BOSTON, Mass. (Mar. 18, 2015) – A Massachusetts House bill to terminate Common Core educational standards, an important step toward nullifying nationalized education in the state, has stalled in committee and will likely need more signatures to appear on the ballot in November.
House Bill 3929 (H.3929) is the result of a initiative petition files by End Common Core Massachusetts. Because that group was able to gather 100,000 signatures from Sept. 16 to Nov. 18 of last year, the legislature is now considering the question of terminating Common Core standards.
Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster), Rep. Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge), and Rep. Donald Berthiaume (R-Spencer) signed on as sponsors for H.3929. The legislation would void Common Core standards at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and create a framework that would 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 on July 21, 2010, to adopt the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts is hereby rescinded.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.
The new standards would be determined by “committees made up exclusively of public school teachers and academics from private and public colleges and universities established and operated in Massachusetts.” Three review committees would be commissioned for science and technology, mathematics and English. The committees would include three appointees by the Governor, and require a two-thirds vote before standards are approved.
H.3929 also includes provisions to create transparency and ensure that teachers actually know what they are teaching to their students:
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.
The bill was heard in the Joint Education Committee this week, and no specific action was taken for or against the bill. Instead, the committee recommended the legislation for further study. It will now be heard by the Joint Rules Committee, making it less likely for the bill to be passed through the legislature and more likely that organizers will need to gather more signatures to put the issue on the ballot during the Nov. 2016 general election.
“We’re going to move forward. We’re planning on getting our remaining 11,000 signatures. We will be doing a lot of education. We will be working in the communities to educate different people in the communities,” said Donna Colorio, a Worcester School Committee member and Chair of End Common Core Massachusetts in a press release. According to their Facebook page, the organization is expected to begin their second petition drive on May 4 unless the legislation passes in unexpected fashion.
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.” But under the new federal law, states still must comply with College and Career Ready Standards, based on Common Core, as a condition for receiving some federal dollars. It also requires the federal education secretary to approve each state’s plans for standards and assessments.
Even with the federal strings partially 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.
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. It will require public and legislative vigilance to completely push the feds out of education in Massachusetts.
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.