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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

Education Board adopts Common Core standards to keep Massachusetts students national leaders in education

Massachusetts educators and staff were integral in drafting of standards to increase expectations for students in the Commonwealth and across the country

MALDEN - The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education cited the increased academic rigor and stronger expectations for student performance when it voted 8-0 to adopt the Common Core Standards in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics on Wednesday, making Massachusetts the 27th state to adopt the internationally benchmarked academic standards that promise to keep the Commonwealth's students national leaders in education. The Common Core Standards will continue to be assessed through the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), ensuring that all Massachusetts students continue to achieve at the highest levels in the nation and preparing them to succeed in the global economy.

Launched in June 2009, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is designed to develop and implement a single set of national standards in ELA and math to define what every student should know and be able to do in order to be fully ready for post-secondary education or a successful career. Massachusetts played a leading role in the development and review of the standards over the past 13 months. Curriculum experts and educators from across the Commonwealth reviewed and submitted comments on drafts that were incorporated throughout the development process to ensure that the expectations set in the final versions met or exceeded the state's strong standards for students.

"Today's vote is a strong statement of the Board's commitment to keeping Massachusetts competitive in the global economy," said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Maura Banta. "I am very grateful to all the professionals who provided the Board with such a thorough and thoughtful analysis. We look forward to your continued contribution as we identify unique Massachusetts standards that should be added to the Common Core."

"All along, the conversation about Common Core has been about the Commonwealth seizing the opportunity to improve upon our already high standards," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Today's action ensures that Massachusetts will continue to be the recognized leader not only in performance but in setting the direction for nation's future education reforms."

"Adopting the Common Core standards allows us to retain our standing as a state that holds all students to high academic expectations. These standards will spur academic achievement in the classroom," said Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester. "This decision also puts us right where we should be – at the table with other states to collaborate on innovative curricular and instructional strategies that will benefit students and educators for years to come."

The Common Core standards were developed using the most effective academic standards from across the country and around the world. These standards are designed to provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what all elementary and secondary school students are expected to learn. The standards are aligned with expectations that define the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and and/or workforce training programs. They are designed to drive high quality instruction in the nation's classrooms. The standards include rigorous content and build on strengths and lessons of the state's current standards.

The Board has discussed the standards at four previous meetings over the course of the past year. BESE sought public comment while engaging department staff, outside experts, district curriculum leaders and teachers in a process involving analysis and feedback.

The standards were also fully vetted, reviewed and approved by national organizations including Achieve, Inc., which called them "a significant advance over current state standards," and the Fordham Foundation. The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), in a side-by-side analysis comparing the state's current standards to the Common Core, deemed that Common Core "meets the business community's objective of enhancing the college and career readiness of our students."

In addition, external review teams of Massachusetts educators and academics assembled by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education did their own analysis of both the Common Core and the state's academic standards and found them to be of equal quality and strength. Both teams recommended adoption of the Common Core standards. In their final review, the team that reviewed the ELA standards noted that the Common Core document "bespeaks an abiding belief in high academic achievement through the pursuit of the best possible educational praxis."

Among the strengths officials highlighted as distinguishing factors within the Common Core:

  • The focus on reading and writing across the curriculum
  • The attention to speaking, listening and vocabulary
  • The consideration of emerging new literacies (such as digital and print sources) for research and communication
  • The treatment of varying student needs and achievement levels in the delivery of the math curriculum

Two former commissioners of education, Robert Antonucci and David Driscoll, who were responsible for the design and implementation of the Education Reform Act of 1993 and the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) this week voiced support for Common Core based on the academic rigor set forth in the standards. Likewise, former Boston Public Schools Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant encouraged the Board to adopt the standards based on the value added to the state's current high expectations.

Business leaders also this week announced their backing of the new, higher standards. In addition to MBAE, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Progressive Business Leaders Network and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable all encouraged the Board to adopt Common Core based on their review of the standards and conclusion of the strong academic foundation contained within both the math and English Common Core frameworks.

Later this summer the ELA and mathematics curriculum framework review panels will be reconvened and charged with identifying unique Massachusetts standards to augment and strengthen the Common Core. This will be brought to the Board this Fall for final approval.

Once fully adopted, the new frameworks will be posted on the ESE website, and widely publicized. Regional statewide professional development sessions on the new standards will be offered over the next year, through the District and School Assistance Centers, the Readiness Centers and other venues. All districts will be expected to align their curricula to the new standards by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

Last Updated: July 21, 2010
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