News You Can Use:

Raleigh News Observer, “North Carolina Should Support Common Core”: Establishing rigorous, consistent education standards is “just common sense,” not an idea “born out of political ideology,” the editorial board writes. “Unfortunately, Common Core has been politicized, and some states, including North Carolina, are threatening to abandon it.” Much of the opposition has been led by critics, who conflate Common Core Standards with “a conspiracy to infiltrate schools with a political ideology.” But in fact, “Governors of both parties and professional school administrators saw the wisdom in it…Common Core is a good thing. It raises standards and it demands more of schools and teachers and students…That’s why the N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently stood behind Common Core Standards.” In response to politically motivated opponents, “common sense groups behind Common Core need to fight back,” the editorial concludes.

What It Means: Common Core Standards were developed through collaboration led by states, and states continue to lead implementation efforts. Objective analysis has repeatedly rejected claims that the standards are the work of the federal government or that they subject students to political or religious ideology. Yet, unable to derail the standards based on merit, opponents have turned to back door tactics. Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett wrote earlier this year, “Lies, myths, exaggerations and hysteria about what the Common Core means and does have dominated the ‘debate’ and the real issues have been obscured…It is time for integrity and truth in this debate. The issue of honest standards of learning for our children is too important to be buried in an avalanche of misinformation and demonization.”

Medium, “Understanding Common Core Style Models”: Criticism of math instruction under Common Core Standards often focuses on individual problems instead of “examining the larger picture of learning over time,” writes Brett Barry, a math teacher. Looking at specific third-grade standards, Berry demonstrates the importance of multiple approaches to help students develop an understanding of math properties, which get increasingly complex. “These methods have been utilized by teachers to increase understanding and appeal to visual learners for decades. But for some teachers these methods are new to them. If your child is in a classroom where the teacher is new to these methods, make an effort to work alongside the teacher, not against,” Berry concludes.

What It Means: Berry demonstrates the importance of a strong conceptual understanding of numbers and functions to tackle more challenging material later on. Common Core Standards help students develop that base by introducing them to multiple problem solving techniques. A blog by the Collaborative for Student Success explains, “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.” But make no mistake, Common Core Standards require kids to know their math facts, just as their parents learned. In the earliest grades they are expected to learn their addition and subtraction facts and to be able to complete them quickly and accurately.

Correcting the Record:

New York Times, “Massachusetts’ Rejection of Common Core Test Signals Shift in U.S.”: The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to develop an updated version of the MCAS test, a move that “will cost an extra year and unknown millions of dollars,” has created “acrimony about the Common Core,” Kate Zernike reports. “The state’s rejection of [the PARCC] test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past – with more test, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.” “It opens the door for a lot of other states that are under a lot of pressure to repeal Common Core,” says Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor at USC. “It’s much more about politics than it is about education,” says Tom Scott, executive director of the state superintendent’s association. As states drop out of the major national assessment consortia, “comparisons remain elusive,” the article concludes.”

Where They Went Wrong: Massachusetts’ decision to develop a hybrid test, in which PARCC will remain a “substantial component” of this new exam, will help ensure parents and educators have a high-quality assessment, aligned to the Common Core, to measure student development. Karen Nussle explains, “States are making changes to ensure that the new high-quality assessments meet their needs. More states will have 21st century, high quality tests focused on the skills that matter for success in life that are not only comparable across states but also provide honest, accurate information to parents and educators.”

Sunshine State News, “Marco Rubio Adds Name to Florida Group’s Pledge to Eradicate Common Core”: Senator Marco Rubio added his name to a petition by the group Florida Parents against Common Core to get rid of Common Core Standards. The pledge states that if elected president, Sen. Rubio will end Common Core Standards. The group approached all of the Republican presidential candidates attending the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit to sign the pledge. Only one candidate, Senator Ted Cruz, signed at the event. Sen. Rubio signed on Friday at an event in Iowa. “Understanding that the massive federal bureaucracy of education must be stopped, and recognizing that the best decision makers for their children’s educational needs are their parents, Senator Rubio is committed to reinforcing his long standing support for the student health and school opportunity of each child,” the group wrote.

Where They Went Wrong: The Florida Parents against Common Core pledge seeks to raise concerns by propagating myths and mischaracterizations about Common Core State Standards. In fact, the Common Core was developed by state officials, experts and local educators from across the country, and states continue to lead implementation efforts. Moreover, a federal pledge to eliminate Common Core once elected President runs contrary to the very notion of state control over standards. After more than five years and two national elections, all but one state, Oklahoma, continue to use the Common Core or a set of nearly identical standards. By signing this pledge Senators Rubio and Cruz are saying that they believe those states should not be afforded the right to choose their own academic standards. As Mike Petrilli explains, “It’s 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.”

PBS Newshour, “Massachusetts Drops Common Core, Will Develop Own Student Evaluations”: Last week Massachusetts officials voted to “reject the tests based on federal Common Core Standards,” Alison Stewart reports in an interview with New York Times reporter Kate Zernike. “It just came under a lot of political fire. And like other places in the country, the fire came not just from the left or the right, but from both sides,” says Zernike. “So you had the right saying this is federal overreach, you had teachers unions saying this is – you’re trying to be punitive… Then a lot of parents who are saying what is the point of a national test anyway.” Zernike later clarifies, “The standards weren’t created by the federal government, they were created by the National Governors’ Association and other groups. But what the federal government did was say, we’re going to fund these test. And we want as a requirement of your federal funding, you’re going to have to sign on to these standards and to these tests. And that’s where people began to feel like this was punitive, this was overreach by the federal government.”

Where They Went Wrong: The report suggests Common Core Standards were developed by the federal government, which led states like Massachusetts to push back by rejecting assessments associated with them. In fact, federal authorities had no hand in creating Common Core State Standards, and states voluntarily adopted them once completed. The requirement of college- and career-ready standards accounted for less than 10 percent of states’ applications for funding, and many states continue to implement the Common Core despite never being rewarded Race to the Top funds. In fact, states overwhelmingly are refining and building on the Common Core framework, and of the few states that have undertaken rewrites, most have come out with standards strikingly similar to the Common Core.

Breitbart News, “Common Core Making Kids Anxious, Say School Psychologists”: Common Core Standards are leading to increased student anxiety, Susan Berry writes of a report released by the New York School Boards Association and the New York Association of School Psychologists. “The report indicates that since the implementation of the Common Core Standards and the grades 3-8 tests aligned with them, six in ten school psychologists – or 61% – said the level of test anxiety has increased among students.” The report indicates expectations from teachers and parents also contributed to student anxiety levels. “This report should make all education stakeholders – from state policymakers to local teachers to parents – aware of the profound impact that they can have, both positive and negative, on student test anxiety,” said Timothy Kremer, executive director of the School Boards Association.

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Berry’s assertion that Common Core Standards are responsible for increased anxiety, the report specifically cites different factors, including school pressures and the expectations of teachers and parents. Honest assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development and to identify and address learning needs. The report confirms that states must review their policies to alleviate pressures where there is over-testing. Assessments aligned to Common Core Standards give administrators, educators and parents more accurate and actionable information, which will help to cut back on superfluous tests. And unlike old tests, those aligned to Common Core Standards measure student understanding, thereby reducing pressures to “teach to the test.” Additionally, the National Association of School Psychologists notes that consistent academic expectations alleviate student anxieties. Its report, “Ready to Learn, Empowered to Teach” clearly outlines the importance of high standards and the appropriate use of assessments to guide student learning.

On Our Reading List:

Christian Science Monitor, “Massachusetts Abandons Common Core Tests, but Impact Is Here to Stay”: Last week the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to develop a “MCAS 2.0” test that will incorporate elements of both PARCC and the former MCAS tests. “Educators anticipate that the new MCAS will keep Common Core Standards, but make test adjustments less of a bureaucratic nightmare,” the article reports. “The state plans to stay in the PARCC consortium in order to compare results…Although the Common Core may fade from its previous importance, it leaves behind lessons that will stick around with or without standardized tests: standards that emphasize critical thinking, contextualized knowledge, and more challenging assessments that push kids beyond Scantron-sheet bubbles.” “Common Core is here to stay,” former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wrote earlier this year. “Most leaders are looking past activists that still use the Common Core as a rallying cry and embracing the need for education standards that adequately prepare our students.”

Associated Press, “Louisiana Picks Democrat John Bel Edwards as Next Governor, Rejecting Vitter”: In a close runoff race, Democrat John Bel Edwards was elected as Governor of Louisiana on Saturday, defeating Republican candidate David Vitter. Bel Edwards has called for replacing the Common Core in Louisiana, but has tempered his calls to do so. The Times Picayune reports: “As a state legislator, Edwards has voted for legislation aimed at undoing Common Core, though he wouldn’t go along with some angrier rhetoric about the standards—including that Common Core was part of a federal government conspiracy.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Ohio Releases Preliminary PARCC and AIR Test Scores by School District, Charter”: On Friday, the Ohio Department of Education released preliminary results from tests aligned to the state’s Common Core standards for districts and charter schools. The scores show the percentages of students by grade level and subject that scored at each of five performance levels—Limited, Basic, Proficient, Accelerated and Advanced. This fall, Ohio set its proficiency benchmarks below those recommended by PARCC. School districts will now review scores and report back errors to the Ohio Department of Education before report cards are issued.