News You Can Use:

Collaborative for Student Success, “The Common Core Math Check: Why Different Approaches Are a Good Thing”: While math techniques espoused by Common Core State Standards have drawn criticism from parents who grew up under old models, these new approaches are “designed to help all children, regardless of their background, develop a stronger understanding of math, so they are prepared for college-level coursework” and STEM careers. “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they more on to more challenging levels,” the piece notes, citing a recent video and blog explaining shifts in instruction. “Parents should want their children to be better and more confident at math than they were as students.”

What It Means: In addition to traditional problem-solving methods, Common Core State Standards introduce students to multiple techniques to help develop conceptual understanding of math functions and numbers. By emphasizing strong fundamental skills, the standards ensure that more students will complete each grade level prepared for higher level content and ultimately for college or a career. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw an improvement in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Newsday, “Cuomo Throws Common Core under the Bus”: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to ride a “populist moment” wave by standing with parents against Common Core Standards, write Mike Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio of the Fordham Institute. “Unfortunately, New York’s children are likely to be the real victims.” The authors say Gov. Cuomo watched as implementation of the standards, which New York invested heavily in to support teachers, and teacher-based evaluations headed for a crash. “While most states chose an ‘accountability pause’ as teachers work to implement Common Core, Cuomo pushed ahead…That led to fear among teachers, and a belief that ‘teaching to the test’ is the only way to survive.” Parents heard from teachers, which led to opt out efforts. “Now Cuomo is ostensibly siding with parents, saying Common Core is ‘not working’…But to say Common Core is not working is to utterly misunderstand how standards work…The new standards and tests didn’t cause this problem. They merely revealed it,” the piece states. “If Cuomo can improve implementation of the Common Core, we’re all for it. But he ought to include a review of his teacher-evaluation policies as well.”

What It Means: Common Core State Standards and the high-quality assessments that support them didn’t create performance problems within schools, as some parents allege. Instead, they finally provide an accurate measure of student development, illuminating performance issues that for a long time were masked by low standards and assessments that inflated readiness measures. As the authors wrote earlier this month, parents should resist using this “moment of truth” to attack the Common Core and related tests. States like New York are finally testing to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to achieve to succeed after high school. Unlike old exams, assessments that measure to college- and career-ready standards better gauge students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.



Correcting the Record:

Heartland Institute, “Common Core Ballot Question May Be Added in Massachusetts”: Earlier this month, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy determined a proposed statewide ballot initiative to ask voters to determine whether to continue implementation of the Common Core was constitutional. The initiative, led by End Common Core Massachusetts, will need to collect 68,000 signatures to get the question on the ballot in 2016. “We’ll continue to build public support for passing the ballot initiative and returning Massachusetts back to its previous nation-leading position in state academic standards and tests,” says Donna Colorio, the group’s chairwoman. “The U.S. Constitution leaves K-12 education to the states, not the federal government.” End Common Core Massachusetts advocates ending the state’s use of Common Core State Standards and related tests by restoring the state’s previous standards and assessments.

Where They Went Wrong: While Massachusetts has long had some of the country’s strongest education standards and assessments, the state voluntarily adopted the Common Core because they determined that Common Core State Standards were event more rigorous than their previous standards. By perpetuating misleading information, End Common Core Massachusetts risks walking the state backwards. Common Core State Standards do not reduce local control, as the group alleges. In fact, teachers overwhelmingly say the standards empower greater creativity and flexibility in the classroom. And a Teach Plus study this year found 72 percent of Massachusetts teacher participants believe new assessments aligned to Common Core are better than those the state used before.

Washington Post, “Her Son Began Hating School. What Happened When She Found Out Why”: Jeanette Deutermann, a New York mother who helped sparked the opt-out movement, says her moment of realization came after her fourth-grade son developed such anxiety about classroom testing that he no longer wanted to go to school. “I had to speak out and let other parents know,” Deutermann says. “I felt like a whistleblower – I didn’t have a choice.” That movement has grown in New York and other states, writes Carol Burris, an outspoken critic of the Common Core. Monty Neil, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, attributes the opt-out growth to “testing overkill and its high stakes.” Burris says recent polling reinforces that the “tide has turned,” and the public “rejects testing as the driver of policy and sanctions.” “Opt out has become a movement of civil disobedience and of conscience against corporate school reform,” Burris concludes.

Where They Went Wrong: While parents have legitimate concerns about over-testing, opt-out movements and efforts that vilify the push for higher education standards and increased accountability undermine one of the strongest tools parents and teachers have to accurately measure student development. As Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains, assessments aligned to tougher academic expectations “may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.” He argues that “Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests.”



On Our Reading List:

Boston Globe, “How MCAS Made a Difference for the Better in Education Reform”: Jim Peyser, Massachusetts Secretary of Education, writes that when MCAS exams were introduced in 2003, students’ and teachers’ reactions were strong because it was the first time in a long time “there was so much attention paid to anything having to do with academic achievement.” Since then, the state and its students have experienced big academic improvements, defying “those who believed we were inviting higher failure.” “One of the lessons to draw from this upward trend is that our state assessment system helped strengthen the alignment of curriculum to rigorous standards, while sharpening the focus of schools and teachers on the students who were struggling to meet those standards.” Peyser explains, “It also generated greater investment by young people themselves in their own learning.” The piece adds that before the focus on higher standards, low expectations left students unprepared for high-level content. Of Massachusetts’ upcoming decision between whether to use PARCC or MCAS tests, Peyser says, “Regardless of which test the board chooses, the Commonwealth must recommit itself to maintaining and improving its system of standards, assessments, and accountability for results…An effective system of standards and assessments is an essential means to [close achievement gaps]; not only by shining a light on the performance of schools and districts, but also by providing educators with the information they need to make wise decisions.”

University of Southern California, “Californians Don’t Know Much about Common Core”: A poll conducted by the USC Rossier School of Education finds higher levels of support for Common Core State Standards in California than in other parts of the country, though “a strong majority” still know little or nothing about the standards. The release notes that “many voters are misinformed about the details,” and a quarter had not heard of the Common Core. When questions were presented with information about what the standards are, support was “much higher” than when respondents were asked simply whether or not they support the Common Core. “Even after four years of implementation and a great deal of political controversy, most Californians simply don’t know or don’t care much about Common Core,” says Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of education. “Their views depend to a surprising extent on the questions they are asked about the new standards.”

Associated Press, “Educational Curriculum Created Based on ‘Manhattan’ Series”: Educational provider, Young Minds Inspired, has created a curriculum plan based on the WGN America show “Manhattan” that the organization says aligns with Common Core State Standards. The program offers teachers tools to help students learn more about the Manhattan Project, including guides and student activity sheets. The television show is set in the 1940s and follows the lives of scientists who built the world’s first atomic bomb.

Los Angeles Times, “Gov. Brown, Veto These Five Bills!”: Among several bills the Los Angeles Times editorial board says California Gov. Brown should reject “because they could cause real harm to the state” is Senate Bill 172, which would retroactively excuse all California high school students from taking mandatory exit exams and put the test on hold while a panel studies how to make it relevant to the Common Core. “That’s an unnecessarily long time,” the editorial board states. “If high school graduates aren’t required to prove they have mastered basic skills, then we are doomed to return to the bad old days of social promotion and meaningless diplomas.”