Michigan Senate panel turns to old Mass. MCAS standards

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2016/05/03/michigan-senate-panel-turns-to-old-mass-mcas-standards/

BOSTON – If efforts to repeal Common Core education standards succeed and the state returns to the old approach used with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, tests in place before 2010, it may find itself in good company.

In Michigan, a state Senate committee has advanced a bill that would require dropping Common Core and replacing it with the education standards used in Massachusetts up until 2010.

The bill (S 826) filed by Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck calls for Michigan to do away with Common Core and instead use “the academic standards in effect in Massachusetts during the 2008-2009 school year, except that any reference in those standards to ‘Massachusetts’ shall be changed in all appropriate instances to a reference to ‘Michigan’ and any state history or government content standards shall be changed to reflect the history and government of this state.”

The Michigan Senate’s Education Committee heard testimony on Colbeck’s bill on April 19 and late last week referred it to the full Senate with a favorable report.

Michigan currently ranks 38th in reading and 37th in math, according to Colbeck’s office, and the state’s position in national education rankings has dropped since adopting Common Core in 2010.

“It is time to stop the decline and adopt standards that have truly shown evidence of student improvement,” Colbeck said in a statement. “The Pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards were ranked number one in the nation based on student performance and are highly regarded worldwide.”

In December, the Michigan Department of Education established a goal of getting the Mitten State into the top 10 in education within 10 years, a goal Colbeck said the state can achieve if it adopts the old Massachusetts standards.

“In order to achieve this goal, it is critical that we pursue evidence-based strategies, and the evidence pertaining to the adoption of Common Core standards is not good for our students or teachers,” he said in a statement. “Our students and teachers deserve the best standards available. The pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards have been shown to consistently produce a high level of academic excellence in a variety of subjects.”

Among those who testified in support of Colbeck’s bill last month was Sandra Stotsky, former senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and a Common Core validation committee member, his office said.

Here in Massachusetts, Stotsky has been a vocal supporter of the End Common Core Massachusetts ballot initiative, which would revert state curriculum standards to their pre-2010 form.

The Common Core repeal referendum (H 3929) is currently under review by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Education Committee, which held a hearing on it in March. Without action by the Legislature, supporters of the repeal would have to collect another 10,792 signatures around the state to place the question on the November ballot.

Rep. Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat and House chairwoman of the Education Committee, has said that repealing Common Core in Massachusetts would be a mistake.

“If that ballot question were to pass, that is six years of work that will be irrelevant,” Peisch told members of local school committees last week. “I think it would be a huge mistake for a ballot question to determine what students learn.”

In November, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to accept Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s recommendation to create a new “next-generation” student assessment program building off both Common Core and the old standards tested by the MCAS exams.

Before the vote, members said they appreciated that the hybrid exam would let the state keep its autonomy and that they hoped teachers would be involved in building the new test.

After months of debate over whether Massachusetts should continue to administer its MCAS tests or switch to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests developed by a consortium of states to align with the Common Core curriculum, Chester recommended a middle ground.

Written by Colin A. Young