News You Can Use:

The Seventy-Four, “Business Leaders Know Common Core Is Essential to America’s Workforce”: The past school year was an “overwhelming success” for high education standards and students, writes Cheryl Oldham, vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Education and Workforce. Contrary to the popular narrative, “teachers are using the Common Core State Standards (or their equivalent in some states) in classrooms from coast to coast, and students are beginning to reap the benefits,” Oldham says. “Students are exceeding expectations in places like West Virginia, Missouri, Oregon and Washington…These are measurable successes that we can point to as evidence that we are on the right track.” Oldham adds that scores from new assessments aren’t lower, “they are more accurate.” Noting states raised expectations, the piece says, “What good is it to raise the bar if you don’t have an accurate way to measure student achievement?…Are these tests more challenging than those in the past? Yes. Will scores appear lower than they were in the past? Yes. Will parents be anxious and concerned that their children aren’t as smart as they thought? Yes. Nonetheless, everything is going to be fine.” Oldham ends, “Our country must educate more people to higher levels than ever before if we are to remain globally competitive. The good news is that it is happening.”

What It Means: The Honesty Gap analysis made clear that for a long time states systematically lowered the bar instead of being clear with parents about how well students were being prepared for college and career. As Oldham points out, most have begun to address the Honesty Gap by adopting rigorous education standards and high-quality assessments. These results provide better information about how well students are developing the skills they need to succeed at higher levels of learning and ultimately in college or a career. Like Oldham, Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli says parents shouldn’t “shoot the messenger” because they are finally getting honest information, which will ultimately empower more students to graduate college- and career-ready.

Chicago Tribune, “A-PARCC-alypse Now: Dismal but Honest Results from New Statewide Test”: While Illinois’ initial results on PARCC assessments were “dismal” – only 17 percent of high school students met or exceeded expectations in math, and only 38 percent in English – parents and policymakers should stay the course, the editorial board writes. Noting that old tests inflated results, “fooling many parents into thinking their children were doing just fine,” the piece says PARCC exams “give a more honest, accurate gauge of how well students are prepared for the next grade level, for college, for life.” “So we will now have a baseline assessment, on a test that can’t be dumbed down to camouflage how well students are learning. In time, and if Illinois and other states stay the course, PARCC will help to show if Illinois is closing the achievement gap between minority and white students, if it is doing a better job of preparing students relative to other states. The test should deliver a huge trove of actionable information to teachers. They’ll be better able to help students solve problems, think critically and write coherently, all demands of the test.” The editorial concludes that “angst about PARCC” may grow, but “there’s good reason to stay with this, to have the best assessment possible of how our students are doing, so they can do better, and we can do better by them.”

What It Means: The results from states’ first round of assessments aligned to higher education standards may be sobering, but parents are finally getting honest information about how well their children are developing the skills they need to ultimately graduate high school ready for college and careers. As Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli explains, “parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests. They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”

South Coast Today, “Massachusetts Should Adopt PARCC”: PARCC assessments are “about education, not politics,” the editorial board writes, and policymakers in Massachusetts should adopt the tests to ensure the state’s education standards prepare students for success in college and careers. “It is critical for Massachusetts residents and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education – especially the board – to filter out the politics,” the editorial says. “As effective as MCAS has been in raising student performance compared to other states, the initial impetus for Common Core – lack of readiness for post-secondary education and the workforce – remains an issue…The number of students who can’t begin pursuit of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree without remedial courses is staggering…Common Core is designed specifically to improve students’ critical thinking and better prepare them for the rigors of college and careers.” Noting that the standards have had early success, including broad support among state educators, the editorial concludes: “We strongly urge the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to replace MCAS with the PARCC test, and to continue the implementation of Common Core…Let’s set the bar higher.”

What It Means: The editorial makes a strong case that even while Massachusetts boasted some of the strongest education standards and assessments, the Common Core and PARCC represent a step up even further. By setting rigorous, consistent learning goals, Common Core State Standards guide classroom instruction to ensure that more students will graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. High-quality assessments like PARCC provide parents and teachers with honest information about how well students are developing these skills, helping to identify and address learning needs and inform instruction. A recent Teach Plus study found that 72 percent of Massachusetts teachers polled say PARCC tests are better than the MCAS.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “It’s Time to Stop Bashing Common Core”: Even while confusing “new math” problems have generated a lot of buzz, “those who believe we should abandon Common Core’s math fail to realize the ‘old way’ just isn’t working,” says Devon Roberson, a Missouri resident. “The goal of Common Core’s math is to teach students ‘number sense,’ which is the ability to notice the relationship between numbers and how they fit together…Most of our evidence shows this will work and, in some cases, already is.” While there are legitimate concerns about Common Core implementation, Roberson says, “Change is hard, but it is also necessary. There are going to be bumps in the road, but that’s no reason to turn the car around.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional math techniques, Common Core State Standards emphasize multiple approaches to help students develop a stronger understanding of numbers and math functions. By developing conceptual understanding at early grade levels, the standards ensure more students have a firm grasp of the basic building blocks necessary to tackle higher level material. A Scholastic study last fall found two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and more than eight in ten remain enthusiastic about implementation.


Correcting the Record:

WND, “Schools Nabbed for Hiding Common Core Detail”: A lawsuit in California that alleges the Walnut Valley Unified School Districts declined to tell parents about their right to opt students out of state tests is the latest indictment of Common Core State Standards, writes Bob Unruh. Unruh calls the Common Core a “federal initiative” that “is being discontinued and disassembled in some states already,” and quotes Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus: “The implementation of Common Core continues to be a disaster, and many parents want no part of it. Parents have the right and responsibility to do what is in their children’s best interests, and California school districts have the legal obligation to make sure parents know their options.” The piece says some students were threatened with the loss of parking and other privileges if they refused to participate in state testing.

Where They Went Wrong: Unruh mischaracterizes both the lawsuit in California, and even more directly, the Common Core State Standards. The lawsuit is about parents’ rights to opt their children out of state tests, not to opt-out of the Common Core, as Unruh says. Unruh also attacks the Common Core as a federal program, even while experts and objective analysis agree that the standards were developed by state leaders and voluntarily adopted by states. Contrary to Unruh’s claims, parents have every reason to embrace the push for higher education standards and better assessments. As Karen Nussle explains, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do,” and for “parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”


On Our Reading List:

Washington Post, “In One Chart, the Rules in All 50 States about Opting Kids Out of Standardized Tests”: The National Association of State Boards of Education has compiled the rules in each state for opting students out of standardized tests. The information is available in a single chart on the Washington Post site and available here. The survey finds 34 states and the District of Columbia require all students to take state tests; two states (CA,CO) permit opt outs completely, and Oregon will do so in 2016; five states (ME, MN, OK, NE, WA) allow testing refusal but do not allow opt outs; and four states (ID, NV, MT, SD) allow local districts to decide opt-out policies.

Governing Magazine, “Making the Most of Common Core”: In the first year of assessments aligned to college- and career-ready education standards “it is particularly important to view the results within an appropriate context, linked to other metrics,” write Joshua Starr, CEO of PDK International, and Elaine Weiss, coordinator of the Broader Bolder Approach to Education. The authors pose five questions to “frame the assessments in terms of both critical inputs and other, relevant outcomes that reflect how well schools are meeting all students’ needs.” They include: How well are teachers prepared to teach Common Core content? How well do school leadership and other facets of the school support strong, deep instruction? To what extent does the school comprehensively address student needs? How well are parents engaged as education partners? And, how do district and state policies support or limit Common Core success?

Chalkbeat Tennessee, “State Board of Education Begins In-Depth Review of Science Standards”: The Tennessee Board of Education announced Friday a review of proposed education standards for science, similar to a six-month review of the state’s Common Core standards for math and English language arts that began earlier this year. Like the Common Core review, residents are invited to review the standards online and submit input, which will then be considered by state education officials. The Board also plans to launch a review of state social studies standards in January, two years earlier than required.