Common Core State [sic] Standards
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Board balks at Common Core; Tantasqua pushes state to drop new school standards
Ohanian Comment: I say 3 Cheers! for a board that is still willing to think for themselves and insist on local autonomy.
by Craig S. Semon
The Tantasqua Regional School District Committee is pushing for state legislation to overturn the state Board of Education's decision to adopt the National Educational Standards because committee members are concerned about the impact the Common Core might have on its students.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce, according to the Common Core website.
In a 8-0 vote July 21, 2010, the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Common Core Standards in English language arts and mathematic. To date, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards.
School committee chairman Michael J. Valanzola of Wales, who testified before the Joint House and Senate Committee on Education on the same issue in 2011, said the Common Core lowers the commonwealth's standards in education in a time when the state should be raising them.
"Anything that removes control from a local body and gives it to a big government bureaucrat is not something that should happen without discussion," Mr. Valanzola said. "And, in some ways, the Common Core does that. It eliminates the local control and allows folks that are not really connected to or impacted by the district to make the decisions."
School committee member James A. Cooke of Brookfield said there is some concern that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers 10-week testing scheduled (dictated by the Common Core) could end Tantasqua's current block scheduling on the high school level.
"Let's say a student takes algebra I in the fall semester," Mr. Cooke said. "Under the Common Core testing, the kids would be at a disadvantage because they would have taken algebra in the fall but may be tested on it in the spring."
Last month, the school committee unanimously passed a motion to ask state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre; state Rep. Todd M. Smola, R-Palmer; and state Rep. Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer, to file legislation in opposition to the Common Core decision. Last week, the school committee unanimously approved a motion to send out a press release of the actions the committee made in December.
The Tantasqua Regional School District Committee is calling on the state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick to override the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopting national education standards; i.e. the Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics, and furthermore, retain the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System assessment based on the state's own curriculum frameworks as the standard for scholastic achievement in Massachusetts. MCAS has been the standardized testing regimen used by the state since education reform in the 1990s
And this is not the first time the Tantasqua Regional School District Committee has made this push.
On Dec. 21, 2010, the school committee registered its opposition to the state Board of Education's decision and its desire to see the state reinstate the previous academic standards.
Mr. Cooke said the Legislature held a hearing on it but it never made it out of committee. The school committee hopes to be more successful the second time around, he said. Mr. Cooke said the Common Core is a step backward for Massachusetts.
"The MCAS standards in the state were the highest academic standards in the country," Mr. Cooke said. "The current Common Core places more of an emphasis on writing, for instance, and less of an emphasis on literature."
In addition, Mr. Cooke said, you have an outside group that's not the subject to any oversight or accountability in detailing the curriculum. And, Mr. Cooke said, more people are not aware of the impact Common Core will have on their kid's education.
"We realize this is an uphill battle because of the current political situation," Mr. Cooke said. "As it becomes more apparent about the impact of the Common Core on students' education, we're hoping that others will join us."
Craig S. Semon
Telegram and Gazette
January 22, 2013
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