Why the Massachusetts Ballot Initiative to Repeal the Common Core is a bad idea

Supporters of a ballot initiative that would repeal Massachusetts’ Common Core State Standards continued to mischaracterize the standards Monday, calling them “sinister,” and “an unholy alliance between the education industrial complex and our federal government,” WWLP News 22 reports. Diane Colorio, director of End Common Core Massachusetts, the group pushing the measure, argued the state is “doing worse, not better” since adopting the Common Core.

Massachusetts adopted the Common Core in 2010 because the standards offer more consistency between districts and other states and set a high bar for students. After the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt Common Core State Standards, Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville explained:

“All along, the conversation about Common Core has been about the Commonwealth seizing the opportunity to improve upon our already high standards…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.”

In the nearly six years since, Common Core State Standards have empowered Massachusetts to continue its role as a leader in education. The follow-up Honesty Gap analysis by Achieve identified Massachusetts as a “Top Truth Teller” for the second year in a row for reporting student proficiency rates that closely align with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

“In 2010, Massachusetts adopted college- and career-ready standards in English language arts and math. Last spring, Massachusetts administered PARCC assessments… As a result, Massachusetts’ latest student test results continue to closely reflect proficiency rates identified by NAEP, indicating parents and teachers are getting accurate information about their children’s readiness,” the analysis notes.

Experts roundly agree education initiatives generally require years to take root, and it would be premature to cast off the Common Core as “not working,” as Colorio does. In response to the lower NAEP scores last fall, Thomas Kane, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution wrote:

“Given the combination of high standards and use of many more open-ended items on the PARCC and SBAC tests, requiring students to explain their thinking, to write coherently and to demonstrate conceptual understanding, perhaps we will see an acceleration of progress in student achievement, in literacy as well as math… The NAEP scores don’t shed any light in either direction at this point.”

What is clear is that states leading the implementation of Common Core State Standards are having success. Kentucky and Tennessee, two of the earliest adopters of the standards, have achieved some of the biggest academic improvements in the country. In 2014, Karen Nussle wrote, “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.”