News You Can Use:

Salt Lake Tribune, “Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Challenging Utah’s Adoption of Common Core”: A district judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Libertas Institute that alleged the Utah Board of Education violated the process for adopting standards when it decided to use Common Core State Standards. “We stand behind the standards that we’ve adopted,” said David Crandall, chairman of the State Board of Education. “We still maintain that we can change the standards in all or in part, really at any point, as long as we’re following the process laid out in statute.” Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, called the decision a “minor procedural hurdle” and pledged to appeal the ruling. The lawsuit claimed the public did not have a chance to weigh in on the standards. Crandall disagreed, saying not only did parents and educators provide input, the public also continues to have opportunities to give feedback to the state school board

What It Means: Unable to challenge the Common Core State Standards through legislative channels, opponents have turned to backdoor tactics to disrupt implementation. The decision in Utah adds to a list of similar verdicts in other states rejecting such claims, and reaffirms the state-led nature of efforts to raise classroom expectations. This year most states passed an important milestone by administering assessments aligned to more rigorous education standards, giving parents and educators better information and better ensuring more students will graduate high school fully prepared for college and careers.

WDTV 5 ABC West Virginia, “The State of Education in West Virginia”: In the first installment of a series on education issues in West Virginia, State Superintendent Michael Martirano explains Common Core State Standards are vital to student success. “It is a critical time for education. We’ve got to get it right,” Martirano says. “Gone are the days when young people can drop out of school, or just finish with a high school diploma and think that they’re going to land a job.” Of some legislators’ pledges to try to repeal the standards in the next session, Martirano adds, “We just can’t say that we’re going to now substitute another set of standards…The state should set those targets and those standards in place so that everybody has something to shoot for.” He concludes, “The future of our state…is basically directly correlated to the quality of education of our population.”

What It Means: Dr. Martirano underscores the importance of rigorous academic expectations that fully prepare students for college and careers. By implementing Common Core State Standards, states like West Virginia are holding all students to levels that better ensure they develop the fundamental skills necessary to succeed at high levels of learning. Like most states, West Virginia passed an important milestone this year by administering tests aligned to those benchmarks. 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.”

Center for American Progress, “How Can States Effectively Hold Schools and Districts Accountable for Improving Student Outcomes?”: In a roundtable discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress, a group of education administrators and policy experts discuss efforts to improve states’ school accountability systems. “When the states are working together, it’s been helpful to have them set the cut scores together,” says Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “We are on the cusp of actually telling the truth about [student readiness] for the first time. We need public pressure to do the right thing, but I think we are moving in the right direction on this…We are moving to a time when we have more honesty.” “As high as an expectation as you set for children, they will reach that expectation,” adds Carey Wright, Mississippi state superintendent. “Setting those high expectations and that high bar is only going to benefit them for the rest of their lives. Once they’re there, that’s where they’re going to stay.”

What It Means: As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, over the past several years most states have taken steps to hold students to levels that truly prepare them for college and careers, and to give parents and educators accurate information about their progress. After administering assessments aligned to these higher expectations for the first time, states should resist taking the politically expedient route and set proficiency levels sufficiently high. Karen Nussle explains, “By expanding the definition of proficient to include students that are less-than-proficient,” states risk walking back gains made over recent years and masking student learning needs.

Correcting the Record:

Washington Post, “Standardized Tests Fail Our Students”: Assessments aligned to rigorous education standards “frequently ask students to accomplish impossible tasks,” writes Rick Nelson, a Virginia resident, in response to a recent editorial in the Washington Post. Using reasoning over applying memorized facts and procedures, as exams like PARCC do, “requires the knowledge base of experts,” Nelson argues. By the time students are required to use standard algorithms, they are “hopelessly confused.” “Unless education standards take cognitive science into account, dismal results are predictable for students and the nation,” the letter concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: Unlike old “bubble tests,” assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards require students to demonstrate their understanding. That provides parents and teachers with a more accurate snapshot of how well students are really developing the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed at high levels of learning, and ultimately to graduate high school prepared for college and careers. It also mitigates pressures to “teach to the test.” New tests “may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how are students are doing,” Mike Petrilli explains. “Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests.”

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Fox News, “Republican Matt Bevin Wins Kentucky Governor’s Race”: Republican Matt Bevin, “a businessman and Tea Party favorite,” was elected as Kentucky’s next governor on Tuesday, winning 53 percent of the vote. Bevin has been an outspoken critic of Common Core Standards and ran ads in the final weeks of the campaign saying he would “fight to improve education” and “repeal Common Core.” Many experts considered the off-year election in Kentucky as a test for outsider candidates, the article reports.

Wilmington Journal News, “Delaware Could Swap Smarter Balanced with SAT for Juniors”: Some education groups in Delaware are calling for the state to replace Smarter Balanced assessments with the SAT college entrance exam. The state PTA, teachers unions and other groups say Smarter Balanced tests do not provide useful information and soak up valuable class time. “The SAT is a proven, reliable test,” argues Terri Hodges, president of the Delaware Parent Teacher Association. “Everyone is talking about reducing testing, and this seems like a place you could do that.” Gov. Jack Markell vetoed a bill that would have allowed parents to opt their kids out of state tests. His administration has said Smarter Balanced provides valuable insight about how well students are developing fundamental skills.

Politico New York, “Advocates Question Common Core Task Force Schedule”: Education groups in New York say abrupt meeting notices and inconvenient timing are impeding the effectiveness of a committee tasked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to review the state’s Common Core standards. Last week the task force announced its first meeting just two days before the event and the committee’s website had incomplete information about upcoming meetings. “We set an aggressive timeframe and are scheduling accordingly to ensure that everyone in every corner of the state has a chance to participate,” said a spokesman for Gov. Cuomo’s office. “I understand the governor’s urgency, but with that time frame it makes it extraordinarily difficult to provide the input that you need,” said Richard Longhurst, director of the New York PTA.

College Board, “Trends in Higher Education”: A report by the College Board found tuition fees for college students increased by about three percent over last year across higher education sectors. It costs 40 percent more this year to attend a public four-year institution compared to 10 years ago, nearly 30 percent more for a two-year public school, and 26 percent more to go to a private nonprofit college. The average cost to attend a public four-year college reached $9,410 for in-state students and $23,893 for out-of-state students.