Common Core

Lowering college standards is not a solution to our remedial education problem.
Chester E. Finn, Jr.

The testing “opt-out” movement is testing education reform’s humility.

The number of students not participating in state assessments is large and growing. In one New York district, 70 percent of students opted out; in one New Jersey district, it was 40 percent.

Some reporting makes the case that this phenomenon is part of a larger anti-accountability, anti-Common Core story. Some reformers, it seems to me, believe opting out is the result of ignorance or worse.

Participants are routinely cast as uninformed or irrational. Amanda Ripley implied that opting out of testing is like opting out of vaccines and lice checks. New York Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch argued, “We don’t refuse to go to the doctor for an annual check-up…we should not refuse to take the test.” A column in the Orlando Sentinel argued we’d “lost our minds” and that the “opt-out movement has officially jumped the shark.”

Such condescension is eerily similar to the most regrettable things said about Common Core opponents: Their resistance was a “circus,” just “political,” and “not about education;” opponents must be “comfortable with mediocrity,” “paranoid,” and/or “resistant to change.”

I’m not defending every charge ever made against testing or Common Core. For sure, some of the oppositional rhetoric was overheated or...

Parents should use the threat of test refusal to demand a well-rounded education for their kids.

Small but noticeable early-stage differences
Amber M. Northern, Ph.D.

Arne Duncan was half right about those “white suburban moms.”
Robert Pondiscio

Misunderstanding Common Core’s aspirational nature.
Michael J. Petrilli

An open letter to the candidates.
Tim Shanahan

Not meeting high standards ≠ “failing.”
Michael J. Petrilli

This post has been updated with the full text of "Shifting from learning to read to reading to learn."

Spring means high-stakes tests in America’s schools, and this year’s test season is already proving to be a particularly contentious one. The number of parents choosing to “opt out” of tests remains small but appears to be growing. Anti-testing sentiment will likely sharpen as rigorous tests associated with Common Core are rolled out in earnest this year. Parents who have been lulled into complacency by their children’s scores on low-bar state tests may not react well when their children are measured against higher standards.

Testing—who should be tested, how often, and in which subjects – is also one of the most contentious issues in the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the most recent iteration of which is better known as No Child Left Behind). At present, the feds require states to test every student every year in math and reading from grades 3–8. However, if we are serious about improving reading—and education outcomes for children at large—we might be better off if we stopped testing reading in third grade rather than started it.

There are two big problems with existing test-driven accountability schemes in reading. First, the high-stakes reading tests our kids take in elementary and middle school really don’t test what we think they do. Even worse, by the time those tests diagnose reading difficulties in third grade, it’s incredibly hard for schools and teachers to help pull kids out of the spiral of reading failure that began years ago—often before kids came to school for the first time. To understand these problems, it’s helpful to address some common misconceptions about reading.

If you’re like most literate people, you probably think of reading as a skill like riding a bike....

A great resource fact-checks textbooks’ “Common Core-aligned” claims.
Victoria Sears