In the upside down, inside-out world of education reform, one of the most glaring inconsistencies is the case study of Massachusetts, a state that led the nation in standards and high student test scores, a state that had actually achieved competitiveness with leading international competitors, yet a state that dropped all that success, dropped its own tried and true success formula, to apply for a Race to the Top grant which tied it to common standards: Common Core.
I’m sharing portions of a recent opinion editorial written by the former president of the Massachusetts Senate, Tom Birmingham, on the subject of how Common Core hurt Massachusetts.
The full article is here, at the Boston Globe.
“If you had told me on that hot day in Malden 20 years ago when Governor Bill Weld signed the Education Reform Act that over 90 percent of Massachusetts students would pass MCAS, or that the Commonwealth’s SAT scores would rise for 13 consecutive years, or that our students would become the first in every category in every grade on national testing known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” or that Massachusetts would rank at or near the top in international science tests, I would have thought you wildly optimistic…
I’m …troubled by the Commonwealth’s willingness to replace our tried-and-true standards and MCAS with totally unproven national standards and testing. This conversion will come at an estimated cost of $360 million for new textbooks, professional development, and technology…
Most of the lowest-performing states have adopted the standards, known as Common Core. Based on nationally administered exams, states like Alabama and Mississippi could not hope to attain Massachusetts’ standards.
In implementing the Common Core, there will be natural pressure to set the national standards at levels that are realistically achievable by students in all states. This marks a retreat from Massachusetts’ current high standards. This may be the rare instance where what is good for the nation as a whole is bad for Massachusetts.
…Given our incontrovertible educational successes, those seeking changes should bear in mind the admonition of the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.”
Tom Birmingham, former president of the Massachusetts Senate, is senior counsel at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP. He coauthored the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.