Activists and legislators who oppose Common Core are launching a campaign to put it to a vote on the 2016 Massachusetts ballot. Their proposed ballot question would drop Common Core as the state’s education standard and return to the standards Massachusetts previously developed and used.
“The purpose of the ballot question is to restore the previous standards we had in the state, the pre-Common Core standards,” said Sandra Stotsky, former senior associate commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who’s supporting the ballot effort.
The move comes as the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considers whether to switch from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Both systems are aligned to the Common Core standards.
‘We’re Being Ignored’
Stotsky, also an education professor emerita at the University of Arkansas, said the ballot initiative would “give a voice to parents and teachers, who were basically left out of the decision to adopt Common Core — not only in this state, but in every state.”
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt Common Core in 2010.
Donna Colorio, a former Worcester School Committee member and founder of Common Core Forum, will chair the End Common Core Massachusetts ballot question campaign, the group announced Wednesday.
“Common Core is a top-down educational standard,” Colorio said. “We’re being ignored as parents and teachers.”
Colorio and End Common Core Massachusetts hope to collect enough signatures beginning in September to get the question onto the November 2016 ballot.
According to the group, Rep. Donald Berthiaume (R-Spencer) and Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) support the ballot effort.
Mitchell Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, says the 2010 decision was part of an open process because it included input from teachers and open board sessions before the vote.
“To move backwards to what existed before 2010 would be a huge disservice to our educators,” Chester said Wednesday. “Our teachers have been at work for five years now, our teachers and administrators, in upgrading their curriculum and aligning their courses of study.”
Is Common Core The Real Issue?
While Colorio believes there will be enough support to get the question onto the ballot, some educators say they’re puzzled by the move.
“Why would anyone want to turn back the clock on something that has been moving ahead and working?” said Linda Noonan, executive director of Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. “I think what this demonstrates is that the Common Core — those two words — have become a proxy for a litany of complaints about education that have absolutely nothing to do with learning standards.”
Since their adoption in 2010, the standards have continually been under intense scrutiny in the Bay State, which has historically had some of the nation’s highest rankings in education.
Common Core standards are a set of benchmarks that dictate what students should know at certain points of their education, but not necessarily how students should learn them.
Proponents say that the standards increase college and career readiness, but critics say the standards end up influencing and changing classroom curriculum in damaging ways.
Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, says the most troubling development related to the Common Core is the associated testing to measure whether students live up to the standards — but that simply altering the standards won’t change that.
“Whether we have the Common Core standards or the previous standards, that doesn’t address the issue of this culture we have that is so centered on testing kids to death, testing overkill,” Guisbond said Wednesday. “I really don’t think just looking at the standards themselves will solve the serious problem that we have that is causing so much damage, narrowing the curriculum, pushing out important subjects, pushing down inappropriate academics on young children and driving good teachers out of teaching.”