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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Common Core Standards

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:June 11, 2010

The purpose of this memorandum is to update you on the status of three major activities designed to compare the June 2010 Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics to two versions of Massachusetts standards in those areas: our current standards (English Language Arts: 2001/2004 supplement; Mathematics: 2000/2004 supplement) and working drafts of revised standards (June 2010). These activities are intended to provide the Board with several analyses that will inform the decision regarding adoption of the Common Core State Standards at its meeting on July 21. If the Board adopts the Common Core State Standards, we will proceed in the fall to determine what standards and other resources Massachusetts will add to arrive at the final versions of new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts and Mathematics. If the Board rejects the Common Core State Standards, we will proceed with the development of our working drafts.

The activities include:

  • Providing the public with an opportunity to review, rate, and comment on the Common Core State Standards and our current standards;

  • Convening two panels of Massachusetts PreK-12 and college faculty, one for English Language Arts and one for Mathematics, to review and rate the Common Core State Standards and our working drafts; and

  • Assisting the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) in engaging one or more organizations with expertise in conducting standards alignment studies to conduct such a study using the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics and the working drafts of the Massachusetts standards in those areas.

Solicitation of Public Comment on the Standards

During the week of June 7, the Common Core State Standards and a survey soliciting public comment on them were posted on our website. The online survey asks readers to review, rate and comment on the Common Core and our current standards in terms of:

  • Content: the subject matter (concepts and skills) covered by the standards;
  • Rigor: the extent to which the standards are appropriately challenging for each grade level;
  • Clarity: the understandability and precision of the standards;
  • Vertical alignment: the progression of standards from grade to grade;
  • Measurability: the extent to which students' understanding of the standards can be demonstrated or observed;
  • College and career readiness: the extent to which the K-12 standards build towards preparing students for success in college and careers;
  • Overall effectiveness: overall rating of the standards;
  • Strong components of the Massachusetts standards that are not present in the Common Core State Standards; and
  • Strong components of the Common Core State Standards that are not present in the Massachusetts standards.

To encourage participation in the survey, we are alerting superintendents, principals, curriculum coordinators, institutions of higher education, and professional organizations. We also to plan to contact and encourage content experts in other states to complete the survey. The survey will be posted until July 2, after which we will summarize results for the July Board meeting.

While the solicitation of public comment focuses on the Common Core and our current standards, we have also posted the 2010 working drafts of Massachusetts English Language Arts and Mathematics standards under "Frameworks News" at Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks page, since we will be providing these standards to other groups (see below) to review and rate.

Review of the Common Core State Standards by Panels of Massachusetts Educators

We have assembled two panels of Massachusetts PreK-12 and higher education faculty to provide independent reviews of the Common Core English Language Arts and Mathematics standards and our working drafts of revised Massachusetts standards in those areas. The panelists (see Appendix) were selected because of their content expertise and familiarity with the Massachusetts standards. Several, but not all, of the panelists presented their views of the public comment drafts of the Common Core State Standards at the March 2010 Board meeting.

Jeff Nellhaus conducted a conference call with the panelists on June 3 to give them their charge and outline the schedule and process for their review. The schedule and process follows:

June 4-7: Panelists independently review and develop preliminary ratings of each set of standards (Common Core State and Massachusetts working drafts - English Language Arts and Mathematics). Ratings will address the following: content, rigor, clarity, vertical alignment, measurability, college and career readiness, overall effectiveness. Panelists will also identify standards and other elements that are unique to each set of standards.

June 8: Panels meet at the Department to discuss their initial ratings and develop a consensus rating for each criterion, documenting a rationale for their ratings and, if necessary, identifying areas in which they could not reach consensus.

June 14: The Chair of each panel submits a draft report to the Department. The Department distributes the draft report to each panelist.

June 15: Panels meet to discuss the draft report and identify areas where changes or additions to the report, if any, are necessary.

June 25: The Chair of the panel provides a second draft of the report to the Department.

Early July: The panel meets to discuss the second draft and determine whether any final revisions are necessary.

By July 12: The Chair of each panel submits a final report to the Commissioner.

External Review of the Common Core Standards

The Department is assisting the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) to identify national research organizations that could conduct an alignment analysis using the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics and the working drafts of the Massachusetts standards in those areas. An alignment analysis is designed to provide a systematic and detailed comparison of the content and performance expectations embedded in the two documents.

At the time of this writing, several organizations were under consideration. The MBAE intends to select a highly qualified contractor based on:

  • the organization's experience in conducting alignment studies;
  • the technical and content expertise of the individuals proposed to conduct the study;
  • the organization's ability to conduct the study and deliver a report by mid-July; and
  • the cost-effectiveness of the organization's overall budget proposal.

The MBAE intends to share the report with the Commissioner in time for it to be provided to the Board prior to its meeting in July.

Other Studies

We anticipate that there will be other reports and studies that will help the Board consider whether to adopt the Common Core Standards in July.

  • Achieve, Inc., has provided us with "side-by-sides" that compare the Common Core, current Massachusetts standards, and our working drafts.
  • The Fordham Foundation is planning to release a report early in July comparing the Common Core State Standards with each state's standards.

I look forward to further discussion about the Common Core State Standards at our meeting this month. Please contact me if you have any questions about this matter.

Appendix
PreK-12 and Higher Education Faculty Standards Review Panels

English Language Arts Panel

Lori DiGisi Middle School Reading Specialist, Framingham Public Schools
Elise FrangosAdvanced Placement English Content Specialist, MassInsight
Lorretta HollowayAssociate Professor of English, Framingham State College
Joseph McClearyDirector, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School
Barbara McLaughlinELA Senior Program Director, K-5, Boston Public Schools
Beverly NelsonAssistant Superintendent, Medford Public Schools
Jane RosenzweigDirector of the Harvard Writing Center, Harvard University
George T. VigliroloPanel Chair; English teacher, Brookline High School, retired.

Mathematics Panel

Anne Marie CondikeK-5 Mathematics Coordinator, Westford Public Schools
Solomon FriedbergMathematics Professor, Boston College
Douglas HolleyDirector of Mathematics, Hingham Public Schools
Diane KellyPanel Co-chair; Director of Mathematics, Revere Public Schools
Katherine RichardAssociate Director of Mathematics Programs, Lesley University
Wilfried SchmidMathematics Professor, Harvard University
Glenn StevensPanel Co-chair; Mathematics Professor, Boston University


Last Updated: June 18, 2010
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