News You Can Use:

Good Morning America, “New Way Parents Can Help Kids with Homework:” This morning, Good Morning America highlighted, telling parents that the website helps parents “find support online for homework.” National PTA President Laura Bay noted that “education has never just stayed the same for years and years” and that “there’s been a lot changes with the standards.” Courtney Winberry, mother of 7-year-old Avery, said that “it’s been years” since she and her husband have done second-grade math “and the methods are changing.” She called “a wonderful tool” that helps “ease the parenting frustrations.”

What It Means: Recognizing that teaching methods change from generation to generation, gives parents videos, tips and guides to assist their children with math and English homework. The site is aligned with the framework established by the Common Core State Standards, and the resources on the site gives parents across the country the assistance they need to help their children succeed.

US News & World Report, “Don’t Hate the Tests”: While students and parents have legitimate concerns about over testing, high-quality assessments work to improve teaching and learning, writes Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “As states roll out the Common Core Standards, schools and districts should do more to support better testing practices and programs that align to the new standards,” the piece states. “Test-based approaches to learning appear to be particularly important for individuals from low-income backgrounds.” Clear data from tests and quizzes inform instruction and ensure students are on track to graduate prepared for college or a career. Exams aligned to Common Core State Standards “do a much better job measuring important skills like critical thinking.” As one teacher puts it, “we are holding people accountable for their learning.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are one of the strongest tools teachers and parents have to measure student development and to identify and address learning needs. For minority and low-income communities, that information is especially important. This spring, 12 civil rights groups issued a statement calling data from student assessments necessary for equity in the classroom. As Karen Nussle explains, tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards finally measure to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college, and “for parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.” Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute agrees: “Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests.”



Correcting the Record:

Sacramento Bee, “Poor Students Lose Ground with Common Core Testing”: Results from the first round of assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards in California indicate that low-income students and students of color met proficiency benchmarks at levels 2.5 times lower than wealthier students. “The divide grew much wider under the state’s new testing system” even while all students “fared worse,” the article reports. It goes on to say the “results paint an accurate picture of the disparity between the college and career preparedness of low-income and minority students and the rest of the state’s students.” “This test is absolutely a call to action to have policymakers, civil rights leaders and educators working together to close the achievement gap,” says Ryan Smith, executive director of Education Trust-West. “Now that we know a little more, we can better prepare students,” adds Kathryn Ferreira, a California principal.

Where They Went Wrong: The article implies assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards are responsible for the fall in scores among minority and low-income students. In fact, the tests reveal achievement gaps that emerged because students were held to low and inconsistent academic expectations. As Karen Nussle wrote this month, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do,” and “for parents and teachers that should come as a welcome change.” The article does reflect that Common Core State Standards and high quality assessments, implemented well, will help narrow achievement gaps by ensuring all students are held to expectations that fully prepare them for college and career.

EdSource, “Reardon: ‘Both Schools and Larger Social Inequities Play Role in Achievement Gap’”: Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, said in a Q&A that he “wouldn’t venture to predict at this point” whether the Common Core State Standards will make a measurable impact on closing achievement gaps. He continued to describe the conflicting arguments about the standards: one “argument is that it raises expectations” while giving “advantaged resources” that will “widen inequality;” another argument is that the standards will narrow gaps “because it will put pressure on schools to move away from drill and kill” and a focus on testing preparation. However, he also commented that the Common Core “moved the bar higher” for a wider group of students, making it appear that that “the differences look bigger.” He did caution that comparisons by the media between previous test results and the ones from aligned assessments are not accurate.

Where They Went Wrong: Reardon’s analysis misses the point that assessment results are just one measure of student achievement. The states that were among the early adopters of Common Core are seeing improvements in student learning progress and better academic outcomes through a consistent effort to implement higher quality and higher rigor standards. The first year of aligned assessments serves as a baseline against which to compare future results. While the issues of poverty and inequality are much larger issue than can be solved with better academic standards, the Common Core sets all students on the path to getting the tools they need to succeed in school and to be successful in life.



On Our Reading List:

New Hampshire Union Leader, “No Smarter Balanced Test Results until November 12”: New Hampshire education officials announced results from Smarter Balanced tests administered for the first time this spring will be sent out November 12, though districts have the scores in hand now. “We certainly believe transparency is essential, however, we can’t release the data until it is complete, has been verified, and is accurate,” said Paul Leather, the state’s deputy education commissioner. The Union Leader and Banfield have submitted right-to-know requests for the results, and Banfield is seeking access to communication between Education Commissioner Virginia Barry and local superintendents about the scores. In July, Barry said results would be available in the second week of October.

Richmond Pal-Item, “Face Reality of School Test Results”: Picking up on a recent USA Today op-ed by Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, the editorial board agrees that high-quality assessments are necessary to give parents accurate information about their child’s educational progress. “Indiana is one of the few states that chose to walk away from Common Core,” the piece states, noting the initiative is not a driven by the federal government. “Indiana this year struggled to create its own standards and its own standardized test…the issue evolved into whether Indiana should count the result of its testing, or not…[Petrilli] argues that Common Core should help to boost college readiness by eventually raising expectations. Let’s hope the same is true for Indiana schools, even as new standards prove challenging.”

Boston Globe, “Boston Superintendent Wants Less Testing, Broader Assessments”: In a meeting with the editorial board, Boston Public Schools superintendent Tommy Chang said the district is moving away from predictive standardized tests, like the MCAS, saying they are not a good measure of reasoning skills. “Multiple-choice is not a performance,” Chang said. “Writing an essay is a performance. Having a debate in class is a performance. Being able to read a piece of text and make an argument based on the text – that’s a performance.” He added that PARCC exams are “far more robust at assessing critical thinking for our kids.”

Louisville Courier-Journal, “Kentucky Names Next Education Commissioner”: On Wednesday, the Kentucky Board of Education voted unanimously to offer Stephen Pruitt the position of state education commissioner. Pruitt, a senior vice president at Achieve, an independent education advocacy organization, says he plans to attend the Board’s October 6 meeting to approve his employment contract. “I’ve long admired the dedication to education that Kentucky has had,” Pruitt said in an interview Wednesday. “I just couldn’t say no.” “I’m a big believer in setting high standards,” Pruitt added. At Achieve, Pruitt helped develop the Next Generation Science Standards., “Southern Bergen County Superintendents, Administrators React to PARCC Changes”: The PARCC test given to students in Southern Bergen County, NJ, will make it “a much more user-friendly model,” according to Rutherford School District Superintendent Jack Hurley. Hurley also said he “did not understand” the “uproar” from the opt-out movement since the state has had standardized testing for 30 years. “Inclusion of a national standard to measure students may be new, but the concept is still the same,” the article noted.

Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin Needs Bridges, Not More Walls”: The editorial board argues that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent decision to drop out of the presidential campaign gives him the chance to “reconnect, refocus on state priorities and, instead of building walls, try to extend more bridges across the gaping partisan divide here.” Among the specific examples given, the piece calls for Walker to “drop his vague opposition to higher standards for public schools, called the Common Core” and tell “the GOP fringe” to move on from “imaginary threat[s] and distraction[s] from the real challenges facing our public schools.”