In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: why 2015 is a crucial year for the Common Core. This is The Two Minute Drill for January 2, 2015.
The controversial Common Core educational standards are in place in 43 states, and this spring, hundreds of thousands of students will be tested against the standards for the first time. The 2014-2015 academic year is when nearly every state must have assessments in place to reflect the Common Core, or other “college- and career-ready” standards they have adopted. Unlike as in previous years, when most states were allowed to cut back on their regular tests, this year’s achievement results will be a cornerstone of states’ public accountability reporting. 2015 is a crucial year for the Common Core. What can we expect?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
When the test results come in this spring, they probably won’t be good. The Common Core tests are much harder than the tests administered previously. Most students’ math and reading skills are going to look much worse, and more than half of students will probably get scores too low to be considered “proficient.” We’ve already seen this happen. In New York and Kentucky, two states that adopted Common Core tests early, the percentage of students considered “proficient” in reading and math fell precipitously. Pre-Common Core, about two-thirds of New York students were considered “proficient”; after the new tests were introduced, fewer than one-third of students were considered proficient. More states will experience similar results. And after the results are in, Common Core’s biggest public relations test will be whether parents and teachers turn against the standards.
They shouldn’t. And here’s why.
At best, American students are middle-of-the-road on academic skills when compared to other countries on international tests. The old state standards, however, essentially lied to teachers, parents, and students – telling them students were college-ready when they weren’t. Common core introduces tougher standards and harder tests to combat this problem. “The reality is that they are better than 85 or 90 percent of the state standards they replace. Not a little better. A lot better,” said James Milgram, a mathematician at Stanford University who sat on the Common Core validation committee. Given the abysmal quality of the old state standards, therefore, a drop in test scores should not be a surprise – it should be expected. And that, oddly, is probably a sign of progress.
Word Count: 266 (Bust)
The Five Best Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles we read this week:
- It’s All Good. “It’s a good time to be a pessimist. ISIS, Crimea, Donetsk, Gaza, Burma, Ebola, school shootings, campus rapes, wife-beating athletes, lethal cops – who can avoid the feeling that things fall apart, the center cannot hold? . . . As troubling as the recent headlines have been, these lamentations need a second look.” From Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack in Slate: Never Mind the Headlines. We’ve Never Lived in Such Peaceful Times.
- Hostage Rescue. “There was apparently some white boy from Princeton – I assume from the State Department or Department of Justice – who quipped, ‘We’re sending a Jewish anarchist lawyer who represents Hamas to the Middle East to negotiate with ISIS and al-Qaida over Kassig?’ . . . And apparently some serious true believer responded, ‘Who the fuck else would we send.'” From Shiv Malik, Ali Younes, Spencer Ackerman and Mustafa Khalili in The Guardian: The Race to Save Peter Kassig.
- King of Clickbait. “Behind me, two women in their fifties took notes on legal pads. In summary, Spartz said, ‘The more awesome you are, the more emotion you create, the more viral it is.’ One of the women whispered, ‘Really impressive.'” From Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker: The Virologist: How a Young Entrepreneur Built an Empire by Repackaging Memes.
- Author, Author! “Patterson is the great white shark of novelists, a relentless writing machine who has to keep swimming forward in order to feed, and who, together with his army of about two dozen credited co-writers, has been the planet’s best selling author since 2001 (ahead of J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Dr. Seuss, and John Grisham).” From Todd S. Purdum in Vanity Fair: The Henry Ford of Books.
- Soy Vey. “For many Jewish Americans, the night before Christmas conjures up visions, not of sugar plums, but rather plum sauce slathered over roast duck.” From Adam Chandler in The Atlantic: Why American Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week took a look at recently the declassified Senate torture report. Read the Column – Justice Department Must Open Criminal Investigation in Wake of Torture Report.