Common Core Reversing Massachusetts’ Educational Achievements

I wanted to draw your attention to an op/ed written by James Stergios, Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute entitled “The Massachusetts Exception” published at The City Journal.

An excerpt:

It’s common knowledge that in 1983, a federal report called A Nation at Risk indicted the “rising tide of mediocrity” in American public education and called for a school system that would be among the best in the world. Far less well known is that only one state effectively responded to that challenge: Massachusetts. By passing the landmark Education Reform Act of 1993, which pushed content and high standards above all else, the state became an outpost of success in a landscape of academic failure. Today, however, federal initiatives—especially the push for national education standards, which may have beneficial effects in lower-performing states and which Massachusetts has adopted—threaten to undermine the reforms that made the Bay State the nation’s unquestioned educational leader…

…With this record of success, Massachusetts should be the model for other states to follow. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened, thanks to the development of the Common Core State Standards (see “The Curriculum Reformation”). The push for national education standards dates back to the first Bush administration, when Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander called for voluntary national standards and testing. After the Clinton administration’s attempt failed in the mid-1990s, efforts to implement national standards lay dormant until the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation decided to make them a top priority. Beginning in 2007, the foundation funded the development of national English and math standards. It also supported organizations like Achieve, the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the Fordham Institute, all of which advocated for national standards. Ze’ev Wurman—a Silicon Valley high-tech executive and former federal education official who played a central role in developing California’s standards—says that the Gates Foundation’s total investment in the national standards reached $100 million last year.

Read the whole thing here.

Branstad Looking to Repeat Massachusetts’ Mistake

Massachusetts took a model of educational reform and success and chucked it to adopt the common core state standards.  No legislative vote.  Jim Stergios of The Pioneer Institute and Lindsey Burke at The Heritage Foundation write a cautionary tale in an op/ed at The Daily Caller.

Until last summer, education experts from across the political spectrum regarded Massachusetts as having the nation’s best academic standards and testing for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. But now that the state has adopted national standards and testing, it has become a cautionary tale about the dangers of ceding local control over public education…

…In 1993, Massachusetts enacted landmark education reform legislation. The new law included high academic standards, high-stakes testing for students and teachers, charter public schools and accountability for everyone in the system.

These standards and reforms made Massachusetts the nation’s leader in public education. In 2005, Bay State students became the first students to finish first in all four categories measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

These tests, known as “the nation’s report card,” were administered again in 2007 and 2009. Again, Massachusetts swept every category….

…But Massachusetts has turned its back on that success. Last summer, the state board of education — without so much as a legislative hearing or vote — discarded standards and testing in favor of something weaker called the Common Core State Standards Initiative plus yet-to-be-developed national tests.

When Governor Branstad should look to the Bay State as a model for how education reform can take place without federal involvement (pre-2010), he instead wants to follow the example of their State Board of Education by encouraging our state board to do the same.

While Massachusetts had measurable success, Sturgios and Burke note that advocates of a national standards can’t point to a similar track record:

Improvement such as was achieved in Massachusetts is rare in a U.S. public education landscape littered with failure. Even so, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota are among the states that can point to measurable progress.

Advocates of national standards — including trade organizations and special-interest groups such as Achieve, the Gates Foundation, the Council of Chief State Schools Officers and the National Governors Association — would be hard-pressed to point to a single program they’ve developed that definitively boosted student achievement.

The same can be said for the 32-year history of the U.S. Department of Education. The contrast between the triumph of local control in Massachusetts and decades of unproductive federal involvement in education couldn’t be clearer.

If Iowa is to truly regain prominence in education once again Governor Branstad needs to take this cautionary tale to heart.

Originally posted at American Principles in Action