News You Can Use:

National Network of State Teachers of the Year, “The Right Trajectory”: Smarter Balanced and PARCC exams more accurately measure the skills and knowledge students need to succeed at high levels of learning and better reflect classroom instruction, according to research conducted by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). A group of Teachers of the Year and finalists performed side-by-side comparisons of the two exams, which are aligned to Common Core State Standards, with other tests that several states used in the past. Their consensus is that these new tests “represent an improvement and the right trajectory,” even while there are “areas for continuous improvement.” “Despite the negative press and the misinformation shrouding the tests, it’s important to keep in mind that many teachers really do believe they are of higher quality than the former state assessments,” the report states. “The transition to the new consortia assessments is worth it…These teachers understood that increasing expectations is the road to improved outcomes.”

What It Means: The NNSTOY research adds to the evidence suggesting assessments aligned to higher, comparable education standards is the right move for students, families and teachers. By raising the bar to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed after high school, these new tests better ensure more students will graduate high school fully prepared for college and careers. And they provide parents and educators with honest information to support students if they fall short. As Mike Petrilli wrote this year, while the initial results may be “sobering,” “parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests.”

Chalkbeat New York, “Early Results of New York’s Common Core Survey Are Mostly Positive”: The results from a comprehensive study launched last month by New York education officials show overwhelming support for Common Core State Standards. So far, more than 70 percent of the input about New York’s Common Core standards has been positive, MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, told the Board of Regents on Monday. “We’ve had so many people across the state that I’ve heard that have said, ‘Oh, I hate the standards. When they’ve gone onto the survey, however, we haven’t had an overwhelming number say they don’t like the standards,” Elia said. The survey is part of a review of the state’s education standards launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Of the 5,500 respondents, more than 60 percent are teachers and 22 percent were parents. “We have to, each year, review the data on this,” Elia added. “But the expectation is there, and I think that it’s reasonable…for us to get teachers understanding that this is where we have to move our students.”

What It Means: The feedback in New York reflects parents’ and teachers’ overwhelming support for high, comparable education standards that fully prepare students for college and careers. Recent polling indicates parents and the public strongly support academic standards that hold all students to levels that prepare them for high levels of learning. That’s one reason why states continue to implement Common Core State Standards. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards continue to use them, or a very similar set of standards, and most states passed an important milestone this year by administering assessments aligned to them.

Correcting the Record:

Fox News, “Does Common Core Hurt Minority Students the Most?”: Results from assessments aligned to the Common Core suggest the standards are expanding racial achievement gaps, not closing them, write Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, two outspoken critics. In Kentucky, where “an education establishment enamored of the progressive theories underlying Common Core” spurred adoption, “the early signs are troubling.” “In every single case the white minus black achievement gaps for both EXPLORE and PLAN [tests] have increased since Kentucky adopted Common Core aligned state tests,” the piece quotes from a Bluegrass Institute study. “The results from Kentucky – the state that is further down the Common Core road than any other – strongly suggest that Common Core is hurting the very students it was supposed to elevate.” The authors attribute the alleged declines to changes in pedagogy and a shift in math instruction that “locks children into a slowed-down progression.” “Continuation of these bankrupt educational strategies is not rational…This is nothing short of a national scandal.”

Where They Went Wrong: Common Core State Standards and aligned, high-quality assessments are designed to ensure that all students are held to academic expectations that fully prepare them for high levels of learning, and ultimately for college and careers. That’s why 12 national civil and human rights groups spoke out earlier this year against efforts to undermine high-quality tests and rigorous education standards. In endorsing the Common Core, National Urban League president Marc Morial wrote that the standards “will help bridge the achievement gap by leveling the playing field so that all students, regardless of race, geography or income, have an equal shot at gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.” Erika McConduit-Diggs, president of the Urban League of New Orleans, adds that Common Core State Standards are “particularly important to help close the achievement gaps in majority-minority school districts, where students have long gotten less than they deserve, both in resources and in our expectations.” And former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wrote earlier this year, Common Core State Standards will ensure “our Latino youths will be more prepared for college and ready to reap the benefits of an advanced degree.”

Rapid City Journal, “Group Sues South Dakota over Common Core Group Membership”: The Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based advocacy group, filed lawsuit challenging South Dakota’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The group previously logged two similar cases in North Dakota and West Virginia. Like the previous cases, the suit claims that the state’s membership violates a Constitutional provision preventing states from entering into compacts with other states without Congressional approval. “Employing an insidious bureaucratic system, the federal government directs what and how American students learn, and effectively eliminates the fundamental rights of parents to control the education of their children,” said Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center.

Where They Went Wrong: Unable to supplant states’ Common Core standards through policy channels, activists have turned to backdoor tactics to impede implementation. The lawsuit in South Dakota is the latest example of these dangerous tactics. Such efforts create uncertainty for students, teachers and parents, and risk putting students at a disadvantage. As other states have done, South Dakota should reject such efforts to undermine efforts to implement high, consistent education standards and high-quality assessments for its students.

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CBS 4 Boston, “MCAS or PARCC? Board of Education to Vote on Standardized Testing”: The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to vote today which standardized test to use in the 2016-17 school year. State officials are considering the current MCAS test, PARCC assessments or a hybrid “MCAS 2.0” test, which would incorporate elements from both MCAS and PARCC. Last week Education Commissioner Michael Chester endorsed the hybrid option.

Rhode Island Public Radio, “State Education Officials to Release Results of PARCC Testing”: Today education officials in Rhode Island will release results from the state’s PARCC exams, which were administered for the first time this spring. State authorities caution that the results may be disappointing, but that they provide a new baseline for measuring progress moving forward.  “Will the results be tough? Yeah, they’re going to be tough,” said State Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “It just means we’ve raised the bar to prepare our kids for the future and we have some exciting work to do over the coming years.”