower. As Eric Slifstein and Kim Hardwick, two Long Island teachers, wrote recently: “By creating better continuity across states, districts and even classrooms, the Common Core is helping educators to share best practices and ideas to unlock students’ full potential. Gone are the days of teaching in silos.”


Correcting the Record:


Nothing to correct today. 


On Our Reading List:

Education Week, “Sen. Rand Paul, Presidential Candidate, Not Opposed to National Testing”: On Meet the Press Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul defended the idea of providing virtual classrooms taught by distinguished teachers after being asked by host Chuck Todd if it didn’t contradict his opposition to a centralized system. “I’m not saying this comes from government,” Sen. Paul said. “I think this comes more than likely from the innovators you meet in Silicon Valley.” Sen. Paul also said he was not against national testing. “I’m not arguing against any kind of national communication or even national testing. I took national tests when I was a kid,” he said. “What I’m arguing against is centralized control in one body of the government.”

US News & World Report, “Knowledge Is Literacy”: Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio writes that the restoration of liberal arts in early grades “would go a long way toward solving one of the most stubborn problems we face in American education: How to raise kids who love to read and are pretty good at it.” “Once a child learns to ‘decode’ fluently (read the words on a page quickly and accurately), a child’s ability to read with understanding rests heavily on whether the child knows something about the topic he or she is reading about,” the piece notes. “In short, to be a good general read, you need a broad general knowledge…The broad thrust of K-5 schooling would be to expose children to as much science, art, music and history as possible…Building strong readers is not about practicing the ‘skill’ of reading. It’s about equipping the mind with the mental furniture that good readers have and all readers need.”

Times Picayune, “Jindal Touts Education Record – But Is Silent on Common Core – before Possible Presidential Run”: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced on Monday he will form an exploratory committee to determine whether to seek the Republican nomination. In his speech, Gov. Jindal omitted mention of Common Core, which has become a central point of criticism for the Governor.