Watch: Rethinking Federal Intervention in K-12 Education

The Heritage Foundation and Pioneer Institute co-hosted an event entitled “Rethinking Federal Intervention in K-12 Education” held at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday. 

The description for the event states: “After recent historic declines in student achievement following decades of increased federal involvement in K-12 education, it is time to re-think federal intervention in education.”

Panelists included:

  • Theodore Rebarber – CEO of AccountabilityWorks
  • Neal McCluskey – Director, Center for Educational Freedom, Cato Institute
  • Brad Thomas – Senior Education Policy Advisor, U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce
  • Patrick Wolf – Distinguished Professor of Education Policy, University of Arkansas
  • Jamie Gass – Director of the Center for School Reform, Pioneer Institute
  • Lindsey Burke – Director, Center for Education Policy and Will Skillman Fellow in Education, Heritage Foundation

Watch the panel discussion below:

Study: Since Common Core Student Achievement Has Declined and School Choice Harmed

While U.S. academic performance has declined since the broad implementation of Common Core, school choice programs are increasingly hamstrung by regulations that require private schools to adopt a single curriculum standards-based test as a condition for receiving public money, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“When states mandate a particular curriculum standards-based test, private schools are essentially required to adopt the curriculum content and pedagogy on which the test is based if they want to increase the probability that that their students are successful,” said Theodor Rebarber, Chief Executive Officer of AccountabilityWorks, an education nonprofit, and co-author of “Common Core, School Choice and Rethinking Standards-Based Reform.”

Nearly two thirds of U.S. tuition grant (“voucher”) programs require schools to administer a single curriculum-based test, typically a Common Core-aligned test, in order to receive public money. Tax credits are less susceptible to government mandates than voucher programs are.  

Under tax credit programs, parents paying tuition or others that donate money receive a tax credit. The authors find that in 95 percent of cases, these programs are not subject to curriculum-based testing mandates.

Common Core is the logical endpoint of nearly three decades of Congressionally-mandated centralization through ‘standards-based reform’ that has moved key curriculum content, sequencing and pedagogical decisions away from local school systems and educators to the state and national levels. Instead of the promised accountability for results or informed school choice, the outcome at the local level has been a culture of compliance (“alignment”) that has intruded into the core function of curriculum and teaching. 

“With its near-monopoly status distorting the textbook and other instructional materials markets,” said Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, who co-authored the study with Rebarber, “Common Core blunts the innovation, dynamism and competition that is the heart of the school choice movement.”

The authors find that after several decades of only incremental test score improvements, which started prior to federal requirements for curriculum centralization, since Common Core was implemented in 45 states and Washington, D.C., student results are showing the first significant declines in achievement, especially for students who were already behind.

Fourth- and eighth-grade math scores were down overall on the 2015 and 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The declines among lower-performing students (bottom quartile) were even steeper. Fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores were flat, with declines among lower-performing students. At the same time, the U.S. is no closer to the internationally competitive performance in math and science observed in top-tier developed nations.

Instead of accelerating the curriculum to more advanced topics and following the practices of leading international competitors, Common Core’s politically-driven process resulted in the adoption of the mediocre curriculum sequences used in a number of mid-performing states and promoted progressive instructional dogmas shared by its developers. 

The authors do not recommend the adoption of a different set of national curriculum standards; rather they propose reducing federal mandates and permitting broader state experimentation.

At the state level, the authors identify two possible avenues for reform of public schools. The first is for states to emulate the pre-Common Core Massachusetts model, under which the state engaged a team of visionary curriculum standards drafters to develop clear and ambitious academic goals approximating the highest quality public and private schools. The reality, however, is that most states have not been successful in implementing this model and even Massachusetts in recent years has moved away from this approach in favor of the flawed Common Core.

“The second possibility is to re-conceptualize standards-based reform and accountability,” says co-author Rebarber. “We must shift standards-based reforms away from government central planners in order to disrupt the status quo and leverage innovative, ambitious curricula.”

Instead of the current federal mandate requiring that each state adopt a single, homogeneous set of curricular standards and test-driven instruction, states could be permitted to allow local districts, vocational-technical, and charter public schools to use the curriculum that best fits their needs and select from a variety of state-vetted assessments the ones that most closely align to the local curriculum.

Rebarber explains that “it would mean the end of the current misguided model of the national or state testing tail wagging the local curriculum dog, which parents oppose. The result would be a surge in investment at the national and local levels in far more diverse curricular and pedagogical models that do not conform to politically-established, lowest common denominator government curriculum standards.”

To empower states interested in such reforms, when the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act is next reauthorized, scheduled to occur in two years, the authors recommend that Congress eliminate the mandate that every state impose a single statewide set of curriculum standards and allow states to experiment with diverse approaches to accountability.

In a foreword to the study, University of Arkansas Distinguished Professor of Education Policy Patrick J. Wolf likens Common Core to “scientific management,” which is defined by standardization and command and control, and school choice to “liberation management,” which is marked by decentralization, choice and competition.  

“Diversity has long been a hallmark of these United States, especially in the area of education,” Professor Wolf writes.  “At its essence, this fine report gives us good reasons, at least in K-12 education, to favor more pluribus and less unum.”

Read the report below:

About the Authors

Neal McCluskey is the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. He is the author of the book Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples, and Compromises American Education and is co-editor of Educational Freedom: Remembering Andrew Coulson, Debating His Ideas.

Theodor Rebarber has worked on education reform and policy for three decades in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. He currently leads nonprofit AccountabilityWorks, which conducts education policy research and offers online testing services.

Patrick J. Wolf is Distinguished Professor of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. He has led or assisted with most of the key evaluations of private school voucher programs over the past 15 years, including recent studies of programs in Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and Louisiana.                     

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.  

The Concord Review: Encouraging Good Writing by Publishing Good Writing

I wanted to draw your attention to an interview that Pioneer Institute did with Will Fitzhugh, the founder of The Concord Review. Will established this quarterly journal that publishes history papers written by secondary students.

When he founded it its goal was to “recognize and to publish exemplary history essays by high school students in the English-speaking world.”

“In 1987 I was teaching history at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts and I heard a lot of talk about low reading skills and poor writing ability and ignorance of history among secondary students,” Fitzhugh recalled. 

“It seemed to me that if I could start a journal for the best history essays by high school students that I could find, it could attract some good papers and also serve as an inspiration to other students who might not realize how hard their peers are working,” Fitzhugh added. 

The Concord Review has published over 1,300 papers from students all over the world in 118 quarterly issues since 1987. 

According to The Concord Review‘s website, many of their authors have sent reprints of their papers with their college application materials, and they have gone on to Brown (27), University of Chicago (23), Columbia (21), Cornell (16), Dartmouth (22), Harvard (125), Oxford (13), Pennsylvania (23), Princeton (67), Stanford (51), Yale (107), and other institutions, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Caltech, Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, McGill, Michigan, Middlebury, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Reed, Rice, Smith, Trinity, Tufts, Virginia, Washington University, Wellesley, and Williams.

Will has found a way to highlight and encourage good writing from students, by publishing it. Well done Will, keep up the good work! 

Watch his interview below:

Pioneer Institute Study: Massachusetts “Eviscerates” Its K-12 History Standards

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should reject a proposed rewrite of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework in its entirety and immediately restore the state’s 2003 framework, considered among the strongest in the country, according to a new research paper titled, No Longer a City on a Hill: Massachusetts Degrades Its K-12 History Standards, published by Pioneer Institute.

“The 2018 revision fails to provide effective history education. It must be replaced with a framework that requires much of students but offers them, in return, a share of our common treasure,” wrote the paper’s authors, David Randall, director of research at the National Association of Scholars; Will Fitzhugh, founder of the The Concord Review; and Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

The authors argue that the draft of the new framework, released for public comment in January, “eviscerates” the 2003 framework and degrades it in five ways.

  1.  It replaces coherent sequences of American and European history with incoherent fragments.
  2.  It is 50 percent longer than the 2003 framework and presents the standards in “unreadable education-school jargon.”
  3.  It replaces the earlier framework’s full account of our country’s European past and replaces much of it with “the history of politically correct protest movements.”
  4. It allots insufficient time for students to learn European and American history.
  5. It eliminates the already developed 2009 history MCAS assessment and substitutes hollow “expectations” for each grade.

“Each of the 2018 Revision’s failings is sufficient to disqualify it as an adequate standard for K-12 history instruction,” according to the authors. “It should be rejected outright.”

“It’s truly a travesty to see the loss of curriculum standards that helped catapult Massachusetts to national leader in education. First the state replaced its excellent English language arts and math standards with Common Core, and now it discards its stellar history standards in favor of progressive propaganda. This white paper aims to address the heart of these issues and suggest a way the state can reclaim its much lauded educational heritage,” Robbins said in a released statement.

In 2003 the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework was created as part of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act. It contained grade-by-grade standards for core essential learning. While history instruction in K-12 schools has been in decline for decades, according to the authors, history education in Massachusetts has fared better until changes were made in 2009.

In 2009 the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) suspended the history and social science framework. In 2016 the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) introduced a rewrite of the framework, the result of what the authors called “an exercise in progressive educational propaganda and vocational training for how to be a political activist.” The rewrite was approved by BESE and posted for public comment in January 2018.

Along with rejecting the revised standards outright, the authors made several recommendations on ways that DESE could strengthen civics instruction in the state.

These include turning the 2003 framework’s United States Government elective into a required course; endorsing the Civics Education Initiative, already enacted in 15 states, which requires high school students to pass the same test that immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass; and adding a civics component to the MCAS history test.

Co-Author of 1993 MA Ed Reform Act Concerned About Current Policies

Former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham
Photo Credit: Rappaport Center (CC-By-2.0)

Massachusetts Education Reform Act co-author and Former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham, who now serves as a distinguished senior fellow in education at the Pioneer Institute, spoke at an event at the Massachusetts State House marking the education reform act’s 25th Anniversary.

Birmingham praised the historic success that has been achieved since the law was enacted in 1993:

If you had told me then that more than 90 percent of our students would pass MCAS and that we would have 13 consecutive years of improvement on SAT scores, or that our students would rank first in the nation in every category and in every grade tested on NAEP between 2005 and 2013, and that they would place at or near the top on gold-standard international math and science tests like the TIMSS, I would have thought you were unrealistically optimistic. We all had ambitious hopes for education reform on that day 25 years ago, but I doubt any of us would have dared to predict the historic successes we have actually enjoyed under the Act.

He shared what K-12 education in Massachusetts was like before the bill:

Before 1993, we witnessed the grossest disparities in spending on our public schools. In some districts we were spending more than $10,000 per child per annum and in others we were spending $3,000. In those circumstances to pretend that we were affording our children anything remotely approaching equal educational opportunity was nothing short of fraudulent.

And the academic quality of education was materially different in virtually every school district across the Commonwealth. Partly as a result of those disparities in spending, the state did precious little to insist on uniform standards. Pre-1993 there were but two state-imposed requirements to get a high school diploma: one year of American history and four years of gym. Clearly a testament more to the lobbying prowess of gym teachers than to any coherent pedagogical vision.

But the Education Reform Act strove to change all this; to change the state funding mechanism and the academic expectations for all our students. I believe we have largely succeeded.

Addressing Massachusetts current standards and tests he said:

With regard to standards and tests, we have jettisoned our tried and true reliance on higher-quality academic standards and MCAS and replaced them with inferior Common Core standards and PARCC testing. It’s worth noting that the PARCC consortia has now lost over two-thirds of its member states; hardly a ringing endorsement. I fear the implementation of Common Core and MCAS 2.0, which is a rebranded version of PARCC, has contributed to Massachusetts being a negative growth state on NAEP reading and math between 2011 and 2015.

Why Massachusetts would settle for having the same English, math, or science standards and rebranded PARCC tests as do Arkansas or Louisiana, whose students could not possible meet Massachusetts performance levels, is puzzling to me. The Common Core and its PARCC-style testing regime represent one of those rare instances where what may be good for the nation as a whole is bad for Massachusetts.

Read his full remarks here.

HT: Pioneer Institute

Video: Duke Pesta & Sandra Stotsky Dissect Why Common Core Has Failed

FreedomProject Media released a video last week featuring Dr. Duke Pesta, FreedomProject’s academic director interviewing Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor emeritus of education reform at the University of Arkansas and author of Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core ELA standards.

They drill down on a new report from the Pioneer Institute that shows how the move to Common Core and their subsequent “new standards” hurt Massachusetts student achievement. The study said the new standards are still inferior to the pre-2010 academic standards.

FreedomProject notes in their description of the video, “Prior to adopting the Core, Massachusetts schools and educational standards were the finest in the nation, in large part because of the work of Dr. Stotsky. Now, Common Core has relegated Massachusetts to the same underachieving, politicized, centralized mediocrity plaguing the rest of the country’s public schools.”

Watch below:

Massachusetts’ New Standards Are Still Inferior to Pre-2010 Standards

The Pioneer Institute released a report co-written by Mark Bauerlein, R. James Milgram, and Jane Robbins this week that reviews Massachusetts new academic standards. You don’t have to guess at their general opinion when you see the title – Mediocrity 2.0: Massachusetts Rebrands Common Core ELA & Math.

The report outlines how K-12 education in Massachusetts declined after they replaced their superior pre-2010 academic standards with Common Core:

How has the move from excellent standards and tests to Common Core and its aligned tests worked out? One of the best ways to answer that question is to rely on the NAEP assessment (the so-called “nation’s report card”), which is administered every two years in reading and math to a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders in every state. Between 2011 and 2015 (the Common Core era), Massachusetts was one of 16 states in which NAEP reading scores actually fell, and one of 39 states in which NAEP math scores fell. From 2013 to 2015 alone, Massachusetts scores declined in three of the four testing categories.

Evidence of a decline in the performance of Massachusetts students is also observable on the SAT. Since 2006, those scores have dropped by nine points in reading, 10 points in math, and 15 points in writing. Thee writing decline, especially, suggests that the reorientation of English class from classic literature to the “informational texts” of Common Core may be bearing bitter fruit.

Massachusetts in 2016 changed its assessment to an MCAS-PARCC hybrid. They also started on a review and revision of their standards which included Common Core.

They note the new language arts and literacy framework still has the same weakness that Common Core had, it lacks domain knowledge:

Apart from the verbal skill deficiencies that high-school students in Massachusetts fail to overcome during their years in the classroom, the great danger of the current English Language Arts curriculum is that students leave high school with meager domain knowledge. If the standards that are to guide the curriculum do not broach the actual, specific subject matter of the discipline, then the education of students in English falls short. Students may acquire certain skills—the current standards are broken up into Reading, Writing, Language and Speaking/Listening, which each have their skills side— but their knowledge of literature, language, and criticism never develops.

We raise the issue because this is what we see in the 2010 standards and even more so in the new ones. The skills elements in the four areas are solid, but not the knowledge areas.

They note there are four major drawbacks to the new standards:

  1. There is an absence of philology (and therefore of phonetics, lexicology, and references to historical events).
  2. The new framework lacks English and world literary history.
  3. The new framework displaces important civic-literary historical writings
  4. It denies of one of the prime instructions that English used to claim, namely, the recognition of the great, the good, and the mediocre.

They then looked at the math standards:

This analysis focuses on the two major areas that students need to learn in grades one through eight: basic arithmetic, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, ratios, rates, percents, and proportions…

….The finding was that—aside from a tiny number of added phrases that do not impact the mathematical content in the arithmetic, ratio, rate, percent, and proportion standards in any way—the new document is identical to the, clearly failed, previous one.

Before they provided an analysis they wanted to state that there is no such thing as 21-Century Mathematics:

Before the main analysis can be presented, it is necessary to discuss the idea promulgated by proponents of the Common Core that there is such a thing as 21st- mathematics, such that the mathematics learned by students even 30 years ago is now obsolete. Their claim is that this 21st-century math is focused on problem-solving so that the main focus of instruction should be on the generalized subject of problem-solving.

The truth is radically different. ere is no such generalized subject, and the main objective of math has always been on its use as a crucial tool in solving problems not only in mathematics but in the sciences and any other precisely de ned subject of human endeavor. But in practice, one finds that before problem-solving can begin in any area, the person attempting it has to know as much as possible about that area and the mathematics that most likely will be necessary….

….Even the mathematics that was developed over 2,000 years ago is as essential (and correct) today as it was then. But there are two subjects in mathematics that have become far more important today than they were previously: 1) algorithms and computers, and 2) statistics and data analysis. therefore, these subjects should be covered adequately in the current document—which, of course, is not only not the case, but is as far from actually happening as possible.

Their analysis of the new math standards came to a troubling conclusion:

By eighth grade, the new Massachusetts math standards are at least three full years behind actual expectations in countries such as Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, and the other highest-achieving countries in the world in the most important mathematics the students are expected to learn. Further, if these standards continue to be faithfully followed for the rest of these students’ K–12 experience, the students will be even more than three years behind.

Read the whole report below:

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It Is Too Expensive to Replace Common Core?

It is too expensive to replace Common Core.

That’s the argument one member of the Utah State Board of Education made last week.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports:

Utah opponents of the Common Core State Standards may need to foot a $100 million bill if they’re committed to replacing the controversial education benchmarks, according to state school board member Spencer Stokes.

During a Thursday meeting of the school board’s Standards and Assessment Committee, Stokes said it is simply too expensive for Utah to start from scratch on a new set of grade-level standards for mathematics and English education.

“There’s no way on God’s green Earth that the Legislature is going to give us the money needed to create a true Utah core,” Stokes said. “In my mind, that chapter of this debate has closed because there’s no funding for it.”

Stokes’ explanation met resistance from board colleague Lisa Cummins, a member of the advocacy group Utahns Against Common Core.

She said her constituents don’t believe the debate is over and are not satisfied allowing a “socialist program” to be rendered impenetrable by financial constraints.

“Then they can pay for it,” Stokes responded. “The point is, the Legislature won’t give us the money.”


A 2016 report found that comprehensive revision of the Utah’s math and English standards, including the development of new tests and instructional materials and training for educators, could cost up to $38 million for the Utah Board of Education and another $87 million for local school districts.

First, if it will cost $100 million to replace Common Core, how much did it cost the state to implement it in the first place? I don’t recall the Board bemoaning the cost of new standards back then.  I would also love to see a copy of this report the Tribune cites as there was no mention of who conducted the study, nor a link to the report. Since Mr. Stokes is throwing that figure around he needs to state where he’s getting his numbers.

Second, based on a study sponsored by the Pioneer Institute, American Principles Project, The Federalist Society, and Pacific Research Institute in 2012 that pegged Common Core’s cost at $16 billion nationally I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say Utah spent more to implement Common Core. At least they won’t have to shell out more for broadband which would be a bargain.

Third, how much will it cost Utah, in the long run, to continue with these reforms that have so far have produced no fruit except, at best, a decrease in NAEP scores and increased achievement gaps?

Bill Bennett Doesn’t Know What He Is Talking About

Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett is at it again. Even though a self-styled conservative, Bennett was a fan of the Common Core national standards pushed by the Obama administration and various progressive-education foundations. He recently wrote for Fox News (republished at the Fordham Institute’s blog) that the new fed-ed bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), restores state sovereignty over education policy, and he challenges states to step up to the plate, as Massachusetts and Kentucky supposedly have done. But some of the points he makes are, shall we say, confused.

First, Bennett expresses satisfaction that ESSA allows states to escape from the policies he supported in the past. Common Core was a centralized scheme of minimal, utilitarian workforce-development standards crafted in secret by unaccountable private organizations and pushed onto the states by the federal government. Although nothing about this scheme suggests “conservative,” Bennett was a supporter (he acknowledged he was paid for his public advocacy). The implicit concession is that what he advocated was bad and that states should celebrate ESSA’s freeing them from “compliance mode.” Odd.

Second, Bennett’s claim that ESSA reduces federal control over education is, unfortunately, not true. Observers who actually read the 1,061-page bill have pointed out that it, in fact, codifies some of the federal controls that had previously been present only in Obama policy (to the extent that former Education Secretary Arne Duncan chortled at what his side was able to get away with during negotiations on the bill).

Third, Bennett’s description of the recent history of Massachusetts education is a jumbled mess. He correctly states that “[i]n the 1990s, the Bay State dramatically raised standards . . . . Within several years, it became the nation’s leader in education and on par with some of the leading countries in the world.” But then he goes on to lament the “legitimate concern today that Massachusetts has begun watering down some of its rigorous standards and that performance is starting to backslide.” Bennett apparently doesn’t know what really happened in Massachusetts education.

As the Boston-based scholars at the Pioneer Institute have explained, the “watering down,” or more accurately gutting, of the Massachusetts standards occurred when that state yielded to the $250 million federal bribe to replace its first-rate standards with the demonstrably inferior Common Core. Since that happened in 2010, the performance of Massachusetts students has indeed begun to “backslide,” as Bennett puts it. But this happened under the training of Common Core – which Bennett assured us would be great – not the genuine education of the previous Massachusetts standards.

Bennett may have been awkwardly referring to Massachusetts’s current review of the Common Core English language arts and math standards. Perhaps he’s concerned that, impelled by the solid anti-Common Core movement in the state, the Massachusetts education establishment will creep away from the Common Core standards that Bennett thinks so highly of and back toward the previous excellent standards. But wait – the backsliding student performance Bennett bemoans came under Common Core, which he thinks is great, but which he’s happy states will be liberated from under ESSA. Confused yet?

Bennett ends by saying, “We know what works in education, but for years, states, districts, superintendents and teachers have had their focus distracted and hands tied by burdensome federal regulations.” Indeed. What works in education is the pre-Common Core education program that was in place in Massachusetts. The burdensome federal policies included coercing Massachusetts to replace its standards with Bennett’s preferred Common Core. One would almost conclude that Bill Bennett doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

New Massachusetts Science Standards Are Subpar

High School Student Holding Molecular Model

As a result of ignoring input from a distinguished national expert, Massachusetts’ Next Generation Science Standards adopted last spring by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) fall short, according to the second of a two-part analysis of the standards published by Pioneer Institute.

“The standards purport to explore fewer topics in greater detail,” said Paul R. Gross, lead writer of What Goes Up Must Come Down: New, Lower K-12 Science Standards for Massachusetts, and other, recent reports on the new, so-called Next Generation Science Standards for K-12. “But a series of additions make the new standards no less broad and shallow than their predecessors.”

California State University Northridge Biology Professor Dr. Stan Metzenberg’s study of a draft version of the standards that were released for review by the BESE was largely ignored by drafters of the final version. He found that the draft standards excluded or minimized a number of important topics included in the earlier standards such as Mendelian genetics and large parts of cell biology.

The new curriculum frameworks also compress separate standards for each of the human body’s seven major systems (digestive, circulatory/excretory, respiratory, nervous, muscular/skeletal, reproductive and endocrine) into a single composite standard, reducing students’ knowledge and lessening their ability to talk to and understand their own physicians and make good health choices.

“Massachusetts has sacrificed science standards that were a national model for replacements that are clearly inferior,” said co-author Ze’ev Wurman.

The new standards are an adaptation of standards issued by the D.C.-based educational lobbyist Achieve, Inc. And although there are a number of Massachusetts additions and repairs, they still miss important content and fail to make key connections.

Recently released results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study assessment found American students still trailing far behind their Asian peers. Half the fourth graders in Singapore who took the test scored high enough to be considered advanced in math, compared with just 14 percent of U.S. students.

Under the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act and the previous state standards, Bay State students have achieved stellar results: leading the nation on every grade tested in reading and math from 2005 to 2013 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, called “the nation’s report card.” In 2007 and 2013, Massachusetts students were among the top performers in the world on international math and science tests.

The authors also find that the standards are expressed in a way that is unclear and unnecessarily complicated.

About the Authors:

Paul R. Gross is University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, having served also as Vice President and Provost, and Director of the Center for Advanced Studies. He has taught on the faculties of New York and Brown Universities, the Universities of Rochester and Edinburgh, and at MIT. He was Director and President of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and a Trustee of Associated Universities, Inc. His scientific research and publications are in developmental and molecular biology. He writes also on the public and academic cultures of science, and on science education and literacy, and is active as a consultant in the creation of K-12 and college academic standards.

Ze’ev Wurman is a senior fellow with the American Principles Project. He participated in developing California’s education standards and the state assessments in mathematics between 1995 and 2007 in various capacities. Between 2007 and 2009 he served as a senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. In 2010 Wurman served on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated the suitability of the Common Core standards for California and was one of its two members who voted against their adoption for California. He has been published in professional and general media. In his non-educational life he is an executive in a semiconductor start-up company in the Silicon Valley and holds over 25 U.S. patents.

Read below: