News You Can Use:

Newsweek, “How the GOP Turned on Common Core”: Opposition among some Republicans to Common Core State Standards, epitomized by several presidential candidates’ “acrobatic” flip-flops on the issue, didn’t arise “organically,” but were driven largely by “an organized effort by Tea Party-affiliated groups anxious to make a mark after a series of legislative losses,” reports David Freelander. “With Common Core, Tea Partiers spotted a chance to rebrand their image…A whole network of conservative advocacy groups and think tanks began alerting their members through emails, conference calls, and local organizing to oppose Common Core.” One early presentation claimed Common Core would “eliminate local control, limit parental involvement, open the door to invasive data collection, provide little options for reform, and cater to special interest influence in individual classrooms.” Activists benefitted from criticism on the left, which “provided useful cover.” Backers from both parties agree the Obama administration’s embrace of the standards did further damage. The attacks have left “more levelheaded conservatives” frustrated. “This thing just reached a crescendo of idiocy,” says Chester Finn, former president of the Fordham Institute. “It is so transparently craven as to be almost laughable.”

What It Means: The article exposes the organized effort by activists representing a subset of the Republican Party to distort the Common Core State Standards. Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, a conservative leader, explains that “lies, myths, exaggeration and hysteria” have obscured the real issues and drowned out constructive debate. Bennett adds, “Sensational, even if false, news stories attract far more attention than nuanced policy debates …It is time for integrity and truth in this debate. The issue of honest standards of learning for our children is too important to be buried in an avalanche of misinformation and demonization.”


Correcting the Record:

National Review, “What’s Wrong with Common Core?”: Comparing Common Core to “Obama’s anti-suburban moves,” “regulatory assault on energy production,” and Obamacare, Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow the Ethics and Public Policy Center, says the new book Drilling through the Core – a collection of essays “by the most informed and prominent critics of the Common Core” – exposes the “sprawling” problems. “It’s all here, from the most basic explanation of what Common Core is, to the history, the major arguments for and against, and so much more,” Kurtz writes. “It strikes me that the potential for abuse of personal data is substantially greater in the case of Common Core than in the matter of national security surveillance. With Common Core we are talking about databases capable of tracking every American individual from kindergarten through adulthood, and tremendous potential for the sharing of data with not only government but private groups.” The review adds, “The rushed secrecy in which Common Core was adopted has also limited the number of people, to this day, who truly understand what is at stake.”

Where They Went Wrong: Kurtz’ characterization of Common Core State Standards perpetuates the misleading and disingenuous claims heralded by opponents. Objective analysis has repeatedly dismissed these, and as experts like former Education Secretary Bill Bennett explain, such tactics disrupt honest debate about the standards. Kurtz stresses allegations that Common Core State Standards will violate students’ privacy – a statement which is not only false, but irresponsible. The Common Core contains no requirements for student data collection of any kind. As a set academic standards, the Common Core simply lays out a pathway for students to become college- and career-ready, not any mechanism to collect or report student data. If the standards were changed tomorrow, there would be no changes to data collection or reporting at the state or federal levels. In addition, the actual standards do not reference data collection or data mining of any kind – the only mentions of the word “data” refer to individual concepts that students should learn. Federal law, which prohibits the sharing or reporting of personally identifiable student data, remains unchanged. And laws enacted at the state level, which dictate how and when student data may be reported, are unchanged by the academic standards a state chooses to use.


On Our Reading List:

Education Week, “Pledging a Do-Over on Common Core, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Announces New Task Force”: On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new task force to review and recommend ways to “overhaul” the state’s Common Core standards and aligned assessments. The group will be led by Richard Parsons, former chairman of the board for Citigroup. “I believe the goal is the right one: high standards in education,” Gov. Cuomo said. “But the way it was instituted failed.” In a statement New York State United Teachers said, “Is this a breakthrough? That will only be determined when meaningful reforms are made to this broken system.” Robert Pondiscio of the Fordham Institute attributed the shift to politics. In a tweet he said, “Cuomo noticed populist political moment, seeks to ride the wave by standing w/ parents against Common Core.”

Tampa Bay Times, “Florida Education Commissioner Recommends FSA Cut Scores”: On Monday, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart recommended “cut scores,” or levels that determine which performance level students qualify for, on the Florida Standards Assessments, which were administered for the first time this spring. Stewart’s proposal would see more middle grades students earning top scores than advisory panels recommend, but fewer elementary students would earn top marks in math. Under Stewart’s proposal, just more than half of students would earn a Level 3 or higher on all math and language arts tests except eighth-grade math and Algebra 2. Stewart calls for cutting the recommendation for a Level 5 in seventh and eighth grade math by 3 points, but would increase the score needed to earn a Level 4. In third through fifth grade, Stewart proposes a Level 5 score that is 3 points higher than the advisory panel recommends. “These recommendations are in line with the performance we should expect from our state’s students at each grade level for each subject in order to prepare today’s students for future success,” Stewart said in a statement.

New Orleans Advocate, “State Will Release Initial Common Core Test Results October 12; Some Would Like to See Results Earlier”: On Monday, Louisiana Superintendent John White announced the state will release scores from the first year of assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards on October 12. Statewide, about 320,000 students took the tests in March and May. State Department of Education officials began sharing the preliminary results with about half of the state’s 70 local school superintendents on Monday as well. “We do not have information that is even close to a final score for students,” White said, explaining why initial results include only how many questions students answered correctly without scaling about how they performed overall. “We are at the outset of the process, and we have taken the unprecedented step of sharing information that is highly preliminary.”

EdSource, “Test Scores Indicate More Students ‘College Ready’ in English Language Arts”: Scores from California’s Smarter Balanced assessments administered this spring show the percentage of students identified as ready, or on pace to be ready when they graduate, for college-level work increased in English language arts compared to last year. For math, the percentage fell. About 56 percent of high school juniors met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks in English as defined by the Smarter Balanced consortium. Only about 40 percent of students did so last year. Twenty-nine percent of students met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks in math. Last year, 51 percent did. “Schools have transitioned to a brand new math curriculum,” explains Carolina Cardenas, CSU’s director of academic outreach and early assessment. “These juniors are also getting used to a brand new test they’ve not taken before.”