MALDEN, Mass. Massachusetts education officials voted unanimously Wednesday to replace the state’s math and English public school curricula with national standards pushed by the Obama administration.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, in a 8-0 vote, agreed to join 27 other states in adopting the so-called Common Core Standards. They specify what is taught in math and English classes at each grade level.
Education Secretary Paul Reville called the switch a “watershed moment” for the state, ensuring Massachusetts will continue to be an education leader.
“The standard is a higher, broader, deeper standard that will better prepare our students to be successful in the 21st century,” he said.
The guidelines were developed by a consortium of states but have been heavily promoted by the Obama administration, which has linked their adoption to the administration’s $3.4 billion Race to the Top education initiative.
Massachusetts has applied for $250 million under the program, and states get credit if they have adopted the Common Core Standards by Aug. 2.
Advocates for the change argue the national guidelines are stronger in some areas than the state’s.
Opponents contend the state’s standards are responsible for a series of first-place finishes by Massachusetts students in national assessment testing. They say adopting national standards will inevitably weaken the state curriculum, as well as trigger abandonment of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test, known colloquially as the MCAS.
Reville insists the MCAS will continue, but says state officials will have to make a few simple changes to reflect the new standards.
Before the vote, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker urged the members to deny the change. He testified that Massachusetts would lose control of its education decision-making.
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, a Democrat, argued for adopting the Common Core.
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said the state will now convene panels of educators to determine where the current Massachusetts standards are stronger than the Common Core Standards.
States that adopt the standards are allowed to revise up to 15 percent of the Common Core.