News You Can Use:

Boston Globe, “Adapt PARCC – And Ignore the Political Noise”: As Massachusetts education officials prepare to decide between MCAS and PARCC assessments, the editorial board writes, “Adopting PARCC promises to provide even better educational results for Massachusetts students. PARCC aligns with the Common Core national academic standards, diminishes the need for ‘teaching to the test,’ and provides more accurate assessments of student progress.” The decision between exams should be a “straightforward” question of whether PARCC is a higher-quality assessment “that the Commonwealth’s students deserve,” which the editorial says it is. “The state was deeply involved in developing the new assessment,” which asks “students to grapple with more complex material.”  With PARCC, “good instruction should be the best and only necessary test preparation,” and educators overwhelmingly support it. “The state should not spend money needlessly just so Governor Charlie Baker and his administration have political cover from PARCC’s opponents,” the editorial concludes. “Massachusetts should have the best test possible – and ignore the political noise.”

What It Means: As the editorial points out, high-quality student assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to accurately measure student development and to identify and address learning needs. PARCC assessments provide information to parents, students and educators by measuring student progress toward levels that reflect what they need to know and be able to do to succeed in college and careers. A Mathematica study this month found that PARCC assessments are “significantly better” than MCAS at predicting students’ ability to earn “B” grades in college-level math, and students who meet PARCC proficiency benchmarks are less likely to require remediation than those who meet MCAS’ proficiency benchmarks. As Massachusetts policymakers decide which test to use, they should focus on which test is best for the state’s students, instead of folding to political pressure.

San Antonio Express News, “Local Education Influences Military Base Decisions”: As Army officials consider base closures, military installations and surrounding communities “should pay very close attention to the quality of schools,” write Jim Cowen, director of military outreach for the Collaborative for Student Success, and Tim Ford, president of the Association of Defense Communities. Senior Army officers have renewed focus on access to education in and around military bases, and a lack of consistent education standards makes it “impossible to determine how schools are faring relative to schools” in other states and districts. Communities are “challenged by less rigorous academic standards at the state level or inadequate performance at the school and district levels,” a Stimson Center report this year notes. “If host communities do not offer soldiers’ children consistently high-quality education, they risk the economic challenges that result from losing support of a major employer.” Communities should partner with military and local schools, engage policymakers and incentive educators, Cowen and Ford say. “If schools around installations have an impetus to improve, if state and local governments fear the potential for dire economic consequences, it may prompt them to take a serious look at fixing their schools.”

What It Means: Access to consistently high-quality education is especially important for military families, who move on average six to nine times during a child’s K-12 educational career. By implementing Common Core State Standards, states have taken a big step to ensure students are held to high academic expectations no matter where they go to school. Comparable standards also help ensure students do fall behind or have to sit through material they’ve already mastered when they change schools. That consistency is important for the military, whose members weigh access to high-quality education in their career decisions.



Correcting the Record:

Boston Globe, “PARCC Doesn’t Cut It; Stick with MCAS”: Calls to replace Massachusetts’ MCAS assessments with PARCC tests don’t “square with the facts,” writes Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute. “An apples-to-apples examination of the tests conducted by Princeton-based researchers found PARCC no more predictive of college readiness than MCAS,” Stergios says. Even though there has been a “rigor gap” on MCAS tests in some grades, “PARCC is still no better at predicting college preparedness than a dumbed-down 10th-grade MCAS.” “Yoking the Commonwealth to the faltering PARCC consortium, which once boasted 26 member states but today includes just seven low performers, carries real risk,” the piece adds. “Because students in PARCC jurisdictions like Washington, D.C., and New Mexico cannot pass tests at the level of their Massachusetts counterparts, there will be built-in pressure to reduce PARCC’s rigor…Finally, adopting PARCC locks Massachusetts, the nation’s education leader, into inferior education standards. Common Core may help low-performing states, but it is too low a bar for Massachusetts.”

Where They Went Wrong: Contrary to Stergios’ claim that PARCC assessments are inferior to Massachusetts’ old tests, a recent Mathematica study finds PARCC is actually “significantly better” at predicting students’ ability to earn B and higher grades at college-level math, and that students who meet PARCC’s proficiency benchmarks are less likely to require remediation than those who meet MCAS’ benchmarks. A Teach Plus study this spring found nearly three-quarters of Massachusetts teacher participants found PARCC to be better than MCAS. PARCC assessments also empower state officials to compare student development to other states and within school districts, giving parents honest information and ensuring students are developing the skills they need to succeed in college and careers.



On Our Reading List:

Boston Globe“PARCC, Panic and the Perils of New Math”: While concerns about new approaches to math problem-solving emphasized by Common Core State Standards have gotten a lot of attention, such techniques predate the Common Core, and “probably won’t disappear if the Common Core fails,” writes columnist Joanna Weiss. “It’s part of a broader philosophy that the Common Core embraces: that kids should know not just the standard algorithms, but the concepts behind them. It’s not just whether you can do long division; it’s do you get long division? Can you explain it in words?” For many students, breaking down the mechanics helps them to understand math functions and numbers better. “Developers of PARCC need to be careful, and not just because a new-math ziner can scuttle political support for a test that’s largely quiet good…PARCC ought to be tough. But it also should bend over backwards to be clear and fair.”

Albany Times Union“Review Gets Underway Friday for New York’s Common Core Task Force”: The task force ordered by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to review the state’s Common Core standards met for the first time on Friday. The committee will hold at least a dozen public sessions over the next several months and create an advisory group to support its review. Gov. Cuomo asked that the committee provide a set of recommendations of how to build on or change the standards by January ahead of his State of the State Address. “Today’s meeting was about setting the stage for a comprehensive review of Common Core – a review that will help us fix and strengthen the state’s learning standards and ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Richard Parsons, chairman of the review committee.

Springfield Republican“PARCC Test Results to Be Released Next Week”: The Massachusetts Department of Education is expected to release statewide results from PARCC assessments that were taken by paper and pencil this spring. Last month, the state released scores from PARCC tests taken electronically. Tuesday’s scores will not include individual scores for students, school or districts; those will be released later this fall. “The PARCC test is a far better predictor than the MCAS test of students’ availability to perform well in math in college, and overall is an effective tool to predict students’ readiness for college,” the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education said in a statement.

Wichita Eagle“Kansas Parents Could Soon See Student Scores on Common Core-Aligned Tests”: The Kansas Department of Education will likely release results from assessments aligned to the state’s Common Core standards “over the next few weeks.” State and local education officials caution the results show a majority of Kansas students are not on track to graduate high school college- and career-ready. “The standards were increased. The assessment is more difficult,” says Beth Fultz, assistant director for assessments and accountability for the state Department of Education. “This is really our first data point. It’s very much a baseline, so there isn’t any comparison to last year or previous years.”