Why Massachusetts Grassroots Activists Will Not Give Up the Fight Against Common Core

Dec 9, 2015 by

by Michael Gendre with Mark Alliegro, Dean Cavaretta, Dave McGeney, Laina Simone,

Members of Massachusetts Common Core Forum

As active members of Common Core Forum, the umbrella grassroots organization in the Bay State informing parents and others about the Common Core project, we want to let parents and others across this country know that we are not hibernating for the coming year. Nor are we going out of existence on account of the vote by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on November 17 for a “hybrid” test called MCAS 2.0, implying that we will have the kind of state test we can support. We write here chiefly to inform parents, educators, and elected officials in the Commonwealth about the problems with MCAS 2.0 after reading all the confusion sown by the media, Left, Right, and Center.


We are pleased that End Common Core in Massachusetts delivered 80,000 certified signatures to the Secretary of State on December 2 to support its question for the November 2016 election ballot. But even before those signatures were delivered, the media had already created national confusion about the meaning of the Board’s vote for the “hybrid” test recommended by Commissioner Mitchell Chester. The media had apparently been mesmerized by the headline for Kate Zernike’s New York Times article on November 20 implying that BESE had voted out Common Core-based tests. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/us/rejecting-test-massachusetts-shifts-its-model.html?_r=0) The media took the Board vote to mean that the Bay State was abandoning Common Core standards.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.


We do not know why reporters mischaracterized what the content of a “hybrid” test in the Bay State (regardless of its name) could be. They could have spoken to members of Common Core Forum, many of whom attended the Board meeting.  As Chester later remarked, up to 90% of a “hybrid” test could consist of PARCC test items. He said that because he, the Board, and many others knew that any Bay State test today must be based 100% on Common Core’s standards, no matter what it is called.  The state might add new test items, but they would have to be based on its 2011 version of Common Core’s standards—almost straight Common Core. This was a shameful act of deception by the Commissioner, his staff, and the Board, all of whom know that even a “hybrid” state-mandated test today will not and cannot look very different (if at all) from PARCC or any other Common Core-based test.


In many CCF presentations in the Commonwealth in the past year, Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute highlighted the collusion of big business and federal bureaucrats in the creation and implementation of the Common Core project—and how it took the education policy-making process away from the states and local boards of education. Gass explained how the process leading to the Board vote in 2010 to adopt Common Core’s standards had been orchestrated by the Deval Patrick administration to make former Governor Patrick appear to have desirable leadership skills in education and to produce the vote wanted by the U.S. Department of Education—a vote to abandon the state’s superior standards for Common Core’s inferior standards. It was simply the first act of deception by the Board and the Commissioner.


The second occurred on November 17. In a blog on December 1, Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, described the Board’s vote for MCAS 2.0 as a “rebranding of PARCC for political purposes.” (http://edexcellence.net/blog-types/common-core-watch) For unknown reasons, in a Boston Globe opinion piece on December 2, Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute wanted readers to see MCAS 2.0 as a “compromise” but failed to indicate that the compromise was merely a state-labeled Common Core-based test instead of a PARCC-labeled Common Core-based test. (https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/12/02/mass-should-pursue-different-future-for-testing/Z1YAawbkvB4f5MKPelpOhJ/story.html) The title, MCAS 2.0, is in fact a false facade negotiated by compromised actors.


To help end the charade of a “hybrid” test called MCAS 2.0 but which is PARCC in disguise, we plan to continue explaining to parents, educators, and elected officials what our children stand to lose if we continue imposing on the school curriculum the substandard standards underlying a BESE-approved test, no matter what its name is, and why they should support the ballot question.


The question requires a review committee to be appointed by the governor that would include academic experts in Massachusetts higher education institutions, as well as public release of all test items, writing prompts, constructed responses, and essays for each grade and subject. That would help to make this “hybrid” test a real compromise. However, these requirements could be put into place today by an executive order that would enhance the leadership image of the state’s current governor, (http://newbostonpost.com/2015/12/04/charlie-baker-should-be-more-like-deval-patrick/) something some members of his own party say is needed.

Source: Common Core Forum – Keep Massachusetts #1 | Why Massachusetts Grassroots Activists Will Not Give Up the Fight Against Common Core

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