News You Can Use:

Albuquerque Journal, “PARCC Scores Show New Mexico Kids Rise to the Challenge”: Results from PARCC assessments provide New Mexico students and teachers with a baseline to “measure not only individual student progress, but student progress across state lines.” That’s an important step for families to determine how their kids “stack up against students in other states when it comes to subject matter mastery and college readiness,” the editorial board writes. “It turns out the orchestrated hysteria from some quarters about the trauma of testing and the evils of educational accountability were just that. Orchestrated hysteria.” Noting several bright spots in the scores, the piece adds, “With help and perseverance of dedicated teachers, it’s fair to say that many of New Mexico’s high school students showed right out of the gate they can rise to higher expectations, and mechanisms are in place to help the rest get there as well…It is essential to ignore the call to return to the soft bigotry of low expectations and instead focus on these types of successes and build on them.”

What It Means: The editorial underscores the early success New Mexico is having by raising classroom expectations and administering assessments that measure student progress toward those levels. And New Mexico isn’t alone. By implementing learning goals that establish a clear path of college- and career-readiness, and high-quality assessments aligned to them, states are providing parents and teachers with accurate information and holding students to levels that set them up for success at high levels. As Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains, results from the first round of tests aligned to higher standards may be “sobering,” but “parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests.”

Education Week, “After Several Defections, PARCC Gets a New Member: Military Schools”: On Wednesday, the Department of Defense Education Activity, which oversees schools for military families, announced it is joining the PARCC testing consortium. DoDEA operates 172 schools serving 74,000 students. The organization signed a one-year renewable contract with PARCC. “We are excited about the opportunity to support the success of children of service men and women attending Department of Defense Education Activity schools,” said Laura Slover, CEO of PARCC.

What It Means: DoDEA’s decision further demonstrates the military’s commitment to high-quality student assessments that provide service members and their families with honest information. PARCC assessments measure student progress toward standards that ensure they are on a track of college- and career-readiness, and it enables parents and teachers to compare their children’s progress to others across the country. “These new assessments are part of a broader effort to raise classroom expectations,” Karen Nussle points out in a recent memo. “For parents and educators that should come as a welcome change. It means they are finally receiving accurate information about how well their kids are really doing.”

Educators for High Standards, “Common Core Math Is Not the Enemy”: People do not think procedurally, which is why the “old way” of teaching math was not the most effective, writes Brett Berry, a math teacher and author. “The traditional way involves rote memorization and algorithms performed on paper. They require little to no understanding of why the algorithm works,” Berry explains. “That is how a computer thinks. It’s not how humans think.” Old models’ emphasis on memorization and algorithms were problematic because individuals “remember through context, understanding and application.” Number sense instead encourages students to develop an understanding of numbers and functions so they can think through a problem rather than rely on a procedure or method. “We desperately need to understand the foundations of our knowledge. Otherwise math become meaningless and forgettable,” Berry concludes. Common Core “may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.”

What It Means: Berry articulates that models based solely on algorithms and memorization failed to equip students with a conceptual understanding of math – which serves students best over time and as they advance to more complex mathematical problems. By helping students better grasp the mechanics behind numbers and functions through multiple approaches, in addition to traditional algorithms and memorization, Common Core State Standards prepare students for higher level content and to apply their learning. An analysis by the Collaborative for Student Success explains, “It is important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems…so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move onto more challenging levels.”

Pensacola Speaks, “The Honesty Gap on How We Measure Student Achievement”: In Florida and states where policymakers are setting proficiency benchmarks on student assessments, parents and educators should demand those levels be set sufficiently high, explains Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success. “Too often what happens is policymakers take the politically expedient way…and make that [proficiency] definition easier to reach. That does a disservice to our kids. We need to know what the truth is, and what [kids] need to get to where they need to be by the time they’re graduating high school.” Fifty-four percent of Florida public high-school graduates require remediation when they go to college. Of assessments, Nussle says tests aligned to higher standards measure students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, mitigating pressure to teach to the test. “There’s a lot of work being done to streamline and make the tests better so they give us better information.”

What It Means: As the Honesty Gap analysis made clear, for a long time states inflated measures of student readiness, painting a misleading picture of how well schools were doing to prepare young people for college and careers. In the 2013-14 school year, Florida had a 22-point discrepancy between state-reported proficiency rates and those demonstrated by NAEP in fourth-grade reading, and 16-point discrepancy in eighth-grade math. As Nussle explains, most states have taken steps to address the problem by adopting rigorous education standards and honest assessments. “By expanding the definition of proficiency to include students that are less-than-proficient,” states risk walking back that work.

Correcting the Record:

Des Moines Register, “Jindal Focuses on States’ Rights at Register Editorial Board Meeting”: In a meeting with the Des Moines Register, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal criticized Common Core State Standards as an intrusion of the federal government on states’ rights. “I would argue that with the government trying to push Common Core on us, with the government trying to tell our kids what they should be eating in their school lunches… that now we’ve got the federal government doing a lot of things it was never supposed to do,” Gov. Jindal said. “I think there’s a limited and effective government. What governments does, I want it to do well.” On the same day, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick issued a final judgment rejecting Gov. Jindal’s federal lawsuit that alleged the U.S. Department of Education illegally coerced states into adopting Common Core State Standards. In September, the same judge refused Gov. Jindal’s request for a preliminary injunction to block federal officials from penalizing the state if it were to quit using the standards. In that ruling, Judge Dick said Gov. Jindal showed “no evidence” Louisiana was forced to adopt particular education standards, curriculum, instructional programs or standardized tests.

Where They Went Wrong: Gov. Jindal, who was once a strong supporter of the Common Core, continues to distort the Common Core State Standards as a federal overreach, even though the evidence suggest otherwise—including two court decisions that have rebuked Gov. Jindal’s position, one of which said Jindal had done “irreparable harm” to his state’s students. In fact, the Common Core began as and remains a state-led effort, and overwhelmingly states are sticking with it. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards continue to use them, or a similar set of standards, and this year most states administered assessments aligned to the Common Core, which will provide families and teachers with more accurate information.

On Our Reading List:

Education Week, “If Math and Reading NAEP Scores Fall, Who’s to Blame?”: Results from the latest administration of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments are due early next week. Some experts predict scores have dropped. “That will be used as fodder to attack Common Core, teacher evaluation, charter schools, or whatever else you happen to not like that’s prominent in today’s education policy conversation,” Mike Petrilli writes, drawing a link between  “students’ socioeconomic status and the their academic achievement.” “When families are hurting financially, it’s harder for students to focus on learning.” Whatever the results, “Remember that it’s extremely difficult to use NAEP data to prove whether a particular policy worked or didn’t work,” the article notes. Though, “there’s no doubt…everyone will be pointing fingers.”

Washington Post, “D.C. Adopts National Proficiency Level for Its New PARCC Tests”: On Wednesday, the DC Board of Education voted unanimously to set proficiency benchmarks on PARCC tests given this year at levels recommended by the consortium, meaning a Level 4 will equate to “met expectations.” “This is the first year of a new assessment for all of us,” said Hanseul Kang, District of Columbia superintendent. “It sets a new baseline. We think it’s important to set that bar high.” “I think this is our chance to just tell the truth one time and say, ‘This is where we are. Let’s work up from here,’” added Kaya Henderson, chancellor of DC Public Schools. DC officials are scheduled to release the first round of PARCC results for high school students next week and those for elementary and middle-school students in November.

Tennessean, “State Board Wants More Feedback on Education Standards”: The Tennessee Board of Education launched a website to gather public input on the state’s Common Core standards as part of an ongoing review. A similar public input period earlier this year drew more than 130,000 comments, mostly from teachers. A team of education officials used those comments to make changes to the standards over the course of the summer. It is now seeking input on the changes. Once collected, the data will be given to a standards recommendation committee, which will then provide recommendations to the state Board of Education by January.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, “Common Core Survey Seeks Specific Criticism”: The New York Department of Education launched an online survey Wednesday for residents to provide input about the state’s Common Core standards. The survey is designed to collect specific reaction by directing users to identify the standards they wish to comment on. “This is not a referendum on the standards,” the site notes. “Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.” The survey is open until November 30. An advisory group will review the public input to “help inform changes made to the standards,” according to a letter from education commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “Your classrooms are the frontline in our struggle to help our students aim higher,” Elia told educators, urging them to participate in the study.