Anti-Common Core Ballot Initiative Would Be Bad for Massachusetts Teachers and Students

In an opinion piece published by the New Boston Post, Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project argue that Massachusetts had no reason to adopt the “untested, unpiloted Common Core scheme.” The authors go further to claim officials were financially incentivized, by federal funds and public interests, and encourage parents to support a ballot initiative that seeks to repeal the commonwealth’s Common Core standards.

The facts tell a very different story. In 2010 the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted unanimously to adopt Common Core State Standards. The state was in the middle of developing new, higher standards when they decided to adopt the Common Core because they were deemed even more rigorous. The state’s education officials explained the standards set clear learning goals and empowered educators to collaborate with other teachers across the countries to unlock students’ full potential.

“All along, the conversation about Common Core has been about the Commonwealth seizing the opportunity to improve upon our already high standards,” said Education Secretary Paul Reville said in 2010. “Today’s action ensures that Massachusetts will continue to be the recognized leader not only in performance but in setting the direction for nation’s future education reforms.”

Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester echoed the same sentiment: “Adopting the Common Core standards allows us to retain our standing as a state that holds all students to high academic expectations…This decision also puts us right where we should be—at the table with other states to collaborate on innovative curricular and instructional strategies that will benefit students and educators.”

Over the past nearly six years Massachusetts educators and administrators have diligently implemented the Common Core. As a result, the state remains a leader in education. A follow-up analysis to the Honesty Gap report identifies Massachusetts as a “Top Truth Teller” for reporting proficiency rates within five percentage points of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Last fall Kelly Clenchy, a superintendent in Littleton, explained that Common Core does not force teachers into a rigid model of instruction, as Robbins and McGroarty suggest. “In fact, school districts across our state interpret and interweave the state standards into their curricula,” Clenchy notes. “Teachers can tailor individual curricula in a fashion that incorporates their own expertise.”

Turning back on the Common Core could cost Massachusetts families and taxpayers millions and upend the state’s academic expectations, which are working, cautions the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE). Linda Noonan, executive director of the MBAE, calls the ballot initiative Robbins and McGroarty champion an “improper and legally dubious question to place on the ballot.”

“The quality of educational services provided to all children, and Massachusetts’ status as the leading state for student achievement, are at risk if the proposals in this ballot question were to become law,” Noonan says. “This is a reckless and irresponsible ballot measure that would turn back the clock on critical improvements that the majority of teachers and principals support.”