News You Can Use:

Newark Star-Ledger, “Christie’s Presidential Ambitions Hurting N.J.’s Most Vulnerable Students”: Daniella Gibbs Leger, a vice president at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, writes that Gov. Chris Christie’s “dramatic shift in position” on the Common Core is an “attempt to appease his base” while ignoring the needs of New Jersey students, “particularly students of color and those from low-income backgrounds.” “Gov. Christie seems content to accept low performance standards by walking away from standards that could help level the playing field,” the piece states. “For years, we’ve been telling students that they are on track to graduate from high school ready for career or college, but we weren’t telling the truth…Through effective implementation of the Common Core, we can change these statistics by ensuring that all students are college- or career-ready.” Leger adds that “Gov. Christie’s decision to turn his back on New Jersey kids for political gain” comes several states that have implemented the Common Core, like Kentucky and Tennessee, are starting to see improvements. “By stepping away from the standards now, New Jersey will take a step backwards and our students will suffer the consequences.”

What It Means: By setting rigorous learning goals and giving teachers control to determine how best to meet them, Common Core State Standards ensure more students will graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. The review called for by Gov. Christie must ensure the state emerges with education standards equally as high as the Common Core. Other states like South Carolina and Oklahoma demonstrate the danger of repealing the standards for political purposes, while states like Kentucky, New York and Tennessee, which have put their support behind implementation, have achieved significant improvements in student outcomes.

Hechinger Report, “Why Are So Many States Replacing Common Core with Carbon Copies?”: The few states that have sought to replace Common Core have come up with “near carbon copies” of the standards. “Common Core’s staying power might be explained by what it is and isn’t,” the article notes. “Common Core, after all, is not a curriculum. It doesn’t mandate a set of textbooks or tests. It doesn’t provide lesson plans or scripts for teachers. It’s a list of targets for what students should be able to do at the end of each grade. And how different can those targets really be?” “If we are talking about all the stuff we want kids to be able to do, that’s not going to be profoundly different,” says Rick Hess, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “Any set of standards that draws on the expertise and the knowledge of the field are going to look very similar [to Common Core],” adds Mark Ellis, a professor at California State University Fullerton.

What It Means: Despite concerted attacks over the past two years, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core continue to use the standards or a very similar set of learning goals. Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote late last year one reason the Common Core has proven so resilient is that “it is impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.” In a memo earlier this year, Karen Nussle added that the public fundamentally support rigorous education standards and increased accountability, which the Common Core provides.

Educators 4 Excellence, “One School of Thought: Moving toward the Common Core”: A new report from Educators 4 Excellence-Los Angeles finds implementation of the Common Core has the potential to bridge preparedness gaps, but achieving improved outcomes “will require collaboration and alignment between our state, districts, union and individual schools.” “Perhaps the greatest impediment to Common Core State Standards has been misinformation,” says director Ama Nyamekye. “The fact is, students need an ambitious and rigorous set of standards designed to educate them for the modern world.” Emphasizing strong support for the Common Core among educators, the report lays out several recommendations, including allowing school districts to innovate and meet local needs, establishing local plans to determine progress, and advocacy on behalf of high-quality implementation.

What It Means: The report makes clear that educators remain overwhelming supportive of the Common Core and that the long-term success of the standards will hinge on their ability to effectively implement them in the classroom. The findings bolster evidence that suggests teachers remain enthusiastic about the Common Core. A Scholastic study 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 their students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. A Teach Plus study this spring found 79% of teacher participants believe new high-quality assessments like PARCC are better than those their states used before.


Correcting the Record:

Wall Street Journal, “N.J. Gov. Chris Christie Orders Review of Common Core”: On Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie said “Common Core is not working for New Jersey,” and announced plans to have State Education Commissioner David Hespe assemble a committee “to consider developing New Jersey education standards.” “I have heard from far too many people – teachers and parents from across the state – that the Common Core Standards were not developed by New Jersey educators and parents,” Gov. Christie said during the speech at Burlington County College. “As a result, the buy-in from both communities has not been what we need for maximum achievement. I agree. It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities.” The review committee’s recommendations are due by the end of the year, Gov. Christie indicated. The effort will not affect the state’s use of PARCC tests, but it is unclear whether New Jersey will continue to use the assessments if the standards change significantly. The Washington Post called the move a finalization of Gov. Christie’s “slow-motion flip-flop”; in 2013, the governor said, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to some reporting, it is unclear whether the Common Core review in New Jersey will substantially change the standards, or like Indiana, produce a set of learning goals that look very similar. Unlike other states like South Carolina and Oklahoma, New Jersey must ensure any new set of standards is equally as rigorous as the Common Core. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli wrote in December, the challenge of that is “it is impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core. That’s because Common Core, though not perfect, represents a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed in credit-bearing course in college or to land a good-paying job.”


On Our Reading List:

Wall Street Journal, “Conn. Senate Votes to Replace Eleventh-Grade Test”: The Connecticut State Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would replace the Smarter Balanced exam given to high-school juniors with a college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT. College entrance exams are “something that helps [students] access college, as opposed to the SBAC, which just gives information back to the administrator,” said State Sen. Gayle Slossberg. “While that’s valuable, those kids don’t get any value from it.” The legislation does not recommend abandoning the Smarter Balanced assessments for earlier grades or changing the state’s Common Core standards. The legislation must still be voted on by the state House and would require approval by the U.S. Department of Education, the article reports.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “Rick Santorum Quotes about Education”: The last installment in a series tracking presidential candidate’s position on education issues provides several quotes from Rick Santorum, who announced he will seek the Republican nomination. Of Common Core, Santorum said, “We need common sense not Common Core…From its beginning, the Common Core State Standards initiative has flown under the radar. Its funding, its implementation, and the substance of the standards it proposes have received little public attention, but all of them are wrong for families, wrong for students, and wrong for our teachers.”

Washington Post, “George Pataki Launches Presidential Campaign”: Former New York Governor George Pataki announced on Thursday he will seek the Republican presidential nomination. “America has a big decision to make about who we’re going to be and what we’re going to stand for,” Gov. Pataki said in a video announcing his campaign launch. “The question is no longer about what our government should do, but what we should do about our government, about our divided union, about our uncertain future.” Gov. Pataki said he opposes the Common Core and is against any national education standards imposed on states.