News You Can Use:

CBN News, “Loving the Lord with All Your Mind”: This weekend millions of Latino evangelicals nationwide will join together for Education Sunday, a day of prayer to encourage churches to play a greater role in education. More than 2,500 churches are expected to participate. In the interview with CBN News, Dr. Andrea Ramirez, executive director of the Faith & Leadership Coalition, says, “We want to ensure every child receives a quality education, regardless of zip code, income or race…We invite the whole body of Christ to join us as we lift up all of our students and stand in the gap for them to ensure every child receives a quality education.” Speaking of this year’s theme, “Loving the Lord with All Your Mind,” Dr. Ramirez says churches can support educators and schools in “countless ways.” “We’re able to serve our local communities in unique ways that are distinct to what their needs are.” More information is available at the Faith & Education Coalition website.

What It Means: Spiritual and civil rights leaders have long advocated the importance of higher education standards and high-quality assessments to ensure students of all backgrounds have access to quality education. On Education Sunday, millions of believers will join the call to raise classroom expectations to levels that fully prepare all students to succeed at high levels of learning. As Dr. Ramirez writes, “We are raising the standards to equip the children in our congregations and our communities to love the Lord with all their minds.”

Huffington Post, “Rising Tides: Building a Better New Orleans for Our Students”: In the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans students have “risen to the challenge,” writes Erika McConduit-Diggs, president of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. “Over the last decade, our high school graduation rates have surpassed state graduation rates, and student proficiency on state exams has nearly doubled,” Diggs says. “The persistence of the Crescent City’s students should inspire us all to meet the challenges that still lie ahead, including the work that remains to ensure college readiness and completion for every student.” Calling Common Core State Standards the “right preventative steps” to curb low college-readiness rates, McConduit-Diggs says higher standards will help close achievement gaps and provide better information for parents. “We know that a successful transition to these new standards will take a collective effort, and Louisiana is managing this transition the right way…Let’s not turn back on our students, or on students anywhere in the nation. Higher standards lead to higher expectations and higher outcomes. Expect nothing less from our students by preparing them accordingly.”

What It Means: As McConduit-Diggs explains well, setting higher expectations for students is not easy, but it’s necessary to ensure more students graduate college- and career-ready. By setting rigorous learning goals for all students, Common Core State Standards and high-quality assessments give parents better assurance that when their child meets proficiency benchmarks they are truly prepared for higher levels of learning. And if they fall short, that they can get the support they need to get back on track.

Tulane University, “What Common Core Means for New Orleans and Louisiana”: A study from the Cowen Institute for Public Education at Tulane University urges state lawmakers, educators and policymakers to remain committed to Common Core State Standards. “New Orleans and Louisiana have long suffered from low academic standards,” says Patrick Sims, a senior policy analyst. “It’s important that we set higher academic expectations so that the state’s youth are prepared to succeed.” An infographic accompanying the report explains the standards were developed to “raise the proficiency bar for students,” that was set too low by most states. Louisiana ranked 48th in the country in math on the latest NAEP tests.

What It Means: The Cowen Institute report reaffirms the importance of rigorous classroom expectations to achieve better student outcomes, both in Louisiana and across the country. Like the Honesty Gap, the report notes that for a long time states inflated proficiency scores, giving parents a misleading picture of student readiness. Fortunately, most states have begun to right the problem by adopting higher education standards and high-quality assessments. The report makes clear that going back on these efforts would put students at a disadvantage.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Slightly Unprepared”: The editorial board writes that, unfortunately for students, “adults and politics” got in the way of implementation of Common Core State Standards, disrupting states’ ability to compare progress. “The whole idea of Common Core and its related tests was to allow parents, politicians, taxpayers and even leaders in education to see how states compare when their kids are tested,” the piece notes. “Unfortunately, slightly unprepared might be an all-too-accurate description of too many high school students in the years to come. But will they know it?… Next year [Arkansas students] will take the third different test in three years. Which is no way to compare how (or if) the kids are learning…It’s going to be easier for states to lower the bar to make themselves look good…And our kids don’t deserve that.”

What It Means: Comparable education standards and assessments create greater accountability by allowing states to measure how well their schools are preparing students relative to other states and districts. More than half of states now participate in the Smarter Balanced or PARCC testing consortia, providing an unprecedented level of comparability. Even states that have opted to develop their own tests have succeeded in raising the bar and measuring students against college- and career-ready levels. As Louisiana State Superintendent John White put it, “We have accomplished what we need to accomplish: states have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there is an honest baseline.”

Huntington Herald Dispatch, “Common Core Debate Comes to Huntington”: About 100 people submitted questions to a panel of teachers and education officials at a town hall meeting in Huntington, West Virginia on Thursday. The meeting was one of a series to discuss the state’s Common Core-aligned Next Generation Standards. Educators and administrators largely spoke in favor of the standards, the article reports. “The standards are goals,” said Kristin Sobotka, a ninth-grade English teacher. “How you reach those goals, that’s your curriculum. Every ninth-grade English teacher may find a different vehicle to get to those goals.” Barbara Zing, a high-school math teacher, added, “We’re focused on the standards. The goals we are setting for students in West Virginia, those are valid goals that will prepare them for the rest of their lives.” The State Department of Education is accepting public input as part of the ongoing review until September 30.

What It Means: The town hall meeting demonstrates the efforts states are undertaking to ensure Common Core State Standards meet their students’ needs, and the overwhelming support teachers continue to have for high education standards. Both underscore that the standards remain a state-led effort. Last fall, a Scholastic study found two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and states leading the way with implementation have achieved some of the biggest academic gains in the country. By implementing high, comparable education standards, states like West Virginia will ensure more students get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness.


Correcting the Record:

Wall Street Journal, “Cuomo Sets Common Core Review”: Citing parents’ frustrations with state testing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday he will launch a review of the state’s Common Core Standards implementation. Even while supporting the Common Core’s purpose, Gov. Cuomo said implementation was “deeply flawed.” “The current Common Core program in New York is not working and must be fixed,” he said in a release. “A growing chorus of experts have questioned the intelligence of [the State Education Department’s] Common Core program.” Gov. Cuomo called for an investigation similar to a study last year, which provided recommendations that have already been largely adopted by the state, Politico reports. In a statement, High Achievement New York noted, “Whatever implementation improvements are made as a result of Gov. Cuomo’s commission, New York must keep the Common Core Standards and assessments to ensure all children, no matter where they come from, have an equal chance at a bright future.”

Where They Went Wrong: With this announcement, Gov. Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to higher standards for New York’s students but wants to make sure that implementation of the standards is being done well. Gov. Cuomo’s announcement simply puts him in the same boat as other state leaders who want to ensure that Common Core State Standards meet their students’ needs. As Common Core State Standards have taken root in New York over the past four years, students have made steady gains in test scores, graduation rates have increased and educators are teaching deeper content levels.

Sacramento Bee, “Don’t Let State Hide Test Scores”: Ze’ev Wurman, an outspoken critic of the Common Core, accuses California education officials of blocking “the public from being able to compare the last 15 years of test results with the current Common Core results, obscuring the new low level of performance.” Calling state education officials “longtime bureaucrats” with a “second nature” of withholding information, Wurman adds their “behavior is all too similar to that of authoritarian governments that excel in hiding information from their people.”

Where They Went Wrong: Wurman’s argument wholly ignores the fact that the new assessments aligned to higher standards finally provide parents with accurate information about how well prepared their child really is. Wurman blames the California Department of Education for blocking the public from being able to compare the last 15 years of test results – but it was never the case that new test scores could be compared to older scores. High-quality exams, which were given for the first time in most states, are the latest chapter in the effort to establish a new baseline that achieves college- and career-readiness. As Karen Nussle wrote this week, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do in college or a career.”


On Our Reading List:

Atlanta Journal Constitution, “State Releases Milestone Results. As Predicted, Fewer Students Show Proficiency”: Columnist Maureen Downey reports that results from the first round of the Georgia Milestone assessments indicate smaller percentages of students achieved top scores because of the increased rigor, as expected. “These results show a lower level of student proficiency than Georgians are used to seeing, but that does not mean Georgia students know less or that teachers are not doing a great job – it means they’ve been asked to clear a higher bar,” State Superintendent Richard Woods explained. Citing the Honesty Gap analysis, the article notes that Georgia previously “had some of the lowest expectations for student achievement in the nation… Georgia Milestones aims to narrow that gap and send a consistent signal about student achievement both within the Georgia system (across grades and courses) and with external measures (such as NAEP, PSAT, SAT, and ACT).”

Daily Caller, “SAT Scores in the U.S. Are Collapsing”: SAT scores across the country are at their lowest point since the test was overhauled 10 years ago, College Board officials revealed on Thursday. The average score for the high-school class of 2015 was 1490 out of 2400, down seven points from the previous year. With a score of 1550 considered the threshold for college- and career-readiness, the average score indicates over half of high school seniors are underprepared for college-level work.