News You Can Use:

Washington Times, “Common Core Retains Outspoken Supporters Despite Conservative Backlash”: Despite targeted attacks, many conservatives remain supportive of the Common Core and continue to advocate for high education standards. The standards “remain especially popular among parents of minority students,” the article notes, and high-profile Republican leaders like Govs. Jeb Bush and John Kasich continue to put their weight behind them. “Ohio Gov. John Kasich has called out fellow Republicans for seemingly turning their backs on the standards after wholeheartedly advocating them years ago,” the article notes. “Influential groups such as the National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza also are trying to rally support.” “It’s a way of setting some high standards for Latino students. We believe our kids can reach those standards,” said Peggy McLeod, deputy vice president for the National Council of La Raza. An NBC News poll found 73% of Hispanic parents, 56% of black parents and 57% of independent voters support Common Core State Standards.

What It Means: In the face of more than two years of concerted attacks, public support for Common Core remains strong. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards continue to implement them, a similar version. This year at least a dozen states, many of them the most conservative in the country, have killed legislative efforts to repeal Common Core State Standards. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, one reason the standards are so resilient is that parents fundamentally support high education standards and increased accountability.

Lexington Herald-Leader, “Criticism of Common Core Ignores Facts, Signs of Effectiveness”: Despite criticisms perpetuated by leaders like Sen. Rand Paul, high school English teacher Katrina Boone-Lanham writes, “I can say with certainty that the new standards benefit students.” “[Common Core State Standards] have illuminated exactly what it means to be college- and career-ready,” Boone-Lanham says. “Because the standards are more clearly written, they give teachers the opportunity to focus on instructional strategies.” Noting criticism is often “absolutely uninformed,” the piece notes “voluntarily and proudly” adopted the standards and still retain control over curriculum decisions. Studies by the American Institute for Research found students with two years of learning under Common Core showed faster gains than other groups. “Clearly, the new standards are helping educators do a better job preparing students for success,” Boone-Lanham says. “There may be room for growth in the implementation of the standards; there isn’t room for politics or lies.”

What It Means: States like Kentucky and Tennessee, which were among the first to adopt and begin fully teaching to the Common Core State Standards, have demonstrated some of the biggest academic improvements in recent years. Like Boone-Lanham, teachers who have worked closely with the Standards continue to overwhelmingly support them. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with Common Core State Standards reported an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills and more than eight in 10 were enthusiastic about implementation. A Teach Plus study this spring found 79% of teacher participants said new assessments designed to support the Standards are better than those their states used before.

Educators for High Standards, “Common Core: Inspriring the Best in Our Students through Cross-Curriculum Collaboration”: Long Island elementary teachers Kim Hardwick and Eric Slifstein write that Common Core State Standards are empowering greater collaboration, both at the district and state level and within schools. “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,” the piece states. “Within schools, educators are encouraging students to apply skills across subjects and helping to reinforce foundational skills by integrating concepts from one class to the next. This synergy, in turn, has created a more logical progression of learning and promises to help accelerate student development.” Hardwick and Slifstein cite examples of collaboration between math and physical education classes in their school, noting application of concepts between the two often help students struggling with ideas on paper. “Children consistently rise to the expectations we hold for them. And when we fail to set adequately challenging goals, they often fail to achieve all they are capable of.”

What It Means: By setting high academic expectations and logical learning progressions, Common Core State Standards better ensure more students will develop the skills and knowledge to succeed at higher level material. As Hardwick and Slifstein note, by creating greater continuity across schools and even classrooms, the Standards enable educators to collaborate more to unlock students’ full potential. A study last year found more than two-thirds of school districts report that local teachers are developing curricula and helping create material that reflects the higher content of Common Core.

Louisville Courier-Journal, “Teachers Weigh In on Common Core”: Following a state lawmaker’s criticism of Common Core, Kentucky teacher expressed strong support for the standards. “This year, my math students have come to me with a much better ‘number sense’ than ever before,” says Melissa O’Connell. “Most children are mastering the standards in 8th grade that people of past generations did not even know about until our first algebra class!…Reading what political candidates say negatively about Common Core math standards will continue to infuriate me.” “As an educator, I often feel people who oppose the Common Core standards may not be fully informed,” adds Marcia Davis. “While I believe Hal Heiner is the most qualified of the Republican candidates, I cannot agree with his stand on Common Core.” Finally, Jenny Hilsenrad Graff wrote, “I have to respectfully disagree with all the negativity regarding Common Core…I find most backlash comes from adults and parents because they didn’t learn the content ‘this’ way, so it must be the ‘wrong way.’ Kids are still being taught long division, they are still being taught their multiplication tables, and they’re still learning how to read…Students are going more in depth into concepts, instead olearning rote memorization of steps and rules.”

What It Means: The article underscores the strong support educators continue to hold for the Common Core. A Scholastic study last fall found more than eight in 10 teachers who worked closely with the Common Core State Standards remain enthusiastic about implementation, and a Teach Plus report this spring found 79% of more than 1,000 teachers said new assessments are an improvement over those their states used before. In addition to traditionally learning techniques, Common Core introduces students to multiple methods to help develop a better conceptual understanding that better prepares them for higher levels of learning.


Correcting the Record:

Examiner (SC), “Anti-Common Core Parents in SC Say They Have Been Threatened with Jail”: Anti-Common Core groups in South Carolina say they have been threatened with jail time if their children don’t participate in state tests. Members of the South Carolina Parents Involved in Education say that Elizabeth Carpentier, chief operating officer for the State Education Department, warned parents that they could face 30 days in jail for missing a single day of testing. A memo from State Superintendent Molly Spearman says, “There is no statutory provision for parents to opt their children out of testing,” but does not cite jail or other penalties for refusing state tests. A spokesperson for the state’s public information office denied any threats were made to parents and denied that parents could be held criminally liable if their child does not participate in testing. “[Carpentier] simply noted the truancy provisions in state statutes,” the spokesperson added.

Where They Went Wrong: The claims in this report are baseless, as the official memo sent to school districts across the state does not in any way reference jail time as a potential consequence for opting-out of state tests. The key point is that nothing in state law affords parents or their students the right to opt-out of state tests, regardless of what academic standards are in place. The Common Core does not in any way impact state law with regards to who must take state exams, when and/or how often they must do so. While parents may face penalties for extreme cases of truancy, it is misleading for Common Core opponents to conflate those as consequences of students sitting out state tests. Both truancy and opt-out policies are determined by state officials, and the former existed long before the introduction of new assessments designed to test more challenging content. Moreover, the article seems to imply that Federal government might step in to impose sanctions, but such actions would be taken against the state, (i.e. loss of federal funding) and not individual parents.  It is also worth noting know that last year, Gov. Nikki Haley signed legislation that required the state to review the Common Core and implement new standards by the 2015-16 school year. In March, the South Carolina Board of Education adopted revised standards in math and English language arts. Since South Carolina has already adopted revised standards, testing opposition in the state should not be linked to the Common Core. High-quality assessments are an important tool for parents and teachers to identify and address learning needs, and activists’ efforts to undermine them put students at a disadvantage.


On Our Reading List:

Chalkbeat Colorado, “House Passes Testing Compromise Bill”: The Colorado State House gave preliminary approval to a compromise testing bill that would continue CMAS/PARCC testing in grades 3-9, use a college and career ready test like the ACT Aspire in grade 10, and continue to give the ACT at grade 11. It would also require schools to notify parents about their right to opt out of tests and pilot programs allowing districts to try different tests. Two amendments were defeated that would have added strong opt-out language and given greater flexibility to districts to choose their ninth grade tests.

Topeka Capital-Journal, “Common Core Bolsters Art Education”: Linda Nelson-Bova, a Kansas arts teacher, writes that implementation of Common Core State Standards has helped support arts in schools by integrating learning across subjects. “The arts elicit critical and original thinking from students, encouraging them to articulate complicated ideas involving multiple perspectives,” the piece notes. “For art teachers, the fact our subject has been embraced by [Common Core] is gratifying and long overdue.”