News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “Why Civil Rights Groups Say Parents Who Opt Out of Tests Are Hurting Kids”: On Tuesday, 12 national civil rights groups voiced opposition to anti-testing movements, saying they subvert the validity of data about educational outcomes. Assessments provide “the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes,” the coalition said in a press release. “These data are used to advocate for greater resource equity in schools and more fair treatment for students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.” Groups that signed the statement include the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Disability Rights Network and the National Urban League. “Hiding achievement gaps meant that schools would not have to allocate time, effort, and resources to close them,” the groups wrote. “Our communities had to fight for this simple right to be counted, and we are standing by it.”

What It Means: By setting high, consistent academic expectations, CCSS ensure more students will develop the skills to succeed at higher levels of learning and ultimately graduate high school prepared for college or a career – regardless of race or family income. Efforts to have students refuse assessments erode the effectiveness of high standards and diminish educators and parents’ ability to identify and address learning needs. High-quality assessments students are taking this year provide more constructive feedback, allowing schools to gradually reduce the time devoted to testing and test preparation and helping to better inform instruction.



Correcting the Record:

U.S. News & World Report, “Opt-Out Parents Have a Point”: Arguing parents often have valid concerns about over testing, a legitimate point, Frederick Hess says proponents of strong accountability systems have “chalked the situation up to imaginings of conspiracy theorists, the ravings of malcontents, parental ignorance and teacher union machinations.” “It was the same reaction that greeted initial concerns about the Common Core,” Hess writes. “By and large, education reformers have seemingly concluded that it’s fine to ignore or alienate middle-class families.” Noting recent reform efforts have focused on helping low-income and minority student populations, Hess says it “turns out that many suburban and middle-class parents have issues when those reforms are extended to the schools that educate their children.” “These parents are being reasonable when they worry that the reform agenda, whatever its merits when it comes to schools steeped in dysfunction, dos more harm than good for their kids.” Hess suggests state be more transparent with how test results are used, design accountability systems to champion a vision of school excellence, and focus more on producing great teachers.

Where They Went Wrong: Hess makes a valid point that parents, especially middle-class parents, are right to voice concern about the implications of testing and reform efforts on their children, but it is important to note that the opt-out movement is largely contained to a few states like NY and CO. There are soccer moms everywhere who aren’t opting-out and who recognize that testing is a part of life. By painting proponents of rigorous standards and assessments as ignorant, Hess ignores their message: that opt-out efforts undermine school accountability systems, which ensure students – regardless of race or family income – are developing the skills they need to succeed at higher levels of learning. As CCSSO’s Executive Director, Chris Minnich wrote last week, state’s new assessments “are more challenging…It means we have raised the bar for students, and that’s a good thing.”

Cincinnati Enquirer, “Boone County GOP Denounces Common Core”: In Kentucky, the Boone County Republicans voted unanimously for a resolution that says the party won’t support any candidate who supports CCSS. The party’s elected officials oppose the Standards, assessments designed to support the Standards, data collection and use of student data without parental consent. “The BCRP will not promote, endorse, or support any individuals, actions, or legislation that promote, re-label, or utilize any tax payer money to fund or expand CCSS in the county,” the group said in a statement. “The party is sending a clear message to [candidates] and all elected officials that they must support the people they were elected to represent or face losing the support of the party the next time they run.”

Where They Went Wrong: Like much of the anti-Common Core criticism, the Boone County Republicans’ position perpetuates misperceptions and plays on parents’ concerns. CCSS add no new data collection requirements nor do they put student data at increased risk. Moreover, the group’s position, which claims to reflect public sentiment, ignores that parents and voters overwhelmingly support high, comparable education standards. As Karen Nussle wrote recently, one reason why CCSS have demonstrated such resiliency is that the public “fundamentally supports higher standard” and increased accountability.


On Our Reading List:

Ed Week, “The Role of Performance Assessments in Fostering Opportunities for Deeper Learning”: Common Core Standards, supported by high-quality assessments empower teachers to “create authentic learning experiences that would prepare their students for success in adult life,” writes Elizabeth Leisy Stosich, a policy fellow at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Limiting deeper learning among students, however, has been assessments that are only nominally aligned to CCSS and rely heavily on multiple-choice questions. Such exams pressure teachers to focus on teaching to the test. One teacher explained, “We’ll start off doing Common Core up until February, and then it’s test prep.” “In contrast to the state assessments described above, the new consortia assessments…allow students to apply their knowledge or explain their answers,” the piece notes. “Systems of assessment that draw on multiple forms of assessment are necessary to create a more complete picture of students’ readiness for college and career.”

Associated Press, “New Standardized Tests Bring Technical Challenges, Concern”: While some states have experienced technical problems with new student assessments, officials say the rollout in much of the country has been without major problems, reports Kim Hefling. States including Ohio and California reported only minor hiccups with the testing, which were quickly resolved. The next step, the article says, is seeing how students did and how parents and educators react. “The new exams are expected to be harder in many states than the assessments the replaced, but they’ve been billed as a more accurate testing of what students are actually learning.” Smarter Balanced results will be announced this summer. PARCC scores will be released in the fall.

Associated Press, “Delaware House Eyes Bill Allowing Students to Skip Standardized Tests”: The Delaware state House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would allow public school students to opt out of assessments. The legislation would allow parents to have their children sit out annual assessments without academic or disciplinary repercussions, the article reports.

Brookings Institute, “The Evolving Politics of the Common Core”: A new paper from Brookings scholars Ashley Jochim and Lesley Lavery explores how opposition to CCSS has evolved since the Standards were developed. “While standard explanations for opposition have focused on Republican state legislators and conservative ideological groups and emphasized concerns about a perceived loss of local control, their analysis reveals that opposition to the standards shifted considerably over time, engaging these groups and issues initially but expanding to include Democratic policymakers and their allies as implementation proceeded.”

Huffington Post, “Now Is the Time to Go into Education ‘If You Want to Make a Difference,’ Says Teacher of the Year”: Shanna Peeples, recipient of this year’s Teacher of the Year Award, encouraged young people to consider going into teaching. Her remarks come after Nancie Atwell, a former recipient of the same award, advised kids against becoming a teacher, saying “public school teachers are so constrained right now by the Common Core Standards and the tests that developed to monitor what teachers are doing with them.” “I understand why [Atwell] said what she said and in context, that she felt there was a lot of pressure on teachers,” Peeples said. “I’m going to take the exact other [approach]. I don’t think that there’s a better time to go in.”

Ed Source, “Building New Pathways to Math Success”: Pamela Burdman, a California-based education policy analyst, writes that while CCSS ensure more students will develop a broader base of math skills to prepare them for college, community colleges’ emphasis on statistics math conflicts with the algebra-intensive sequence emphasized by Common Core. “What is happening is that dozens of community colleges in California are offering a subset of their students alternative remedial math sequences that emphasize statistics preparation, while the Common Core math standards place a priority on algebra,” Burdman says. “Requiring every student to demonstrate proficiency in Algebra 2 via remedial courses increasingly strikes community college leaders as unnecessary, unwise and unfair.” The piece concludes CCSS will help provide students with more options by putting a greater priority on content understanding, but “for all students to succeed there may need to be more than one pathway through mathematics.”