News You Can Use:

US News & World Report, “A High Point Among Low Scores”: NAEP Score Reports were released on Wednesday, and Washington, D.C. stands out for having student scores that went up in both 2013 and 2015. “By embracing bold reforms like paying all teachers like professionals, providing universal preschool and ending politically driven wars related to standards so educators can focus on effective curricula instead of fearing that the system will be upended, all jurisdictions could begin to realize the sustained and substantial gains our students so desperately need.” While some scores did not rise as much as hoped, overall, scores are trending upwards from the 1990’s.

What It Means: As stated by Karen Nussle, “Many states have been, and continue to be, in a major state of transformation in education – three quarters of states only began fully implementing higher standards barely a year ago; the vast majority of states are focused on supporting teachers in developing new curriculum to meet those standards; and almost every state is working to implement new, 21st Century tests to measure student progress.” In spite of this transition, the District of Columbia shows that levels of student preparedness and skills to succeed after high school can continue to increase. The fact that NAEP scores improved in both 2013 and 2015 is evidence that maintaining rigorous education standards is working to ensure that all students are getting on track to be college- and career-ready.

Correcting the Record:

Washington Examiner, “Scholar Blames Common Core Tests for Educational Decline”: Russ Whitehurst, a Senior Fellow at Brookings, stated that American students are regressing in math and that Common Core State Standards are to blame. “States whose students took Common Core tests in the 2014 to 2015 school year scored worse on the Nation’s Report Card in data released Wednesday, according to Whitehurst.” He went on to state that, “The expected score for 2015 would have been 287 (rounded). Instead, the average score fell from 285 points in 2013 to 282 in 2015.”

Where They Went Wrong: Prior to the release of NAEP scores, many experts reminded readers that tying NAEP scores to particular policies is a “misuse of NAEP data.” In the beginning of his post, Whitehurst says that the expected scores he uses were based on the assumption of business as usual in our schools, ignoring the transitions states, districts and schools have been undertaking (See Karen Nussle’s memo for more on this). Furthermore, Whitehurst himself admits that, “This analysis is not causal, and the modest correlation suggests that more is going on than disruptions in instruction associated with the rollout of a new assessment system.” By his own admission, his analysis cannot be used to “blame Common Core,” as the misleading headline suggests.

On Our Reading List:

Bloomberg, “Rigging the Test Against Common Core”: Five years after a majority of states implemented the Common Core State Standards, the first meaningful assessment scores are coming in. “Contrary to the negative reactions from dismayed parents, frightened teachers’ unions and conservatives wary of big government, Common Core is off to a promising start. The important thing now is that detractors not be allowed to twist the narrative to push states to drop the standards or to make it easier for parents and districts to opt out of testing.”

Carolina Journal Online, “NAEP Scores and Common Core”: North Carolina experienced notable gains and minor losses across the different grade levels and subjects, according to data released Wednesday. “This year, North Carolina’s average fourth-grade math score, while higher than the national average, was not significantly different than the 2013 score. There was a significant three-point drop in the state’s average eighth-grade math score compared to two years ago.”

The Chicago Daily Herald, “ACT vs. PARCC: Which test shows if high schoolers are ready for college?”: Illinois educators and officials are debating which exam best gauges student readiness for college, the ACT or PARCC. While Illinois ACT results from this year suggest that about 46 percent of students are meeting expectations for college rigor, the PARCC exam shows that roughly 70 percent did not meet expectations. “The disconnect between the two test results is confusing, yet not entirely unexpected as state education officials have been warning student scores will be low in this first year of a new test.”