Massachusetts Ballot Initiative Could Put Students and Teachers at Risk

End Common Core Massachusetts announced last week that its members had collected enough signatures to include a question on the November ballot to repeal Massachusetts’ Common Core Standards, the Daily Caller reports. The proposal would require the state to return to the education standards used prior to 2010. Massachusetts education consistently ranks No. 1 nationally, and taking a step backwards now would put that success at great risk.

However, even if the state hadn’t chosen to adopt the Common Core, they would still be using standards other than the pre-2010 standards, because Massachusetts was in the process of revising those benchmarks after determining they were old and outdated. The old Massachusetts standards were written for a different day – one in which iPhones, YouTube, e-Readers and Wi-Fi had not yet been invented. At this point, the old Massachusetts standards are 15 years old and would need a complete overhaul. Returning to those standards is not in the best interest of students.

Donna Colorio, head of End Common Core Massachusetts, has repeatedly claimed the Common Core is a one-size-fits-all set of learning goals. “We can now begin a robust debate to ensure that any tests in MA are based on our high, pre-2010 standards, designed by local educators with MA students in mind,” Colorio told Politico. “Only passage of our ballot question ensures we will continue to move in the right direction.”

However, in 2010 the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to voluntarily adopt the Common Core State Standards. They did, the members explained, because the standards set a high bar for student achievement and create greater consistency among school districts and other states.

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

Early evidence suggests the standards are working. A Harvard University study notes, “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.”

A similar analysis by Achieve found that most states had significantly closed the “Honesty Gap” by implementing the Common Core and high-quality assessments. The Honesty Gap analysis recognizes Massachusetts as among the “Most Honest” for reporting student proficiency rates closely aligned to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—giving parents and teachers an accurate measure of student readiness.

States leading implementation efforts have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements in the country. In Tennessee, an early adopter of the Common Core, college readiness rates have improved consecutively over the past four years. In Kentucky, graduation rates have steadily improved, achievement gaps have narrowed and college readiness rates have made steady gains.

“Such notable successes demonstrate how effective setting higher expectations in our classrooms is, especially when states are willing to put their full support behind it,” Karen Nussle wrote previously.

That may be why most states have doubled down on their commitment to Common Core State Standards. “Despite concerted efforts to derail implementation of Common Core State Standards and the high-quality assessments that support them, states have weighed the evidence and opted to build on the framework set by these rigorous, comparable education standards,” Jim Cowen wrote this spring.

While most states are moving forward with the Common Core, Massachusetts voters should resist the temptation to turn back on this important initiative.