News You Can Use:

Huntsville Times, “Surprising Themes in My First Grader’s Public School Reading”: Columnist Cameron Smith writes that while some critics have raised concerns about the developmental appropriateness of Alabama’s academic standards, “What I’ve found so far has been particularly encouraging.” “Like many parents, I’m concerned with what my children are actually learning outside my home and whether that instruction is equipping them with the tools they need to have opportunities in the future,” Smith says. “My initial experience with the reading work is quite positive. I’m encouraged to see some of the lessons we’re teaching at home being reinforced at school.” Readings bolster fundamental skills and get kids to think critically, Smith adds. “These are the types of conversations we need to be having…Let’s highlight the successes and focus on improving the weaknesses.”

What It Means: Like Smith, parents continue to overwhelmingly support academic expectations that fully prepare their child for success in college and career. Karen Nussle explains, as parents get more information, critics have been confronted with the facts – which is that Common Core State Standards are built on the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to complete high school fully ready for the next step. As a result, most states are sticking with the Common Core or a similar set of learning goals.

Eugene Register-Guard, “Oregon Tests the Test”: While Oregon’s “new and tougher battery of standardized tests” showed familiar achievement gaps and low proficiency in math, these “new tests are more closely aligned with what student are taught in classrooms, and the results will allow more meaningful” comparisons, the editorial board writes. “The question now is whether the closer and more rigorous fusion of testing and curricula will be given a chance to work.” The Smarter Balanced results show “wide and persistent” achievement gaps and an “alarming pattern of low math scores.” “More data points from future years will reveal more meaningful comparisons…It would be a shame if Oregon finally reached the point of being able to measure educational results, and then allowed the picture to slip out of focus.”

What It Means: The editorial makes a strong point that results from assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards aren’t rosy, but they give an honest depiction of how well students are prepared for higher levels of learning—something parents and educators should embrace. Fordham Institute President Mike Petrilli echoed the same sentiment last month. The results from new assessments may be “sobering,” but “parents shouldn’t shoot the messenger,” Petrilli says. “[These tests] may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing…Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests.”

Charleston Gazette-News, “Delegate’s Common Core Lawsuit Dismissed by Supreme Court”: The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled last week against State Delegate Michael Folk, who alleged the state’s adoption of Common Core Standards constituted an interstate compact that requires Congressional approval. Attorneys representing the state school board asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case, saying it was nothing more than a political stunt and that its claim was “dead wrong.” An attorney close to the case said the decision effectively puts an end to Folk’s lawsuit, but state lawmakers have indicated they will attempt to repeal the state’s Common Core standards during the next legislative session.

What It Means: This State Supreme Court decision confirms the legality of the Common Core State Standards – and while there may be additional attempts at legislative repeal, the article notes that previous attempts have already failed. During the public review period of West Virginia’s Common Core standards, state residents overwhelmingly supported the learning goals. More than 250,000 comments from more than 4,100 individuals were submitted. Of the 72,300 comments on the math standards, 95 percent agreed with them, and of the 179,100 comments on the English/language arts standards, 97 percent agreed with standards.

Correcting the Record:

Fox News, “Nine Promises the Common Core Has Already Broken”: Common Core supporters’ “fantastical promises” have been beaten back by reality after “the bigs pushed this impossibly utopian project on our country,” writes Joy Pullmann, an outspoken critic of Common Core State Standards. Tying the standards to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Pullman lays out nine “promises Common Core has already broken.” They include: that the standards would “end ‘lying to children and parents’”; comparable test scores across states; that assessment data would be released quickly; transparent test results; “Beyond the Bubble” tests; reliable and accurate test results; accurate information about college- and career-readiness; that teachers would have timely and formative assessments; and Common Core has “beat back opponents.” “When someone comes to town promising you that all children can achieve their dreams and lead our nation into an evanescent future if we only adopt these magic statist policies, fire him,” Pullmann concludes. “Don’t let him slide out of town into a cushy crony-sector job, like Arne Duncan’s sure to do.”

Where They Went Wrong: Pullmann suggests Common Core State Standards and high-quality tests that support them are the work of federal authorities and that they’ve failed to improve student outcomes. But evidence suggests otherwise. Objective analysis has repeatedly rejected claims that Common Core State Standards were forced on states. States leading implementation, like Kentucky and Tennessee, have achieved some of the biggest academic gains in the country, and states are providing more accurate information to parents about student development. By setting high expectations for all students and measuring student progress against those goals, states will ensure more students graduate high school fully prepared for college and careers. As Louisiana State Superintendent John White puts it, “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 America and its children.”

Times Picayune, “When It Comes to Common Core Our Love of Rankings End”: Columnist JR Ball writes that from football to business friendly cities, American love rankings – unless “we’re talking about Common Core, the ranking we love to hate.” Ball lists five reasons “America doesn’t love Common Core,” including: “It’s a scam for a handful of technology corporations to turn a profit”; it’s a federal “takeover of public schools”; related tests fail to “account for cultural ‘uniqueness’ of each state”; assessments are “too dang hard” and “unfair”; and “we’re a country that embraces the Chinese method of Rote memorization” over conceptual understanding. Ball goes on to criticize some states’ decisions to use assessments that don’t allow for comparison to other districts and states. “Louisiana has made a habit of setting the bar low…but at what point will we decide to start measuring ourselves against the best in America?”

Where They Went Wrong: : Ball makes a good point that states like Louisiana should embrace efforts to measure students to levels that fully prepare them for success in college and careers. Contrary to his position, however, Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments help achieve that goal. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. For the first time, most states are using tests aligned to high academic expectations.

On Our Reading List:

Washington Post, “High School Graduation Rates Are on the Rise in Most States”: The latest federal data show that high school graduation rates ticked up in most states and graduation gaps between white and minority students narrowed in 2014. Though nationwide data is not yet available, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said preliminary numbers suggest the country is on track for a rise in graduation rates for the third year in a row. Graduation rates rose in 36 states. Five states and the District of Columbia experienced declines. “To be clear, there are still hundreds of thousands of kids every year who are dropping out,” Sec. Duncan said. “Progress is good, but we’ve got to get better faster.”

Chalkbeat NY, “To Anti-Testing Crowd, Tisch and Elia Defend State Assessments with Caveats”: Speaking before a conference of school board members from across New York, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch defended the state’s push for higher education standards and high-quality student assessments. “This is the time for us to review the Common Core Standards, so I ask that you be part of that,” Elia said. Neither Elia nor Tisch budged on the importance of strong assessments to inform policy. Instead of treating tests like a “boogeyman,” Elia said she will focus on correcting specific issues. Both women urged that the state legislature should stay out of testing and evaluation issues. “I don’t believe children should be in the middle of politics,” Elia said.

American Enterprise Institute, “The Real Deal with Public Opinion and the Common Core”: A report by Frederick Hess and Kelsey Hamilton finds that while there has been a renewed focus on Common Core State Standards since the release of results from standards-based tests, “many of the claims on what Americans think of the Common Core have been informed by push polls and agenda-driven analysis.” “In truth, we know three important things about public opinion on the Common Core. We can say confidently that the Common Core still generally enjoys a majority support, that it has seen a dramatic erosion in its level of support, and that the degrees of support one finds depend enormously on how polling questions are phrased.” Full report available here:

New Orleans Advocate, “Common Core Review Panel Member Quits, Says Suggested Changes to Standards ‘Were Not Even Considered’”: Margo Guilott, a retired teacher and a member of a panel reviewing Louisiana’s English standards, submitted her resignation to Regina Sanford, chairwoman of the review process. “It was evident to me that the intent of the review process of the English Language Arts Committee was to minimize the number of changes to the existing document,” Guilott said in her resignation letter. “In fact, 95 percent of the changes I had proposed that resulted from our meetings with teachers in St. Tammany Parish were not even considered in my small group.” The review process is comprised of about 100 member on three subcommittees and the Standards Review Committee, which oversees the work and will make recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Any changes will then be studied by two legislative committees and the next governor.