News You Can Use:

US News & World Report, “When Tests Get Real”: Brooke Haycock, a former high school drop-out who now works to secure equal education opportunities, says that from experience “you actually can’t opt out, walk out or otherwise check out of tests as a permanent strategy.” “On the way to wherever you want to go lie a series of tests – whatever your direction, whatever your goal,” Haycock writes. “While they now call the tests you take in school ‘high stakes,’ they are the lowest you will ever encounter. And the only ones where, if you don’t do so well, somebody actually has an obligation to help you do better.” Haycock notes new assessments are designed to measure “what matters instead of just how many bubbles you can fill in.” “Sometimes the most radical thing you can do to change the system is not to secede, but succeed.”

What It Means: While opt out efforts have stressed the idea that tests are “high stakes,” Haycock makes the valid point that assessments are designed to identify and address students’ learning needs and that tests, in some form, are a reality no matter what path in life an individual chooses. New assessments designed to test to the more rigorous content of the Common Core provide valuable information to help educators and parents help students and to ensure young people develop the skills they need to succeed at higher levels. A recent Teach Plus study found more than three-quarters of teacher participants believe new assessments like PARCC are better than those their states used before.

San Jose Mercury News, “Haywood Students Finalists in National Math Contest”: A team of four Bret Harte Middle School students in Haywood, California, qualified as finalists in a national math competition for a video in which they explain a problem using techniques emphasized by the Common Core. The competition compares videos that use real-world scenarios to explain math concepts. The Bret Harte team’s entry poses a problem in which two people move from opposite ends of a staircase at different paces and asks when they will meet. The video demonstrates ways to solve the question using both graphing and charts. The video is available here.

What It Means: The video demonstrates how problem-solving techniques encouraged by the Common Core provide students with multiple methods to work through a problem. In addition to traditional learning techniques, like memorization and standard algorithms, the Common Core introduces multiple approaches to problem-solving to help students develop a stronger conceptual understanding of numbers and math functions. A Scholastic study last fall found two-thirds of teachers that have worked closely with the Common Core have seen improvement in their students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.


Correcting the Record:

Albany Times Union, “Assembly Set to Pass Half-a-Loaf Common Core Testing Opt-Out Bill”: New York Assemblyman Jim Tedisco writes that opt-out legislation that has garnered support in the State Assembly “only gets half the job done when it comes to ensuring parents are informed of their rights and protected if they choose to opt their children in grades 3-8 out of the controversial Common Core standards tests.” Tedisco says the bill does not go far enough to inform parents of their right to have their children refuse state assessments. “Without including a provision for parental notification, the Assembly will pass a good bill that many parents will have no idea exists,” the piece states. “Parents have a right to know so they can then make an informed decision to stand up and opt-out of the culture of the over-utilization of standardized testing in our schools that’s robbing children of their love of learning.”

Where They Went Wrong: Student assessments provide educators and parents an important tool to measure student preparedness and to identify and address learning needs before they become problematic. While parents are right to be weary of over-testing, new assessments designed to support the Common Core provide more constructive measures and give a more accurate measure of whether a student is on track to develop the skills to succeed in higher learning. Opt-out efforts undermine schools’ ability to address learning needs and ensure students have the resources they need to ultimately graduate high school college- and career-ready.


On Our Reading List:

Wall Street Journal, “Education Leaders Fear Christie Will Pull Back on Common Core Support”: Today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to give remarks on “academic standards,” and some education leaders expressed concern he may retreat further from his past support of the Common Core. In an interview with New Hampshire’s Union Leader last month, Gov. Christie said, “I’m open to changing [Common Core] because it’s not working in New Jersey.” Richard Bozza, director of the New Jersey Association of High School Administrators, said schools have invested substantial time and resources preparing for the standards. “If he says I want somebody to study them, that won’t be troublesome, but if it appears there is more than that, there certainly will be concern,” Bozza added.

NJ Spotlight, “While Christie May Back Away from Common Core, Hespe Stands By PARCC Testing”: While some experts expect Gov. Chris Christie may call for measures to replace the Common Core in New Jersey, in a speech yesterday state education commissioner David Hespe reiterated support for PARCC tests, which support the standards. “Let me assure you, no school in this state will lose aid if it didn’t hit a participation number,” Hespe said. “As long as we work together, I see this as a very good process moving forward.” He added that reductions to testing time “will lead to a much easier administration” of tests next year. Acknowledging efforts to encourage parents to refuse state tests, Hespe said, “There was $10 million in attack ads, and people were listening…You should be proud of what you did. Not many would have stayed the course, and you did.”

New Orleans Advocate, “Key Common Core Bill Glides through Louisiana House”: In a “drastic change” from previous debates, the Louisiana House voted 99-1 on Wednesday to support a Common Core compromise bill, HB 373, which would revamp the standards review process and add public hearings in each of the state’s six congressional districts. “It lays out a clear, public process,” said Rep. Brett Geymann, a sponsor of the legislation. “I think that is what was missing in the adoption of Common Core.” The Times Picayune reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal, who initially withheld his endorsement, now supports the compromise. “We are supportive of this compromise now that the Superintendent and BESE have listened to the concerns of parents, legislators and the administration about the make-up of the standards review commission,” the Governor said in a statement. With Gov. Jindal’s support, Rep. Geymann said he doesn’t foresee “any other speed bumps.”

Reuters, “Republican Santorum Launches 2016 Bid with Appeal to Middle Class”: Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, who fell short in his 2012 presidential bid, announced he will again run for the Republican nomination. “As middle America’s hollowing out we can’t sit idly by. Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money,” Santorum said at the campaign launch in Pennsylvania. Santorum has been critical of the Common Core. Earlier this year he said, “Our children, they deserve an education customized, customized to maximize their potential. The first step in that process is joining me to drive a stake in the heart of Common Core.”