Will Massachusetts Parents Reject Common Core at the Ballot Box?

Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2010, many questioned the logic behind that decision. Considering that Massachusetts had a history of outperforming every other state on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the SAT, and international tests in math and English, it had a lot to lose by abandoning its proven system of standards and assessments.

Five years later, that decision has cost Massachusetts quite a bit: The state’s SAT scores are the lowest in over a decade in every subject and elementary students’ performance on NAEP has declined.

At this point, BESE should be conceding defeat on Common Core and calling for a return to the state’s previous standards, but that hasn’t happened. As bureaucrats often do, they are sticking by their bad decision. As School Reform News points out, BESE’s only attempt to placate the angry teachers and parents who have called for a full repeal of the standards was to rebrand the Common Core-aligned PARCC test with a state-developed model:

Media outlets inaccurately reported the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to scrap Common Core-aligned testing. What BESE voted for was a hybrid test combining Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) questions aligned with Common Core and other questions created by the state.

The new test set for release in 2017 will be called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), or MCAS 2.0. Parents and teachers understand that what is tested is taught. If the “new” test is 90 percent aligned to Common Core, as BESE acknowledges it will be, the Common Core will continue to be taught.

As Sandra Stotsky, an opponent of Common Core and former BESE member, reported to School Reform News, “Parents know this hybrid scheme is PARCC in disguise. It was clearly a rebranding for political reasons.”

She’s right—the people aren’t buying it.

As they did in December of 1773, the people of Massachusetts have decided to take things into their own hands. However, instead of dumping tea, they’re dumping the standards.

In December of 2015, End Common Core MA submitted 80,000 certified signature to the Massachusetts Secretary of State to get the Common Core repeal question on the ballot for the 2016 general election. According to School Reform News, the ballot measure would then be submitted to the state’s legislature in January. If legislators fail to approve the ballot question, additional signatures could be collected in order to get the proposal on the ballot. As Donna Colorio, founder of End Common Core MA, stated:

The direction of this petition is clear, frustrated parents and teachers signed this petition thanking us for working to restore educational excellence into the classroom. We oppose Common Core for Massachusetts because the standards are inferior, parents can’t help their children with their homework, the majority of teachers are opposed to Common Core, and our students’ scores are dropping.

Massachusetts is the first state to use the ballot approach to repeal Common Core. By wisely leaving it to the people, not the state legislature, to decide, Massachusetts probably has the best chance at a true repeal. Such a victory, of course, would be just the thing needed to inspire citizens in other states to follow suit, sparking another Massachusetts-inspired citizen revolt in America.

Erin Tuttle is a co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core and a contributor to Parents Against the Common Core.