News You Can Use:

Washington Post, “Math Content in Schools Adding to Achievement Gap, New Study Finds”: A study published by the American Educational Research Association finds discrepancies between poor and wealth students’ performance in math is largely attributable to unequal access to strong math content in school. The study estimates that nearly 40 percent of the gap in U.S. student performance in math can be traced to unequal access. “We find that the schools are making things worse, not helping,” says William Schmidt, one of the study’s authors. He adds schools can create greater equity without socializing the system. One solution may be the Common Core State Standards, Lyndsey Layton writes. The key is how the standards are applied in classrooms.

What It Means: The American Educational Research Association study reinforces the evidence demonstrating the importance of consistently high academic expectations for all students. By holding all public school children to college- and career-ready levels, Common Core State Standards ensure that more students will have access to content that challenges and fully prepares them, which the study emphasizes is a necessary step to close achievement gaps. A Scholastic study last fall found more than two-thirds of teachers who worked closely with the Common Core saw gains in students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills across broad demographics. Tennessee and Kentucky, early adopters of the Common Core, have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements over the past three years, including among traditionally underperforming student groups.

US News & World Report, “Tests Can Be Golden”: This month, California released results from assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards, which show that fewer students met or exceeded proficiency levels as a result of the increased rigor. The “more rigorous and honest look at student performance” may be the solution to high remediation costs across the country, which amount to about $3 billion each year, writes Scott Sargrad, director of accountability and standards at American Progress. “Many students pass their high school exam, walk across the stage at graduation and show up to college in the fall, only to be told they aren’t ready for college-level work,” the piece notes. “The Common Core-aligned high school exam means that a student has shown she’s prepared for college.” Sargrad notes that all California State University campuses and community colleges accept Smarter Balanced exams as indicators of readiness. “And if high schools know which students aren’t meeting the benchmarks in 11th grade, they can make sure that these students have the support they need in 12th grade to close the readiness gap,” the piece adds. “Using Common Core-aligned tests for determining whether students need remediation certainly isn’t going to fix all the country’s challenges with high school graduation and college completion…But when the benefits to students are so clear and the costs to the institutions so low, it’s a policy change that can be a win for everyone.”

What It Means: High-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development and identify learning needs so they can be addressed. By measuring the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in college and careers, tests aligned to Common Core State Standards promise to help reduce remediation needs by ensuring more students get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness. As Karen Nussle explains, states are finally measuring to levels that students need to be able to achieve to. She argues, “For parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”

Correcting the Record:

Spokesman-Review, “Regan, IFF Sue Idaho over Common Core Tests”: Brent Regan, chairman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, and nine other individuals filed a lawsuit against Gov. Butch Otter, State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, and Board of Education President Don Soltman, alleging the state’s involvement in the Smarter Balanced testing consortium is an “illegal interstate compact not authorized by Congress.” The lawsuit seeks to “cease implementation” of Idaho’s Common Core Standards and void the state’s testing contract with Smarter Balanced. The Idaho Freedom Foundation is not party to the lawsuit, but is “financially supporting it,” said an attorney representing the case.

Where They Went Wrong: The lawsuit to stop implementation of Idaho’s Common Core-based standards and related assessments represents a backdoor attempt to undermine the state’s push for college- and career-ready standards. Common Core State Standards and the tests that support them ensure that more students will graduate high school fully prepared to step into college or a career, and provide families the tools to ensure their children are on track. As states like Idaho have refused legislative efforts to turn back on implementation of the Common Core, opponents have turned legalities, which create uncertainty in classrooms and risk putting teachers and students at a disadvantage.


On Our Reading List:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “State PSSA Test Scores Released”: Pennsylvania education officials released the results from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) – tests that were aligned to the state’s Common Core standards for the first time this year. The scores show that in grades 3-8, about 40 percent of students met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks in math, and about 50 percent in English language arts. In 2014, before the state’s exams were aligned with more rigorous standards, more than 73 percent of students met proficiency benchmarks in math and nearly 70 percent in reading. “These results do not mean our students are learning less,” said Pittsburgh Superintendent Linda Lane. “The heightened difficulty and increased rigor of the Pennsylvania Core has resulted in fewer students scoring proficient or advanced.”

Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Online Review of W.Va.’s Common Core-Based Standards Ends Wednesday”: The public comment period of West Virginia’s review of its Common Core-based standards closes today. So far, more than 4,000 individuals have submitted more than 240,000 comments. The West Virginia Department of Education will weigh the input before submitting proposed changes to the State Board of Education, which is expected to vote on any revisions by the end of the year. On Tuesday, the Department of Education hosted the last of eight town hall meetings seeking public input.

NJ Spotlight, “Common Core ‘Listening Tour’ Hears from Just a Handful of Witnesses”: A series of public hearings in New Jersey initiated after Gov. Chris Christie called for a review of the state’s Common Core standards drew a thin turnout. Nine people spoke at the first session, and seven at the second. The third and final meeting was held Tuesday night. Even if turnout was sparse, the testimony reflected a “wide spectrum” of perspectives, the article reports. “All students, regardless of ethnicity and household income levels, will be held to the same rigorous standards, thereby promoting equity in the quality of education,” said Rafael Collazo, a parent and representative of the National Council of La Raza. “What I worry is the public comment period in New Jersey goes nowhere by design,” said another participant. “It is not meant to effect change, it is meant to appease an angry public.”

New Orleans Advocate, “Three Candidates’ Campaign War Chests Outweigh the Rest in Key BESE Races”: Three candidates seeking election to the Louisiana School Board who are aligned with State Superintendent John White on the issue of Common Core State Standards have large financial advantages over their challengers. The candidates are Jim Garvey, Holly Boffy and Kira Orange Jones. Two candidates who spent months “blasting Common Core,” Lottie Beebe and Breaux Bridge, trail their challengers in funding with less than a month until the October 24 primary.

EdSource, “Teachers Say Critical Thinking Key to College and Career Readiness”: An online study by the California Teachers Association and EdSource finds that state teachers overwhelmingly believe critical thinking and reasoning skills, not performance on standardized tests, are the most important indicators of readiness. Seventy-eight percent of teacher participants ranked developing critical thinking skills among the three most important indicators; only eight percent ranked proficiency on the state’s standardized tests in the same category. “I think most college professors would agree that students’ ability to think critically and analyze tests, and to integrate information is much more important than what they did on a test,” said David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Less than a third of teachers said their districts have clearly defined standards for what constitutes college and career readiness.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Test Chief: Failure Targeted Early”: ACT Aspire assessments are meant to identify learning gaps early in students’ educational careers to avoid derailing college and career plans, said Darice Keating, the organization’s president, at the Arkansas Public School Resource Center’s fall conference. Less than 20 percent of eighth-grade students nationwide are on track to graduate high school prepared for college or a career. “Research shows that the earlier that we can measure progress toward meeting educational standards, the more we can strengthen a student’s chance to stay on target and to succeed,” Keating added.