News You Can Use:

Politico New York, “Elia on New Common Core Poll: ‘We Cannot Go Backwards’”: In response to a Sienna Research Institute poll released Thursday that finds 40 percent of respondents in New York believe Common Core State Standards have worsened education, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said policymakers should not use the results to “go backwards.” “Most New Yorkers would agree that we should set the academic bar high for our students, and then provide the resources they need to clear that bar,” Elia explained. “Our students are lagging behind, and the global economy is growing more competitive every day.” This fall, the State Department of Education will launch a review of the standards, which will invite input from parents, teachers and administrators. “We’ll make necessary adjustments, but we cannot go backwards,” Elia added. “Our students need the skills and knowledge the higher standards demand to be successful after they graduate from high school. Change is always difficult, and change takes time, but this change is necessary.”

What It Means: Even while targeted attacks have eroded support for the Common Core brand, parents and educators continue to overwhelmingly support high education standards and better school accountability. As Elia urges, parents should not let misperceptions of the standards turn back the hard work that is happening in schools to implement these changes. New York has implemented assessments aligned to its Common Core standards, providing parents with honest information about their children’s development. Mike Petrilli explains that Common Core State Standards and related assessments “may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing—a standard that promises to end the lies and statistical games.” Parents “should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core.”

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, “MBAE Response to Preliminary PARCC Results”: The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), which re-launched its website this week, says preliminary results from student assessments administered this spring reaffirm the value of PARCC tests. “The PARCC results show that we are on the right track to maintain our national leadership in student performance,” writes Linda Noonan, the organization’s executive director. The MCAS results, also released this week, “confirm our deep concern that they are not an effective tool for assessing readiness for college and careers. Ninety-one percent of 10th graders scored proficient or advanced in English, but huge numbers of high school graduates need remedial classes when they reach college.” Noonan adds that PARCC exams are designed “to be a strong predictor of students’ readiness,” marking a step towards providing parents and educators with “the accurate information they need to help all students thrive.” “These results renew our confidence in the PARCC test. We are on our way to assuring that students here will compete, innovate and succeed in an increasingly global marketplace. PARCC is the critical yardstick that enables us to measure progress toward that essential goal.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are an important tool to give parents and teachers accurate information necessary to ensure that their students will be fully prepared for college and career. As Noonan explains, by measuring students against tougher expectations, PARCC exams give an honest evaluation of student readiness at each grade level, helping students get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness. A Teach Plus study this year found 72 percent of Massachusetts teachers believe PARCC exams are better than the MCAS test, which was administered before. Noonan explains that the PARCC exams are better in part because assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards measure the skills and knowledge students need to succeed at higher levels of learning, and ultimately in college or a career.


Correcting the Record:

EdSource, “Fullan: Achievement Gap an ‘Indicator that Right Strategies Are Not Being Used”: In an interview with EdSource Director Louis Freedberg, Michael Fullan, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, says results from assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards show “that the right strategies were not being used” in education reform efforts. “In my view the reforms…have been too driven by accountability and individual development, and not by the right strategies that we know work,” Fullan explains. “I personally don’t think the Common Core in itself is the longstanding answer… The fundamental solution is changing the quality of teaching, individually and teachers working together.” Fullan adds that “in your face” accountability has not worked and calls for standards “that encourage people to want to do something.” “The new accountability comes from having better specificity and better transparency, and then to act on results.”

Where They Went Wrong: By encouraging educators and schools to set a higher, consistent bar, Common Core State Standards ensure that more students will get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness – regardless of their race or ZIP code. High-quality tests like PARCC and Smarter Balanced provide better information about students’ true preparedness, enabling educators to not only identify learning needs, but to also individualize instruction to help all students succeed. In a Scholastic study last fall, 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 in implementation have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements in the country.


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The Seventy-Four, “Court Reminds GOP: ‘Obamacore’ Owes More to Reagan and Bush”: A federal judge’s ruling against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lawsuit to stop implementation of the Common Core deals a blow against “the entire fake storefront holding up Tea Party doctrine on the Common Core,” writes David Whitman, a contributing editor at Education Post. “That particular script depicts the Obama administration as coercing states to adopt the Common Core Standards, enabling the Obama administration to create a national curriculum or ‘Obamacore’ to take over what is taught in school,” the piece states. But the court’s decision “rejected every claim advanced by Jindal that the Obama administration had both violated the Tenth Amendment.” “Last week’s court ruling shows, the fictions perpetrated by GOP presidential candidates about the Common Core by Jindal, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee are not the rhetorical equivalent of rounding errors or modest fibs and exaggerations used to drive home a point,” Wexler writes. “They are peddling fabrications so inflammatory and audacious that they can only appear to obtain legitimacy if they are repeated over and over, amid widespread public confusion and uncertainty over the actual facts of what the Common Core Standards are, do, and don’t do.”

Hechinger Report, “Experts Predict the Opt-Out Movement Will Get Some of What It Wants”: A Whiteboard Advisors survey of education policy and political “insiders” finds that experts believe the opt-out movement will impact state legislatures but have little influence on federal policy. Forty-seven percent of respondents expect to see changes to federal law. By comparison, 70 percent think opt-outs will force states to rethink what tests they give and how they use the results. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe the opt-out movement will grow next year. “When people say No Child Left Behind or testing isn’t working, what they’re often saying is the tests and accountability system isn’t fair, is ineffective and isn’t credible,” says Brian Gong, senior associate at the Center for Assessment. “And if you think those things, just shortening the tests or eliminating tests won’t fix much because any amount of time spent on testing is bad.”

Washington Post, “Why Americans Can’t Write”: Many Americans are “lousy writers” – a 2011 nationwide test found only 24 percent of 8th and 12th grade students were proficient in writing and only three percent were advanced – because schools haven’t emphasized writing skills, says Natalie Wexler, chairperson of Writing Revolution. Common Core State Standards “attempt to address this deficit” by requiring students to “write about the meaning of what they’re learning” across subjects. “When students put what they’ve read into their own words, they’re more likely to absorb and retain it,” Wexler adds. But school systems’ failure to acknowledge that many students lack basic writing skills “can have counterproductive results.” Wexler concludes, “If we keep expecting students who can’t construct decent sentences to magically produce coherent essays, we’ll remain a nation of lousy writers forever.”