News You Can Use:

New Orleans Advocate, “Backers of Common Core, other changes make clean sweep in BESE contests”: Advocates of Common Core, including three incumbents and three newcomers, won all six races for Louisiana’s top school board, held Saturday. “These are people who have been very explicit in their support for accountability, choice, standards, the Recovery School District and the broader reform agenda,” said former BESE member Leslie Jacobs, one of the architects of the state’s push to overhaul public schools.”

What It Means: When the people of Louisiana voted on Saturday, the conclusion was overwhelming support of Common Core State Standards. The sweeping election of Common Core supporters in Louisiana’s top school boards suggests that Louisiana remains dedicated to maintaining high standards and working to close the Honesty Gap in their state. By continuing to hold students to higher expectations, Louisiana is taking the difficult step of improving student preparedness.

Raleigh News & Observer, “Defending Common Core”: The Common Core State Standards have been in effect for five years now and have set a national standard for preparedness for life after high school graduation. As the Editorial Board states, “Unfortunately, some politicians, and even some teachers’ groups, have rallied against Common Core, and in North Carolina, a state commission is going to recommend replacing the standards. That’s a bad idea and reflects the political atmosphere rather than the educational one.” This piece highlights the importance of investing more in schools and students to help them reach high standards, rather than rushing to lower the educational bar.

What It Means: The editorial board’s strong defense of Common Core underscores the importance of the state acting in the best interests of students, rather than allowing politics to supersede the will of educators. Educators continue to support keeping high standards. Despite considerable testimony to that effect before the state review commission, it appears as though the commission is doggedly determined to make a series of recommended changes that are not supported by in-state education organizations. Over the past several years, states have been working to close Honesty Gaps by implementing rigorous academic standards. This editorial underscores the importance of setting proficiency benchmarks at levels that truly reflect student readiness, in spite of continued pushback against the standards, so that parents receive accurate information about their children’s preparedness.

New York Times, “Superintendents in Florida Say Tests Failed State’s Schools, Not Vice Versa” After significant pushback from both parents and teachers, Florida chose to drop the Common Core tests that they had implemented, and switch to a different source. Nearly six months after students completed the exams, superintendents are decrying the tests as flawed, saying that they were designed for the state of Utah and built around that state’s curriculum. While scores have yet to be released because state officials have been unable to agree on a grading standard, superintendents are already calling for the state’s plan to use scores to “grade schools” to be dropped.

What It Means: After abandoning the PARCC assessment, Florida schools and superintendents have been left in chaos. When politicians succumb to political pressure around Common Core, it is students and schools that are hurt the most, as evidenced in Florida. One reason states are sticking with the Common Core, Karen Nussle outlines, is that parents strongly support academic expectations that prepare students for college and careers, and the Common Core incorporates the best evidence of college- and career-readiness. As noted in the Honesty Gap Analysis, Florida, like most states, previously inflated the student proficiency rates, a fact which only underscores the importance of ensuring parents get clear and correct information about their student’s preparedness level through the continued use of high quality assessments. Florida has another decision to make about how they will be defining proficiency on their state assessment. As the Collaborative’s petition explains, it is vital that the State Board of Education set a high bar so that kids will know if they are truly prepared for success.

Correcting the Record:

Huffington Post, “How Should Educators Respond to the Obama Administration’s Concession on Test and Punish?”: John Thompson regards President Obama’s Saturday statement that less class time should be spent on testing as marking the first step towards states backing away from value-added evaluations. “If the administration is true to its word, Oklahoma and others can quickly liberate most of our teachers – and our students – from test and punish,” states Thompson.

Where They Went Wrong: High-quality assessments are one of the most valuable tools teachers and parents have to measure student progress. Contrary to Thompson’s assertion that states were coerced into the implementation of Common Core State Standards, evidence shows that the push for higher academic standards remains a state-led effort. Education officials at the state level continue to review and build on the framework laid by the Common Core. Additionally, states like Kentucky and Tennessee, who have been leaders in the Common Core implementation process, have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements in the country, suggesting that backing away from Common Core would be hugely detrimental.

Boston Herald, “Finding an MCAS ‘Fix’”: The editorial board writes that “If carefully done, the retention of the MCAS tests of student achievement while incorporating appropriate material from the new “Common Core” tests could help shore up Massachusetts’ hard-won position as the best-performing of all states.” The board goes on to say that Massachusetts State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester was intimately involved in the creation of PARCC, and, if the state decides to opt for the “MCAS 2.0” option, that Chester should “divorce himself from its development.”

Where They Went Wrong: Many members of the Massachusetts Board of Education, including Commissioner Chester, have clearly stated that the MCAS no longer serves the needs of the state and that PARCC is a superior test. Commissioner Chester has not yet made his recommendation to the Board and the idea of building a new test based on PARCC was only an idea for consideration, and one that may prove to be cost prohibitive. Massachusetts led the development of PARCC and, as a PARCC member, will continue to retain significant authority over the test’s future development and will always control the state’s own destiny in regards to the future of the assessment program in-state.

Business Insider, “Why ‘5+5+5=15’ is Wrong Under Common Core”: Parents aren’t happy about a strategy of repeated addition used to solve the equation “5×3” that’s being taught to third graders in US schools. Critics say that if you answer the question with “5+5+5=15,” you would be wrong. According to the article, the correct answer is “3+3+3+3+3.” The article claims that, while both are correct mathematically, the Common Core requires the student to read “5×3″ as “five groups of three,” making “three groups of five” incorrect.

Where They Went Wrong: There is absolutely nothing in the Common Core that says 5+5+5 does not equal 15, despite the author’s grossly misleading statements.  Math is still math and correct calculations don’t change with different standards. The example shows that on one classroom assignment a student lost partial credit because they didn’t explain their answer correctly. Whereas many adults learned math through rote memorization, Common Core requires that students have a deeper understanding of the concepts behind mathematical functions. Thinking of 5 x 3 as, literally, “five groups of three” will help students as they advance to more complicated math and as they learn how to divide. As another piece on the same problem points out, “the points didn’t come off because the answer was wrong. The points came off because the process the student was using won’t be helpful in the future.” By helping students grasp the mechanics behind numbers and functions through multiple approaches, 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.”

On Our Reading List:

New York Times“Obama Administration Calls for Limits on Testing in Schools”: On Saturday, the Obama Administration called for a cap on assessments so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. The administration called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes ESEA. Some who agreed that over testing has become an issues also cautioned to not “throw out the No.2 pencils with the bath water… [T]ests can be a powerful tool for schools to identify weaknesses and direct resources.”

Chalkbeat New York“New York looks to tweak rollout of Common Core English Regents exam”: Under a proposal that will be voted on this week, High school seniors who failed the English Regents exam last year would get to retake an older and easier iteration of the exam — twice. “If approved, it would be the second time in two years that officials have hit the brakes on their plans to implement Common Core English exams in high school.” Decker argues that “under former Commissioner John King, the state moved faster than others to change its exams for younger students and its teacher evaluations, sparking a years-long backlash from parents and teachers.”

EdSource“Adora Svitak: Thoughts on ‘creating a different kind of education’”: Katherine Ellison’s interview with Adora Svitak, a leader in the field of education reform, discusses the impact of Common Core on students. When asked by Ellison if she believes that students are feeling the impact of “one of the biggest changes in 100 years,” Svitak responds, “I don’t think I’ve felt it. Mainly because as someone who’s gone to a wealthy suburban high school, a lot of our classroom instruction was probably up to par if not exceeding the standards that were laid out for our grade level. I think it (the impact of the Common Core) is most being felt by students in schools that have been under-performing.”