News You Can Use:

Education Post, “Nine Ways the Wall Street Journal Got It Wrong on Common Core”: A report in the Wall Street Journal last week that suggests Common Core State Standards are in “disarray,” and that it “misrepresented the facts” at best and “was largely erroneous” at worst, writes Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success. “The most outlandish misstatement is that the ‘Common Core is far from common’…This is patently false.” Contrary to the article’s claims, seven states have repealed the Common Core, but only Oklahoma has reverted back to a set of inferior standards. Rewrite efforts in Indiana and South Carolina, for example, have resulted in standards “largely identical to the Common Core.” “For the reporter’s story to be true, the definition of ‘repeal’ necessarily must be expanded to include terms like ‘tweak,’ ‘amend,’ and ‘strengthen,’” Nussle adds. “[Common Core State Standards] are a floor, not a ceiling. And they were absolutely designed to allow states to tweak, amend and generally customize them in order to meet local needs.” Nussle’s analysis goes on to identify several holes in the article’s argument before encouraging readers to comment on the story.

What It Means: Nussle’s analysis offers a strong correction to the misrepresentations evident in the Wall Street Journal’s argument. In reality, after more than five years, states have weighed the evidence and are overwhelmingly sticking with the Common Core. Only one state, Oklahoma, of the 45 to initially adopt Common Core State Standards has reverted back to inferior standards, and this year most passed an important milestone by administering high-quality tests aligned to these higher expectations. Louisiana State Superintendent John White explains, “States have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there can be an honest baseline…That is a fantastic success for each state and for American and its children.”

Albuquerque Journal, “Common Core, PARCC Right for New Mexico”: New Mexico has a skills gap that is “limiting our children’s opportunities,” but the state is “on the right path to addressing this challenge,” write Rick Alvidrez and Terri Cole of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. More than half of New Mexico high-school graduates require college remediation, a majority of whom never finish college, costing families and taxpayers more than $20 million each year. That is one reason why New Mexico adopted Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessments. “The PARCC test assesses the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are needed to succeed in the 21st century economy,” the piece notes. “Now we have a more accurate assessment of our students’ academic progress,” which will help set a “new proficiency baseline to measure student performance moving forward.” “As we move through this transition period, it is important to stay the course. We applaud the commitment to being more transparent with students.”

What It Means: States like New Mexico voluntarily adopted rigorous education standards and high-quality assessments to ensure all students are held to expectations that prepare them for college and careers, and that parents and teachers have accurate information about their progress towards those goals. As Alvidrez and Cole articulate, parents and policymakers should resist calls to revert back to the old way of doing things. New assessments “may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing—a standard that promises to end the lies and statistical games,” Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, wrote this fall.

Kansas City Star, “Those Ugly Kansas Test Scores Are a Step toward Better Learning”: While results from student assessments aligned to higher academic expectations may be “downright scary,” parents should not “freak out,” writes columnist Steve Rose. “That’s because the tests the students took this past spring were not the namby-pamby multiple-choice exams of yesteryear.” Instead, the new assessments, which were developed by states, measure what students need to know and be able to do to get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness. “The scores are a tool to help bring students and teachers along,” Rose adds, not an “end all, be all.” “Test scores should not become political fodder. Kansas and other states have made the wise decision to raise their testing standards, address deficiencies and establish high benchmarks…The new, rigorous assessments can be a real service to parents, students and teachers if aggressive strategies are put in place to boost the lower performers.”

What It Means: After years of lowering the bar for students, a reality made clear by the Honesty Gap analysis, most states have begun implementing high, consistent education standards and honest student assessments. As Rose explains, while the results may be difficult to swallow, they help establish a new baseline for student achievement and give parents and teachers accurate information about how well their kids are developing the skills they need to ultimately succeed in college or a career. Karen Nussle points out in a recent memo, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do…For parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”

Bismarck Tribune, “Exams Play Role in Preparing Kids”: North Dakota parents should resist interpreting the results from the state’s first round of tests aligned to higher standards as an indicator that schools are failing, the editorial board writes. “Our students didn’t lose their skills in the last year, they just encountered a tougher test. This new baseline gives them something to build on…The good news: North Dakota students performed better on average compared with other states that have released results.” While implementation “hasn’t been perfect,” state officials should stick with a “challenging test that provides an accurate guide to how well our students are doing,” the piece concludes. Separately, Michael Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio of the Fordham Institute write in the Grand Forks Herald that North Dakota has reached a “critical milestone” in efforts to raise expectations, and parents “shouldn’t shoot the messenger.” Parents are “finally learning the truth,” and they should “resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the new standards or associated tests.

What It Means: States like North Dakota have made big strides to close their Honesty Gaps by adopting rigorous education standards and high-quality assessments. While the results have been “sobering,” parents are finally getting accurate information about how well the children are developing the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at high levels, and that should come as a welcome change. As both pieces point out, parents and policymakers alike should resist pressures to turn back just as classroom changes are taking root.    

Correcting the Record:

New York Post, “Principal Says Standardized Testing Is ‘Modern-Day Slavery’”: In a blog post titled “The Tyranny of Standardized Testing,” Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School Principal Jamaal Bowman says “high-stakes standardized testing is a form of modern-day slavery, and it is designed to continue the proliferation of inequality.” Bowman compares student assessments to “redlining” and “crack cocaine.” “From the Continental Congress to Race to the Top, America has a tradition of disenfranchising the masses,” Bowman writes. Rod Paige, US Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, says comments like Bowman’s are turning constructive discussion “ugly.” “Appropriate testing is a part of teaching, not apart from it. The outcomes call attention to the students’ needs so we can help them. Before that, people didn’t expect much from kids.”

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development and to identify and address learning needs. Earlier this year 12 national civil and human rights groups called out “anti-testing efforts” for “subverting” reliable data and reinforcing equality gaps. After years of lowering the bar for students, most states passed an important milestone this year by giving tests that measure college- and career-readiness. Mike Petrilli explains that, while the 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 the associated tests.” “They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”  

On Our Reading List:

Hechinger Report, “Can the Mighty US Military Save Embattled PARCC?”: The PARCC consortium got some good news last week when the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) announced that beginning next year, the 172 schools it oversees will administer PARCC tests. The announcement comes after several states have withdrawn from the PARCC consortium. Nineteen states have dropped their membership. “If you look at the map, you generally see that more reform-oriented states joined PARCC and these are the states where you hear some of the loudest opposition to all kinds of reform, including Common Core and testing,” says Deven Carlson, an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma.

The Seventy Four, “Ben Carson and Marco Rubio to Sit Down With The 74 For In-Depth Discussion of K-12 Education”: Campbell Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of the Seventy Four, will discuss education issues with Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Marco Rubio on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. “Sen. Rubio and Dr. Carson both overcame significant obstacles to get where they are today,” Brown said. “Their experiences provide valuable lessons for how kids across the country can beat the odds and achieve the American Dream. We look forward to hearing from them about what we as a nation must do to help close the inequality gap that deprives far too many students the opportunity for a high-quality education.”, “Standards Play Central Role in U.S. Education Reform”: Education standards have shaped education policy for over 20 years, but Missouri’s adoption of Common Core State Standards is providing more cohesion and progression of learning, officials say. “[Standards] have always kind of been the guidepost for what we want students to learn and be successful in,” says Mike Dawson, a learning officer in Springfield. “All in all, I would say it has gotten better because we’re not just picking and choosing what we would like to do in the classroom or in our district, we’re trying to be more cohesive,” adds Ann Poivre, a local teacher.

Biloxi Sun Herald, “Mississippi Republicans Own the Legislature – and All the State’s Problems”: As the Republican Party won a supermajority in the Mississippi House, results from the state’s first assessments aligned to higher education standards show “students under the Common Core Standards seem to be scrambling off the bottom,” writes Paul Hampton, the paper’s political editor. “The state as a whole bucked its trend of languishing at the bottom of just about every indicator of educational quality and outpaced almost every other state that has released data,” Regina Zilbermints reported for the Sun-Herald last week. Hampton suggests Mississippi lawmakers “listen to the people who deal with education every day, the parents, teachers and yes, administrators and don’t pay so much attention to those who substitute loud voices for insight.”