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GRAND FORKS HERALD: With Common Core, ‘trust, but verify’

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GRAND FORKS HERALD: With Common Core, ‘trust, but verify’
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

By The Grand Forks Herald

Common Core is one thing.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is another.

In her defense of the Common Core standards, N.D. State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler says they’re the right choice for North Dakota. Now, both she and her counterpart in Minnesota should track those claims by watching the NAEP results, especially to see whether the scores start climbing out of the stall that both states have been stuck in since 1992.

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The National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka the Nation’s Report Card, “is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what American students know and can do in core subjects,” as Wikipedia notes.

The assessment tests representative samples of fourth and eighth graders in subjects such as reading and math. And unlike, say, the results of SAT and ACT exams, the NAEP results can be meaningfully tracked and compared over time.

So, when Massachusetts leads the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math for several assessments in a row — as happened over the past 10 years — people pay attention.

And when Minnesota and North Dakota (and Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska) see their once-formidable leads erode as other states catch up and, in some cases, start posting higher scores, Midwesterners should pay attention.

They’ve been slow to do so. Baesler and Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota’s education commissioner, should vow to speed things up.

The Common Core standards now are affecting K-12 learning in both states (though less so in Minnesota, which adopted the standards in English language arts but not in math). The NAEP results can provide invaluable feedback, because they’ll let taxpayers and officials compare results with not only numbers in other states but also their own state’s scores from years past.

The Legislatures have spoken. The education establishment by and large has signed on. (Reassuringly, no less a standards-based reformer than E.D. Hirsch, founder of the Core Knowledge movement, strongly supports Common Core.)

For the forseeable future, the new standards are sure to be a big part of North Dakota and Minnesota classroom life. The NAEP results and their rigorous measure of students’ year-over-year progress should be, too.

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