News You Can Use:

Reuters, “Candidates Slam Common Core, but Education Standards Take Root”: Even while some Republican leaders continue to lament Common Core State Standards, “in the classroom, the multi-state guidelines increasingly look like they’re here to stay.” “Despite years of effort, Common Core’s critics have largely failed to repeal the standards, which aim to emphasize critical thinking over rote memorization,” the article reports. “Teachers have also become vocal Common Core backers, lobbying parents and politicians to keep the new system in place.” The two states that have successfully “rolled back” the standards have replaced them with nearly identical benchmarks. “In most places, the political battle has been won by the defenders of the Common Core,” explains Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute. The standards have been caught up in a backlash against standardized testing, but those frustrations “predate Common Core by more than a decade.” “We’ve seen Common Core hold pretty true across the country,” adds Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

What It Means: Despite years of targeted attacks, states overwhelmingly continue to implement Common Core State Standards. Of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards, only Oklahoma has replaced them with an explicitly different set of standards. One reason states are sticking with the Common Core, Karen Nussle explains, 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. “It is virtually impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that both bear no resemblance to Common Core, and adequately prepare students for college and careers.”

Fresno Bee, “Common Core Sets the Bar Higher”: California’s results from assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards indicate schools and students “have their work cut out for them,” but the “picture is likely to brighten.” A third of California students met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks in math, and 44 percent met or exceeded those for English language arts. The scores also show “breathtaking” achievement gaps. “The good news is, this first set of results is not remotely the whole story; it’s more like the weigh-in on Day 1 with a personal trainer,” the editorial states. “These numbers are a baseline, and a lot of those ‘below standard’ scores are probably closer than they appear to the goal…Common Core is a major upgrade from past learning standards; the aim is no longer mere ‘proficiency,’ whatever that means, but the critical thinking necessary for college coursework and 21st century jobs. Our first data point is in. Now we wait, and work, and try to keep our school districts on course and stable.”

What It Means: As the editorial stresses, assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards reset the baseline of student achievement. Instead of inflating performance metrics, states are finally measuring students against levels that truly reflect how well prepared they are for high levels of learning, and ultimately to step into college or a career. The Honesty Gap analysis underscored that for a long time states were moving in the opposite direction, resulting in dishonest information for parents and teachers. Karen Nussle explains, “States have weighed the evidence, seen past the rhetoric, and overwhelmingly embraced high, comparable education standards…States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do in college or a career.” And as they stick with these efforts, they will likely see improvements, as states leading the way have.

Collaborative for Student Success, “Cautionary Lessons from Oklahoma’s Decision to Repeal Common Core”: Five years after states led development of and voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards, only one state, Oklahoma, has successfully moved to repeal and replace the standards with an explicitly distinct set of guidelines. The Collaborative for Student Success’ case study examines the impact of that decision. “Oklahoma has taken a step backwards, reverting to an old set of demonstrably inferior education standards and setting schools on a rocky path of disruption, uncertainty and internal turmoil,” the paper finds. Noting Gov. Mary Fallin supported the Common Core, even issuing an executive order to protect local education control under the standards, before caving to political pressure, the case study finds that the decision created “chaos” in classrooms, according to teachers; provided inadequate time for officials to draft new standards; could cost as much as $125 million in total; and invites greater politicization of state education issues by giving politicians control of the state’s standards. The result, the report concludes, is Oklahoma “has forfeited its ability to compare its educational progress to most of its counterparts across the country,” and “become a true ‘poster child,’ demonstrating exactly why states need high, consistent education standards” for all students.

What It Means: Oklahoma’s decision to repeal the Common Core should serve as a cautionary lesson for other states considering similar measures. Whereas states leading implementation efforts have demonstrated steady academic improvements, Oklahoma lawmakers have created uncertainty for students and teachers, lost the ability to measure progress against other states, and subjected classrooms to politicization. While most states are moving forward with the Common Core, the ongoing repercussions of repeal in Oklahoma should provide evidence of the dangers of caving to political pressure.


Correcting the Record:

Westchester Journal News, “Opt-Out Movement Is Justified”: Anthony Cardinale, a third-grade teacher in New York, writes that parent’s decisions to opt students out of state tests is both justified and informed. “Supporting the opt-out movement is not unethical. Remaining silent is,” Cardinale says. “Parents should be informed when their children are being tested with material four years above grade level expectations. They should know that developmental experts have not reviewed the Common Core Standards…But it doesn’t have to be this way. Commissioner Elia can begin to restore integrity to New York’s testing program by guaranteeing parents that exams will be written using grade-level material based on the Fry Readability Formula. All scores should be provided to parents in raw form and as a percentage. All test passages and questions must also be made public so every New Yorker can verify that Elia has kept her word.” The letter concludes, “Parents deserve transparency. If Gov. Cuomo and Commissioner Elia won’t provide it, educators will.”

Where They Went Wrong: Opting students out of annual assessments that are meant to measure their progress against high standards and provide parent and teachers with valuable information about their learning is harmful to all students. High-quality assessments provide parents and teachers with important, accurate information about how well students are developing the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at high levels of learning, and to ultimately graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. Unlike old tests, exams aligned to Common Core State Standards will mitigate time devoted to test preparation, because students are asked to apply what they know, rather than fill in multiple choice bubbles. As experts like Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli point out, while the results of new assessments “may come as a shock to many,” parents “should not shoot the messenger.”

Washington Post, “In Mass., a push to let voters weigh in on the Common Core State Standards”: The article notes, “Critics of the Common Core State Standards in Massachusetts are trying to get the increasingly controversial academic benchmarks on the 2016 state ballot, the first time voters would decide whether to keep the K-12 math and reading standards.” Opponents of the Common Core in Massachusetts have argued that the people of Massachusetts were not given a voice in the adoption of the standards, and Donna Colorio, chair of End Common Core MA, said the Common Core is a “weak replacement” for the previous Massachusetts standards.

Where They Went Wrong: The ballot measure would cause Massachusetts – a state known for its rigorous standards – to retreat from the high expectations of the Common Core. It would undo the hard work that educators have undertaken to ensure that all students are college- and career-ready once they graduate from high school, and set Massachusetts back to decade-old standards last used in 2010. Claims that the people of Massachusetts were not heard during the process of adopting the Common Core State Standards are untrue. While the state’s previous standards were some of the best in the country, Massachusetts’ State Board of Education undertook extensive analysis, outreach to stakeholders and discussion during a full-year review before deciding that the Common Core State Standards were preferable to their old standards. Over 50 Massachusetts educators were involved in developing the standards, and in June of 2010, the State Department posted the Common Core drafts, and launched a survey to solicit public commentary on the standards. In the article, CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich noted that the ballot initiative seems like a “political stunt,” and the Collaborative’s Karen Nussle cautioned that, “now is not the time for Massachusetts to revert to outdated standards for their students.”


On Our Reading List:

Times Picayune, “Chas Roemer Won’t Run for Re-Election to Louisiana School Board”: Chas Roemer, president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, announced Wednesday he will not run for a third term. Roemer has been a key ally of State Superintendent John White in advocating to continue implementation of Common Core State Standards, the article notes. Roemer did not cite a reason for not seeking a third term, but said, “We have fought for more choice for parents, more local control, not less, more transparency through letter grades and consistently higher standards combined with more accountability.”

NPR Buffalo 88.7, “New York State Education Commissioner Says Common Core Testing Is under Review”: MaryEllen Elia, New York’s education commissioner, assured parents during a stop at Sweet Home High School on Wednesday that the state is reviewing its Common Core-aligned student assessments. “We are reviewing the length of the exam,” Elia said. “Secondly, I’m not sure if parents understand that if teachers have data on how well their third grader did, that it can help them to be able to improve on how they teach…In the context of the assessments, we are reviewing assessments. We’ve got a new company coming in and we are addressing all the issues that I think are important.” Elia added, “We’ve got to raise the standards…Kids have to shift the way they approach an assessment and they have to think about it differently.”