Are Children Learning

Senate panel votes to void Common Core

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

A bill that would dump Common Core standards in Indiana has passed a legislative committee and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote later this week.

Senate Bill 91’s passage means the state will no longer follow Common Core standards as of July 1, author Scott Schneider said, ending months of sometimes intense debate. That date was intentionally chosen to coincide with a standards review, mandated by the legislature last year and already underway. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has said the review will result in recommendations for new standards by the deadline.

Common Core supporters did not fight the bill, to the surprise of many Democrats on the Senate Education Committee.

Derek Redelman, vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, led a small group of Common Core backers to the microphone who said they did not object to the bill, once it was amended to go into effect on July 1. The original bill would have voided Common Core once it was passed, potentially leaving Indiana without standards for a short period.

“We do not believe all of this is needed but we believe the process is a reasonable one,” Redelman said.

Democratic senators Earline Rogers, D-Gary, was incredulous.

“You’re OK with striking all references to Common Core?” Rogers asked.

Redelman responded: “It doesn’t prohibit Common Core in the future.”

In just more than a year, Indiana morphed from a strong Common Core state to one that appears ready to toss the national standards aside. In 2010 Indiana was one of earliest of the 45 states that ultimately agreed to make Common Core their state standards with the goal of assuring high school graduates are ready for college or careers. But aopposition, which started with a pair of Indianapolis mothers who thought the standards weakened learning, broadened into a potent force at the statehouse.

Before the November 2012 election, the state’s governor, state superintendent and key legislative leaders all supported Common Core. Then-state Superintendent Tony Bennett was an active promoter of Common Core nationally.

But after Bennett’s defeat by Ritz and the election of Gov. Mike Pence, the state’s commitment was in question. Both were noncommittal about Common Core. Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, announced in early 2013 he changed his mind and aligned with Common Core opponents.

Push back resulted in a 2013 bill that “paused” implementation of Common Core, which the state had been implementing a grade per year starting with kindergarten in 2011. The bill instructed the Indiana State Board of Education to review the standards, take new public testimony and vote by July 1, 2014, as to whether Indiana would continue with the Common Core.

As a result, Ritz and the board initiated a process by which all academic standards are being reviewed with recommendations coming this spring as to whether each should be kept as is or changed. Momentum swung against Common Core earlier this month when Gov. Mike Pence called for “uncommonly high” standards that were “written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers” in his state-of-the state speech, statements widely interpreted as moving away from the national standards.

After the speech Ritz said she did not expect Common Core standards to emerge unchanged from the review process and Common Core supporters said instead they hoped Ritz would propose new standards that incorporated many of its elements. Common Core supporters echoed that sentiment today.

Warren Township Superintendent Dena Cushenberry cautioned that the new standards must reflect Common Core so that students will be able to perform well on college entrance tests like the SAT and ACT, which are moving to connect the tests with the standards.

“If we are not careful, Indiana students will actually lose scholarship money because their standards are not aligned with Common Core,” she said.

But Schneider, and opponents, said the state board should interpret Senate Bill 91 as rejecting Common Core and not try to adopt most of its principles under a new name.

“If some want to say this is an advancement of Common Core and through this process trying to make that happen, so be it,” Schneider said. “But I will tell you there is as a whole group of parent in this state, many of them in this room, that will be watching.”

ASD scores

In Tennessee’s turnaround district, 9 in 10 young students fall short on their first TNReady exams

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Nine out of 10 of elementary- and middle-school students in Tennessee’s turnaround district aren’t scoring on grade level in English and math, according to test score data released Thursday.

The news is unsurprising: The Achievement School District oversees 32 of the state’s lowest-performing schools. But it offers yet another piece of evidence that the turnaround initiative has fallen far short of its ambitious original goal of vaulting struggling schools to success.

Around 5,300 students in grades 3-8 in ASD schools took the new, harder state exam, TNReady, last spring. Here’s how many scored “below” or “approaching,” meaning they did not meet the state’s standards:

  • 91.8 percent of students in English language arts;
  • 91.5 percent in math;
  • 77.9 percent in science.

View scores for all ASD schools in our spreadsheet

In all cases, ASD schools’ scores fell short of state averages, which were all lower than in the past because of the new exam’s higher standards. About 66 percent of students statewide weren’t on grade level in English language arts, 62 percent weren’t on grade level in math, and 41 percent fell short in science.

ASD schools also performed slightly worse, on average, than the 15 elementary and middle schools in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, the district’s own initiative for low-performing schools. On average, about 89 percent of iZone students in 3-8 weren’t on grade level in English; 84 percent fell short of the state’s standards in math.

The last time that elementary and middle schools across the state received test scores, in 2015, ASD schools posted scores showing faster-than-average improvement. (Last year’s tests for grades 3-8 were canceled because of technical problems.)

The low scores released today suggest that the ASD’s successes with TCAP, the 2015 exam, did not carry over to the higher standards of TNReady.

But Verna Ruffin, the district’s new chief of academics, said the scores set a new bar for future growth and warned against comparing them to previous results.

“TNReady has more challenging questions and is based on a different, more rigorous set of expectations developed by Tennessee educators,” Ruffin said in a statement. “For the Achievement School District, this means that we will use this new baseline data to inform instructional practices and strategically meet the needs of our students and staff as we acknowledge the areas of strength and those areas for improvement.”

Some ASD schools broke the mold and posted some strong results. Humes Preparatory Middle School, for example, had nearly half of students meet or exceed the state’s standards in science, although only 7 percent of students in math and 12 percent in reading were on grade level.

Thursday’s score release also included individual high school level scores. View scores for individual schools throughout the state as part of our spreadsheet here.

Are Children Learning

School-by-school TNReady scores for 2017 are out now. See how your school performed

PHOTO: Zondra Williams/Shelby County Schools
Students at Wells Station Elementary School in Memphis hold a pep rally before the launch of state tests, which took place between April 17 and May 5 across Tennessee.

Nearly six months after Tennessee students sat down for their end-of-year exams, all of the scores are now out. State officials released the final installment Thursday, offering up detailed information about scores for each school in the state.

Only about a third of students met the state’s English standards, and performance in math was not much better, according to scores released in August.

The new data illuminates how each school fared in the ongoing shift to higher standards. Statewide, scores for students in grades 3-8, the first since last year’s TNReady exam was canceled amid technical difficulties, were lower than in the past. Scores also remained low in the second year of high school tests.

“These results show us both where we can learn from schools that are excelling and where we have specific schools or student groups that need better support to help them achieve success – so they graduate from high school with the ability to choose their path in life,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.

Did some schools prepare teachers and students better for the new state standards, which are similar to the Common Core? Was Memphis’s score drop distributed evenly across the city’s schools? We’ll be looking at the data today to try to answer those questions.

Check out all of the scores in our spreadsheet or on the state website and add your questions and insights in the comments.