National Standards Acceptance Update

Let’s take Massachusetts as a for-instance…

Last Wednesday, the state of Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt federal Common Core State Standards in place of their own state standards. Note that the word state is in the standards and national is not. You can draw your own conclusions about why this might be…

According to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, the state plans to take advantage of a Common Core State Standards option that allows states to change up to 15 percent of the (let’s call them what they are) national standards to suit regional academic needs.

It seems important to add that Massachusetts standards have an excellent reputation and their implementation has resulted in very high student rankings, both nationally and internationally. But to qualify for Race to the Top funding from the Obama administration, compliance with the Common Core Standards was made a requirement, and Massachusetts is submitting an application in Round 2.

So, two questions arise:

• Is this coercion?

• Are these really national standards?

What seem to be genuinely “higher standards” in Massachusetts than a) in some other states and b) in the national standards, can remain higher—at least, up to the 15% point. So, Massachusetts is planning to invoke that option and make changes.

If Massachusetts changes 15% and California or Virginia, say—also known for their high academic standards—changes a different 15%, then extending from that model, any two states could be following 30% different standards.

Or, every state could change the same 15%, each in its own way, so that only 85% of the standards overall would be standard.

Another point:

Concerns have been raised that this is a step from which there is no going back. Once a state has opted in—even one like Massachusetts, whose state content experts had a great deal of input into the initial Common Core documents—it appears that they’re in for the long-haul, even if their experts are not among those consulted, or heeded, in the next revision.