News You Can Use:

Politico Pro: “Massachusetts State Chief: ‘We Have Not Abandoned’ PARCC, Common Core”: Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts’ education commissioner, said Tuesday the state has not “abandoned” PARCC assessments or Common Core Standards, and that the decision to develop an hybrid test has been misconstrued by the media. In a statement, Chester said “national media” has “inaccurately described Massachusetts as ‘abandoning’ the Common Core and PARCC. We have not abandoned either one…In 2010, our state Board adopted the Common Core State Standards as a way to reinforce the importance of reading, writing and critical thinking skills, skills that we know our employers and colleges value…Educators have been teaching curricula aligned with the Common Core for several years, and…teachers will continue to do so and to build on the standards.” Massachusetts remains a member of the PARCC consortium and will incorporate PARCC material in its new tests.(subscription required)

What It Means: Chester’s statement on behalf of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education addresses the media hysteria that has completely mischaracterized the decision to develop a new state test for Massachusetts students as a move away from rigorous standards and honest assessment of student learning under the Common Core. Massachusetts officials have made clear PARCC will remain a “substantial component” of the new test, and by doing so, state officials will ensure parents and educators have a high-quality assessment to measure student development. In a recent memo Karen Nussle explains, Massachusetts “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.”

Providence Journal: “Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Rhode Island”: Like other states implementing high, comparable education standards, Rhode Island has reached a “critical milestone” by administering assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards, and now is no time to turn back, write Mike Petrilli and Robert Pondescio of the Fordham Institute. “The news was sobering: only one-fourth of Rhode Island’s students are on track in math, and just one-third are proficient in reading and writing.” But parents “shouldn’t shoot the messenger.” In the past, states “juked the stats” by lowering the bar for students, making them appear on track to be ready for college and careers, even though often they were not. Two-thirds of New Mexico students entering a two-year college require remediation. “Parents and taxpayers should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the new standards or the associated tests…They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers a much more honest assessment of how our children are doing.”

What It Means: As Petrilli and Pondescio point out, assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards provide parents and educators with accurate information about how well students are developing the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at high levels of learning. Rather than use the change to attack higher academic expectations, the public should embrace the fact schools are holding students to levels that set them up for success. In a recent memo Karen Nussle explains, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do,” and for “parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”

Correcting the Record:

National Review: “Massachusetts Deals a Bruising Blow to the Common Core”: Because of Massachusetts’ “iconic status” as a national leader in education, state officials’ decision to forego PARCC assessments in favor of a hybrid test signals a “reversal” that deals a “bruising blow to the Common Core,” writes Rick Hess. “This departure continues an ignominious slide for PARCC,” the piece states. “Adding insult to injury, Chester is the chair of the PARCC governing board—meaning that one of the two federally funded Common Core test providers has just been thrown over by one of its own.” Hess adds the “Common Core lobby has failed massively at foster the requisite confidence” that assessments aligned to the standards will provide commonality among states. “Well under half the nation’s students now live in states administering one of the two Common Core–aligned tests. And within states that do use one of those tests, fidelity to the tests is uneven…standards are easy-to-ignore words on the page if they’re not tied to state tests…The news from Massachusetts is just the latest reminder that federal coercion and supercilious intimidation may not be a winning strategy.”

Where They Went Wrong: Massachusetts education commissioner Mitchell Chester made clear yesterday the state is not abandoning Common Core Standards or the assessments that support them. “National media,” he said, “inaccurately described Massachusetts as ‘abandoning’ the Common Core and PARCC. We have not abandoned either one.” Instead, state officials are pursuing a high-quality test that will ensure parents and educators have honest information about student development. In a recent memo 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.”

On Our Reading List:

New York Times: “In Shift, Cuomo Said to Back Reducing Test Scores’ Role in Teacher Reviews”: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking to reducing the role of student assessments in teacher evaluations, according to state education officials. Less than a year ago, Gov. Cuomo said tougher evaluations were key to transforming the state’s education system, and in January said test scores should determine half a teacher’s evaluation. The shift comes after a large percentage of students opted out of state standardized tests this spring. A spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo’s office said the Governor would wait for recommendations from a task force reviewing the state’s Common Core standards and related assessments. “There is no position of this administration with respect to this issue,” the spokesman noted.

Glen Falls Post Star: “Advocacy Group Airing Radio Ads Backing Common Core Standards”: On Tuesday, High Achievement New York, an education advocacy group, began airing radio ads urging the Common Core Implementation Task Force launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to backtrack on high education standards. In one of the ads, two Buffalo teacher say Common Core Standards are boosting achievement and the state should hold the course. “Teachers, education experts and parents want to send a clear message: New York’s education standards are working and we cannot pull the rug out on educators now,” said Steve Sigmund, the group’s director. “The Governor’s Task Force should listen to parents and teachers and take steps to implement common sense recommendations – but not at the expense of higher standards.”

Brookings Institution: “Has Common Core Influenced Instruction?”: Using the latest NAEP results to examine whether Common Core Standards have helped or hurt instruction, Tom Loveless says it remains to be seen whether initial improvements “may be as good as it gets,” or if the standards will produce a long-term positive impact as “educators learn how to use them.” Both hypotheses are plausible, Loveless concludes, and policymakers “still have a couple of arrows left in the implementation quiver, accountability being the most powerful…So the [Common Core] story isn’t over.”