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State Education Board Mulls National Standards

The chairwoman of the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has come out in favor of adopting the so-called Common Core national education standards, but other board members remain uncommitted.

"I think they represent a major step forward," Chair Maura Banta said. "I think the most important thing to say about the standards is when you listen to the authors — and I've listened to them a number of times — you understand why some of the changes have been recommended."

Banta's stance comes after state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester last week announced he would sign on to the national education standards in math and English — a decision that some say would end the state's use of the MCAS exam in those subjects.

The board votes Wednesday on whether to adopt the Common Core standards. The decision-making process, Banta said, will be a thorough one.

"I am expecting a very healthy conversation," Banta said. "There are very independent and thoughtful people on the board. They have been given the time and material, they need to come to the table and ask questions and make their own decision."

Board member Ruth Kaplan, the head of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, says she's still weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the new standards.

"I'm still considering what I'm going to do," Kaplan said. "I'm basically going to wait and see on Wednesday."

Critics say national standards could drag down Massachusetts' students high levels of achievement — to which many credit the state's standards and MCAS exam.

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This program aired on July 19, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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