News You Can Use:

Teaching Channel, “Literacy in the Digital Age”: In a blog series, Student Achievement Partners outlines digital literacy tools educators are using to engage students and meet the learning goals set by the Common Core. “The digital revolution and Common Core State Standards have provided an unprecedented opportunity for schools to redefine curriculum, instruction, and assessment in the modern classroom,” Steve Figurelli and Natalie Franzi write. “Tools alone aren’t the solution; however, digital tools, implemented with precision and purpose, can be transformative.” “Today, content is at our fingertips. Students no longer need to go to school to ‘sit and get.’ Instead, students need school to help them make sense of the information surrounding them.” Highlighting resources like effective writing tools, useful websites, and programs that “demystify text,” the authors provide several practical recommendations for educators based on feedback from the classroom. Digital resources promote “efficiency and efficacy,” the authors say, and “Common Core Standards have broken down proverbial walls between classrooms and schools.”

What It Means: Common Core State Standards’ increased emphasis on deep content understanding has transformed classroom learning into a hands-on experience. Students are taking part in activities such as exploring relevant current events, engaging in debate, blogging and interactive learning. Resources highlighted by the Literacy in the Digital Age blogs show how teachers are using these developments to transform instruction, engage more students in high level learning and break down learning barriers. A Scholastic study last year found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and the comparability of the standards enables teachers to share and build on their counterparts’ success in unlocking student potential.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Missouri: Don’t Shoot the Messenger”: Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio write that five years after development and voluntary adoption of the Common Core State Standards, states like Missouri have reached a “critical milestone” in the effort to set “dramatically higher expectations for students.” “Missouri parents just received for the first time their children’s scores on new tests aligned to the standards,” the piece says. While the results were “sobering,” parents and taxpayers “deserve to know if their kids are learning.” For a long time states “juked the stats” by setting a low bar for proficiency. While it appeared most students were on track to succeed at college, “it was a lie.” Nearly two-thirds of Missouri students at community colleges require remediation each year. “The most important step to fixing this problem is to stop lying to ourselves,” and ensure students are on a true path of college- and career-readiness. “The Common Core should help to boost college readiness – and college completion – by significantly raising expectations, starting in kindergarten….This is a big shift, and a painful one, from the Lake Wobegon days…But parents and taxpayers should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests.”

What It Means: Working to ensure that parents across the country understand the importance of the new assessments, Petrilli and Pondiscio make a strong case that high-quality student assessments are a necessary step to ensure parents get an honest evaluation of how well their child is developing the skills and knowledge to succeed at high levels of learning, and ultimately to graduate high school college- and career-ready. For a long time, states systematically lowered the bar instead of adequately helping students to levels of college- and career-readiness. By holding students to higher expectations, states are taking the difficult step of improving student preparedness. In states that adopted the Common Core State Standards and tougher assessments early, like Kentucky and Tennessee, schools have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.


Correcting the Record:

Times-Picayune, “David Vitter Courts Anti-Common Core Voters with New Television Ad”: U.S. Senator David Vitter is courting anti-Common Core voters in his bid for Louisiana’s governor seat in a new television ad. As recently as last year, Sen. Vitter said he “strongly supported” Common Core State Standards. “It’s called Common Core, part of Washington’s dangerous plan to take over how we educate our kids,” Sen. Vitter says in the ad. “As governor I’ll cut the amount spent on education bureaucracy…And I’ll put parents back in charge. That’s not Common Core. It’s common sense.” Two of the three other gubernatorial candidates, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and State Rep. John Bel Edwards, also oppose Common Core State Standards. But the article notes, the issue presents a “quandary” for elected officials, with pro-business groups strongly endorsing them but some “rank-and-file conservatives” opposing them.

Where They Went Wrong: While the Common Core may still be a rallying cry for a small but vocal subset of conservatives, the public overwhelmingly supports college- and career-ready standards and increased school accountability. For Sen. Vitter, who only a short time ago supported the Common Core, his message underscores a thinly veiled ploy to cater to a shrinking group of activists. As more facts bring to light the misleading claims leveled against the standards, more voters are likely to see past Sen. Vitter’s position and support leaders with the conviction to stand up for higher education standards.


On Our Reading List:

Orlando Sentinel“FSA Swapped for National Tests? SBOE Chairman Says It Won’t Work”: Marva Johnson, chairman of the Florida Board of Education, joined with State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart in opposing Seminole County School District’s push to replace the state’s student exam with a national alternative like the SAT. “The Florida Standards are unique to our state, and all students are required to take the Florida Standards Assessment,” Johnson wrote Friday. “There are no provisions in statute for any other assessment to be used as it would not be able to measure student achievement accurately…we are statutorily required to assess our students based on the same academic content standards in which they are instructed.” Politico reports that Tuesday is the deadline for third-party review of the Florida Standards Assessments, and state lawmakers say American Institutes for Research, which developed the exams, should be held liable if they are deemed invalid.

Brookings Institute, “The Complicated Politics of National Standards: Even More Sources of Opposition”: The push for high, comparable education standards has reignited “long-standing ideological debates about multiculturalism,” like how American history is taught and whether political or religious perspectives will get transfused into curricular material. “In reality, the standards outline the essential skills and information that students should know in math and language arts but do not mandate a particular curriculum for delivering instruction,” the piece notes, even while the public has been reticent to accept that. “This is another area that public misperception is driving down support for the Core.” Opposition themes include anti-testing backlash, concerns whether students can meet a higher bar, teacher evaluations, and problems with implementation.

West Virginia Metro News, “Morgantown Will Host First Common Core Town Hall Tuesday”: West Virginia education officials will host the first in a series of statewide town hall meetings today in Morgantown, WV, to discuss the state’s Common Core-aligned Next Generation Standards. Representatives of the State Board of Education are gathering input as part of a review of West Virginia’s education standards. “I’d rather put those millions of dollars into education, into teachers, into what is necessary to move us ahead,” said former Gov. Bob Wise of considerations to replace the standards. “We’ve got steps in place, already in place and have been, to do something about it and now the key is to watch and see whether or not we begin to see improvement.”