While you were busy with holiday festivities—binge watching Game of Thrones and marathon credit card swiping—you may have missed some big stories in the education world.
Here are a few to catch you up:
On Christmas Eve, the Fordham Institute’s Michael J. Petrilli and Michael Brickman explained why devising alternatives to Common Core standards isn’t an easy task.
Petrilli and Brickman warn that states flirting with this idea should think twice:
But if our fellow Republicans move to embrace standards that are even higher than Common Core, they’d better have a realistic plan for putting them in place. Otherwise, such calls will be viewed as political posturing and pandering at the expense of our children.
Unfortunately, states that have thus far attempted this effort—replacing Common Core with something even stronger—have found that it is quite difficult to achieve.
Right before ringing in the new year, NPR journalist Sarah Garland profiled Jason Zimba, a father, a mathematician, and one of the writers of Common Core State Standards. You can read about his journey through the process of writing the standards and why, in the time since then, he’s still picking up the slack in his daughters’ education and his dream of improving America’s schools is threatened:
And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughter’s school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.
Zimba and the other writers of the Common Core knew the transition would be tough, but they never imagined conflicts over bad homework would fuel political battles and threaten the very existence of their dream to remodel American education.
There was also talk over the holidays about Republican plans for reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (NCLB). If the GOP has its way, we could see a heavily reduced federal role in education and “national blowouts” over standardized testing.
Though many revile the current iteration of the law, the article points out the dangers of reducing state and district accountability:
Part of the difficulty in rewriting the law is that the most hated parts of the bill are deeply intertwined with its heralded civil rights provisions: The testing requirements, for example, allowed the government for the first time to spotlight the achievement gaps between white students from higher-income families and their peers when those test results were broken down by race and socioeconomic status.
NCLB put a public spotlight on schools and districts that were falling flat when it comes to helping disadvantaged students—and pressed them to improve when no one else would.
Charter school advocate James A. Peyser is now in the market for new business cards. As the newly-announced education chief for Massachusetts, he may have a rocky road ahead of him as debates over standardized testing and new curricula heat up. But many express support:
“I like the way Jim approaches issues—not as an ideologue, but as a thoughtful reformer,” said Paul S. Reville, who was education secretary under Governor Deval Patrick from 2008 to 2013 and has known Peyser for years. “He has his convictions, but he’s a listener and a doer.”
Midterm elections came and went and it didn’t take long for the 2016 presidential elections to assume the media spotlight. Common Core has been a large part of that conversation, especially after Jeb Bush announced his presidential run (kind of).
While some think Bush’s support for Common Core could hurt his chances, recent polls and parent opinion suggest otherwise.
There’s a good reason why Common Core supporters fared well. A GOP pollster asked conservative Republican primary voters about the issue earlier in 2014. When voters were presented with arguments for and against the standards, a generic candidate supporting the standards polled significantly higher. In another poll, conducted on Election Day, voters said they approved of the standards by a 2-to-1 margin.
In 2014, some states discussed repealing Common Core, and some weren’t just talk. Oklahoma repealed the standards. After a long, hard fight, they are left picking up the pieces.
“I was sick to my stomach. I cried,” [teacher Heather] Samis says, again fighting back tears….
Samis gets emotional talking about the Core repeal because, she says, the standards were tougher than the state’s old standards. And she worries that, with the SAT and ACT both aligning to the Common Core, her students will have a harder time getting into college and out of poverty.
Finally, we discovered a few misguided teens don’t know who Paul McCartney is.
I don't know who Paul McCartney is, but Kanye is going to give this man a career w/ this new song!!
— OVOJosh (@OVOJosh) January 2, 2015
I still don't know who Paul MacArthur is
— Dr.seussia (@TamiTamz21) January 2, 2015
We’re so sorry, Paul.