February 2014

You may not have heard of Common Core, but it’s the most controversial two words in the American education system right now.

Common Core is the shorthand for a requirement that, beginning as early as possible in elementary school and continuing throughout high school, students be exposed to, and become comfortable with, a college-prep set of skills. These skills—especially in mathematics and English—will provide a foundation for students to go in any career direction.

This is so transparently a good thing that it’s hard to figure out why anyone would be opposed. That’s especially true for conservatives, who have long believed our education system is underperforming; that student progress needs to be measured; and that teachers and school superintendents should be accountable for better outcomes in the classroom.

Conservatives are instinctively pro-standard. And yet the latest round of opposition to Common Core comes primarily from the right. What gives?

As with so many other major initiatives, those who disagree with any portion of the idea want to scrap the whole thing. Why, they ask, does a 10th grader interested in auto mechanics need to know whether it was David Copperfield or Oliver Twist who asked for more porridge? (Hint: It was Oliver.) Why does that same student need to pass Algebra II to achieve proficiency in setting the timing on a Tesla “S” model electric car? (Hint: Electric cars don’t have timing issues.)

Not every high-school student needs to go to a traditional four-year college. But, those who claim we are wasting the time of students who are likely to get on a vocational instead of an academic track are settling for low expectations at a time when we should be setting high expectations.

What if, instead, we made the case that students who were either pushed into a vocational lane or self-selected for it, were being deprived of skills they may need later in life? What if they want to progress beyond being an hourly worker to being the manager of a business, or perhaps owning his or her own business?

When we look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment numbers on the first Friday of every month, we are treated to an amazing graph. That graph shows a straight line in employment from someone who did not finish high school to someone with a professional degree. The line goes up from no high-school diploma through a two-year community college associate’s degree to some four-year college to a college degree through an advanced degree to being a doctor or a lawyer.

Rich Galen is a Republican strategist.

This piece originally appeared in Politico. Read the rest of the piece here.

Business Roundtable

John Engler, President of the Business Roundtable, writes of his members’ support of the Common Core State Standards in this letter to the Republican National Committee.

On behalf of the members of Business Roundtable – more than 200 chief executive officers who lead U.S. companies located in states across the nation from every sector of the economy – I am writing to express our steadfast support for the Common Core State Standards and explain why the Republican Party should support them too.

Click here for the full letter.

USChamberkid-logo

Xerox. Raytheon. DaVita. State Farm Insurance. BP America.

These businesses have offices based in Colorado — and they are just a few of the more than 70 leading businesses and business groups that signed on in support of the Common Core State Standards, via this letter in The New York Times from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  (more…)

Luke Ragland is Vice President of Policy at Colorado Succeeds, a Future Forward coalition member. This blog is a version of testimony he provided before the Colorado General Assembly House Education Committee in February 2014.

Our state’s accountability framework serves as indispensable tool for system-wide improvement.

As business leaders, Colorado Succeeds’ members know that what gets measured gets done.  And the key to accurate and useful measurement lies in the ability to compare actual performance against desired outcomes.

The inability to accurately measure student growth would undermine Colorado’s capability to assess whether teachers, schools, and districts are improving student achievement. Similarly, eliminating the requirement for early literacy assessments would undercut Colorado’s ability to identify struggling readers so that they can receive targeted supports and interventions to get them back on track.

Put plainly, if we stop measuring the progress of our students, we will have no way to ensure that students don’t fall through the cracks. Statewide assessments and the related accountability framework are absolutely fundamental tools to ensure that every student, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality school.

Anti-testing proponents say that students spend too much time taking statewide tests.  This is an incredibly important topic, but we need to be sure the discussion is based on facts. So, exactly how much time are students spending taking statewide assessments?  The answer may surprise you:  Under the new statewide assessments, the average student will spend less than 1.5 percent of total instructional time taking statewide tests.

Of course, this fact seems wholly incompatible with the commonly-accepted rhetoric surrounding tests, namely, that our students are being inundated with constant state-mandated assessments. This confusion is likely a result of the confluence of several factors, including how district-mandated tests are administered, testing windows, human resource allocation, and technology capacity.

It is important to be precise when identifying concerns related to testing so that we can address the issues actually at play.  If we need to adjust testing windows, provide training to teachers, or increase technology capacity; let’s figure out solutions to those specific problems.

GlobeIt seems the Common Core State Standards detractors follow Lenin’s maxim that, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Their most recent foray into trying to take down the effort spearheaded by the nation’s governors and chief state school officers to outline what all students should know and be able to do in reading and math leaves us with no choice but to roll up our sleeves and yet again set the record straight.

Sandra Stotsky, holding herself out as a mathematics expert, has been traveling from state to state alleging that the Common Core math standards hold students back from pursuing advanced post-secondary studies in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields. She made this point to Wisconsin legislators in October last year. Stotsky, a former high school French and German teacher, goes so far as to question how leaders of major STEM companies could support the standards. Well, she should just ask.

As a former engineering professor, the former chairman and chief executive of Intel and current CEO of one of the highest-performing charter school systems in the country (BASIS Schools) I can speak directly to why businesses, and, indeed, higher education, benefits from the Common Core, and why concerns about the math standards’ rigor are misplaced. (more…)

jessica cuthbertsonJessica Cuthbertson is a 7th grade ELA Teacher at Vista PEAK Exploratory P-8 in Aurora Public Schools and a Teacherpreneur through the Center for Teaching Quality. She presented this public comment at the State Board of Education Meeting on February 12, 2014. 

I have been teaching adolescents for over ten years. Recently, I think about my career in two segments – teaching and learning BEFORE and AFTER the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I’d like to share a few before and after examples with you. As I share these examples I’d like you to ask yourself a few questions:

  • In which era (before or after the CAS/CCSS) would I want to be a student? (Or would I want my own child to be a student?)
  • In which reality would I want to be a teacher? (more…)

math

Although 45 states quickly adopted the higher standards created by governors and state education officials, the effort has begun to lose momentum. Some are now wavering in the face of misinformation campaigns from people who misrepresent the initiative as a federal program and from those who support the status quo. Legislation has been introduced in at least 12 states to prohibit implementation and states have dropped out of the two major Common Core assessment consortia. Opposition voices are growing louder as new assessments show students aren’t performing as well as they had on easier state tests offered previously.

The debate about the standards must be changed to ensure politics and mythology don’t derail a vital effort to improve opportunities for our kids as they are falling further behind their international peers. (more…)