Massachusetts Bill Would Withdraw the State from Common Core

BOSTON, Mass. (Mar. 2, 2017) – A Massachusetts bill would withdraw the state from Common Core standards, an important step toward nullifying the program within the state.

Sen. Jason Lewis (D- Winchester) introduced Senate Bill 283 (S.283) to void Common Core standards and create a framework to establish state standards to replace them. It reads, in part:

Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, the vote taken by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education… to adopt the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts is hereby rescinded. The curriculum frameworks in Mathematics and English Language Arts that were in effect prior to that date are hereby restored.

In addition, S.283 contains language that would allow parents to see exactly what is in their students’ learning materials, which has not been readily available due to the Common Core standards. The bill reads, in part:

In order to better inform the teachers and administrators about the diagnostic assessments, after the administration of the assessments but before the start of the new school year, the commissioner shall release all of the test items, including questions, constructed responses and essays, for each grade and every subject.

Although measures to ban Common Core at the state level can be effective in stopping the federally-driven standards, other states have had similar reform efforts co-opted with Common Core simply rebranded after new standards were mandated legislatively.

REBRANDING

While a powerful step toward permanently ending Common Core in Massachusetts, the process it not without its potential pitfalls. As Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education said about a similar bill passed in Tennessee last year, many Common Core replacement bills end up being little more than “rebranded” versions of the same program. Even if the new state standards completely reject Common Core, it doesn’t mean the state won’t continue to allow the federal government to influence its education system.

A potentially problematic provision in S.283 is one that would set up three review committees for science and technology, math, and English. Each committee would contain three members from “any university that awards doctoral degrees in the arts and sciences” appointed by the governor. They would be tasked with confirming that educational “frameworks are equivalent to the standards of the most educationally advanced nations as determined by the Trends in Mathematics and Sciences Study” by a two-thirds vote.

The language in S.283 places a great deal of power in this unelected committee. If the legislation passes and is signed into law, it does not necessarily mean the end of Common Core in the state of Massachusetts. It will require public and legislative vigilance to completely keep undue federal influence out of education.

BACKGROUND

Common Core was intended to create nationwide education standards. While touted as a state initiative through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the U.S. Department of Education was heavily involved behind the scenes. Up until recently, the DoE tied the grant of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to adoption of Common Core, using the standards as powerful strings to influence state educational policy. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress this month now prohibits the DoE from attempting to “influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards … or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States.”

Even with the federal strings cut from Common Core for the time being, it is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards. The feds can once again use these national standards to meddle in state education at any time if they remain in place. Just as importantly, one-size-fits-all standard simply don’t benefit children. State and local governments should remain in full control of their own educational systems.

Rejecting nationalized education standards is the first step toward bringing true academic choice, and freedom. Passage of this legislation into law represents a positive step forward for the people of Massachusetts and a path for other states to follow.

Even with the federal strings cut from Common Core for the time being, it is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards. The feds can once again use these national standards to meddle in state education at any time if they remain in place. Just as importantly, one-size-fits-all standard simply don’t benefit children. State and local governments should remain in full control of their own educational systems.

Rejecting nationalized education standards is the first step toward bringing true academic choice, and freedom. Passage of this legislation into law represents a positive step forward for the people of Massachusetts and a path for other states to follow.

NEXT STEPS

S.283 is in the Joint Committee on Education. It will need to be approved in that committee before it can receive a full Senate vote. Stay in touch with our Tenther Blog and our Tracking and Action Center for the latest updates.

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