"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Massachusetts Legislators Raise Concern about Common Core Standards Adoption

The Massachusetts Legislature is the latest state legislative body, along with Utah and New Hampshire, to question the wisdom of signing onto to Common Core standards. Here is the article from The Beverly Citizen:


For a stretch during the gubernatorial campaign last summer, the decision by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt a new set of national Common Core school curriculum standards sparked a heated back and forth between the candidates over whether the state was retreating from MCAS.

That debate, which fizzled with the election, could be reignited on Beacon Hill this session with a bill filed by Rep. Todd Smola that would override the board’s vote through legislation and retain the MCAS assessment system based on the state’s current curricula.

Smola, a Palmer Republican, did not take a strong position for or against the bill Tuesday, saying he filed it at the request of the Tantasqua Regional School Committee.

“I certainly think it’s something that needs review,” Smola told the News Service. “The general concerns are still there and still very vaild whether or not we made the right decision here in Massachusetts to adopt Common Core standards. I think it would be different if Massachusetts were at the bottom of the pack, but we’re at the top.”

Smola said he had less than 48 hours to review the bill before he filed it, and admitted he did not have a chance to have lawyers review the language to determine whether the Legislature had the authority to overturn a BESE vote.

“We will work that out as time progresses, and at the very least if it can call attention to this issue then all the better,” Smola said.

The implementation of the national Common Core standards will ultimately force Massachusetts education officials to realign its MCAS testing to the new curriculum.

Critics, including Baker, former gubernatorial candidate and state Treasurer Tim Cahill, and officials from the Pioneer Institute question why state education leaders would move away from the gains made under MCAS and the 1993 education reform law that propelled Massachusetts students to the top ranking on many national scorecards.

Gov. Deval Patrick announced Tuesday that Massachusetts 4th graders tied for first nationally in science performance and 8th graders tied for second on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The vote to sign on to the Common Core initiative, encouraged by the Obama administration, played a role in the state’s successful application for $250 million in federal Race to the Top education funding.

“Are we doing it for the money or are we doing it because it puts Massachusetts’ best foot forward. I think a lot of people are still asking that question and it deserves a stem-to-stern review,” Smola said.

The Department of Education could not immediately be reached for comment.

Most states have adopted the Common Core standards and the state standards initiative says the goal is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

The state Board of Education last December voted to incorporate the national standards into the state's public education curricula, with plans to fully weave the standards into English and math testing by 2013.

Gov. Deval Patrick has said he would not have supported the standards if they were not at least as rigorous as the state’s current curriculum frameworks.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has called the standards "strong, comprehensive, and rigorous, reflecting the best thinking of educators in Massachusetts as well as nationally." He called the standards "the foundation upon which the primary work of our schools - curriculum and instruction - is based."

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials say schools will first be asked to emphasize the standards that overlap with Massachusetts's existing curriculum and to begin phasing out standards that will eventually be eliminated. By 2012, school districts will be asked to fold in new standards into their framework, and by 2013 or 2014, those standards would be reflected on the MCAS, Massachusetts primary standardized test.


EduWeek comments on this move by the Massachusetts Legislature and notes some Democrats are also concerned about the loss of state control.

Where do Missouri legislators stand on this issue?

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