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Mass. Board Approves Education Curriculum Change

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.

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  • Muriel

    How many years did it take for educators to familiarize themselves with the MCAS? Now that MA students, parents and teachers are comfortable with the MCAS, educators will have to go back to the drawing board and redesign an assesment test. At what cost? It seems like a huge waste of time and resources. Did the Committee adopt the Common Core just to be able to comptete in the Race to the top? I cannot believe educators, teachers and students will spend what? another 10 years getting comfortable with yet another test when MCAS are actually among if not the best in the nation?

  • Alex

    Muriel,

    I spoke with a friend of mine who sits on the Board of Education, and he assured me that the $250 million was barely a factor in the decision. While I personally am undecided where I stand on this issue, the arguments for the adoption of the Common Core are that Massachusetts can work with other states to further develop the standards, and to work together (while saving money) to create national exams. I’ve gone through a large portion of the standards, and they are certainly comparable to the 2010 Massachusetts Frameworks draft. The real question is whether or not the exam created with the several states will be held to as high a standard as Massachusetts. If not, we have the option of continuing to run our own MCAS exams.

    My own arguments against it are that our state will have little control over our own academic standards, but I’ve been reassured that our state played a leading role in the determination of the CommonCore standards, and we are likely to do so again.

  • euonymous

    My dad, who died in 1996 at age 80, and Lena Horne, the great singer, had one thing in common: as children they were forced to move from one school to another. To their dying days, both recognized that their lives would have been different if they had a better, smoother, educational experience. I believe a national curriculum will help individual children who must move to new schools for one reason or another and it has the possibility of improving the current declining state of American education. This is long overdue. Let’s hope educators use this opportunity to good advantage.

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