Tag Archives: massachusetts schools

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.




Massachusetts Failing National Standards

On September 16, 2009 the Massachusetts Department of Education put out a letter regarding the status of it’s yearly progress. Overall the students seem to be stepping it up but the bottom line was that 54% of schools were in need of “improvement, correction action, or restructuring”. This is up 4% from 2008 which is alarming. Considering that a schools has to miss the bar four years in a row to be considered in need of corrective action (according to No Child Left Behind) that is a long time to be on a downward slope when you think of how many years a child is in any specific school.

Still, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, seems very positive with their results this year. They had one school in Brockton that was up for restructuring and the school has shown major improvement and may be off of the list for improvement in another year. Chester is of the mind that the schools are doing well but with the benchmarks being put higher every year the progress that the schools make never seems to measure up to new standards.
This raises the question about what can be done on a national basis about schools meeting the criteria set by the No Child Left Behind act. Massachusetts has always been seen as a great state for education, right now 937 statewide do not meet all the criteria. Makes one wonder where the problem lies. Public schools and charter schools are basically having the same issues, one does not test better than another.
This past year 378 schools were up for restructuring and so there were changes made to school administration, staff, curriculum and more. It’s hard to say if this is a federal or a state problem. The No Child Left Behind act wants all students proficient in English and Math by 2014. However, they leave the meaning of “proficient” up to the states to govern. It could be then, that Massachusetts has set the bar for their proficient score a tad too high and is having trouble reaching it.
The saddest part of all of this is that because of varying expectations and the constant need to require more of students, the success of the students is not being appreciated.