Did Massachusetts Reject the Common Core?
Many think that Massachusetts’ decision not to use the PARCC exams also means that it has rejected Common Core. Here are five rumors surrounding Massachusetts’ rejection of the PARCC exams.
Rumor One: Massachusetts Has Dumped the Common Core State Standards
Untrue. Massachusetts did not dump the Common Core Standards. Anyone who says otherwise is categorically incorrect. Massachusetts cannot drop the Common Core, because the Common Core is based largely on the MCAS system developed in Massachusetts beginning in 1993 as part of the state’s Education Reform Act led by then governor Bill Weld. So, to say that Massachusetts is dumping the standards is to say that Massachusetts is dumping its own critically acclaimed and highly successful educational model—one that has made the Massachusetts school system the envy of the nation.
Rumor Two: The Common Core is a Curriculum Teachers Are Required to Follow
Untrue. Simply stated, the Common Core is a set of guidelines that, collectively, provide a basis for the lessons used in the classroom. They do not, in and of themselves, constitute a curriculum. Teachers are still free to develop lessons as they have done in years past. Common Core guidelines encourage teachers to develop lesson plans that help students learn and develop critical thinking and analytical skills that go far beyond worksheets and the drill-and-kill methods of the past. More specifically, they help students prepare for the kinds of challenges they can expect to find in college and careers.
Rumor Three: Massachusetts Has Rejected PARCC and Will Stay With MCAS
Half true. The Mass Board of Education has decided to develop a new set of exams, currently being referred to as MCAS-2. These new tests will borrow many elements, question types and even questions directly from PARCC. Since PARCC was a test of the Common Core, this decision confirms the fact that Massachusetts has not rejected the Common Core.
Rumor Four. The Common Core is Academically Unsound
Untrue. Common Core is losing steam nationally not because it is academically unsound, but largely because it is tied to a set of tests which school systems would be urged to implement: PARCC or Smarter Balanced. This meant that teachers would have been held accountable for their students’ scores and, thus, would likely have to rewrite their curriculum to meet the standards as tested by the tests. Many teachers and administrators were reluctant to do this, and so got behind a national movement to dump the core.
Rumor Five: Massachusetts Will Develop a New Set of Standards to Replace Common Core
Untrue. The Common Core was based largely on MCAS, so little will change now that Massachusetts has rejected the PARCC exams. Common Core lessons and guidelines are still alive and well in Massachusetts. So, for those expecting change – none is forthcoming. Common Core strands and guidelines are still alive, though they will likely be referred to as Massachusetts’ stands rather than Common Core strands.