The BLOG: Voices

The MBAE’s false ‘talking points’

The MBAE has decided, for unknown reasons, to put out ungrammatical “talking points” (dated March 2016) against the parents’ petition to end Common Core and to restore our superior pre-Common Core standards in mathematics and English language arts. The MBAE two-pager is titled “Talking Points on the Ballot Question that would Repeal the Common Core.”

The MBAE has already filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General’s office (in January 2016) for certifying the parents’ petition in September 2015. The lawsuit, in essence, claims the Attorney General’s office didn’t know what it was doing. The AG’s response to the MBAE lawsuit is not yet public. Nor has the MBAE made public who funded its pricey lawsuit, although the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is on record as having given a lot of money to the MBAE in 2014.

The MBAE is also, for unknown reasons, supporting a “coalition” against the parents’ petition, led by Robert Antonucci, former commissioner of education at the time the first version of our first-class English language arts standards was developed and finalized — in late December 1996 and early 1997. I remember the events well since Bob had appointed me as co-chair of the committee that developed those standards and stood next to the chair of the board of education (John Silber, Chancellor of Boston University) as the board voted for those standards. He expressed his gratitude to me for my work on those standards more than once.  He was proud of them. Why he is willing to head the MBAE-created “coalition” against them is unclear.

Nor is it clear why the MBAE feels qualified in trying to prevent restoration of the Bay State’s superior standards since its members are not academic experts in mathematics, English, rhetoric, linguistics or composition. Who is funding its efforts to disseminate these false talking points (as well as the pricey lawsuit) is also a mystery. All that can be said at this point is that the MBAE seems to be joining with other organizations in an attempt to marginalize parents seeking a better education for their children than a curriculum based on Common Core’s standards.  At the least, it is not sympathetic to parents who cannot afford the kind of non-Common Core private school that Bill and Melinda Gates send their children to in Seattle.

Let’s look at one of the many inaccurate MBAE “talking points” that Bob Antonucci himself would acknowledge as false if he were able to speak to the media truthfully about David Coleman’s Common Core standards.

“The Common Core not only draw heavily from Massachusetts’ standards, but also improves upon them by incorporating from some of the best international standards.”

Do Common Core’s ELA standards draw heavily from the Bay State’s own ELA standards?  Do Common Core’s ELA incorporate “some of the best international standards?” I pointed out, years ago, that there is almost no similarity between what is in Common Core’s ELA standards and what guided development of the Massachusetts ELA standards, what is in them, and how and why they raised student achievement in the Bay State. In no way do Common Core’s standards draw from the superior Massachusetts English language arts (ELA) standards. Who should know: Me or David Coleman, constantly referred to as the “chief architect” of Common Core’s ELA standards?

Common Core’s inferior standards, voted in by the mostly Governor Patrick-appointed Board of Education on July 21, 2010, are now, word for word, in the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts. A small group of teachers chosen by Commissioner Mitchell Chester and his staff worked up a small group of standards to ADD to Common Core’s standards as part of the 15 percent extra that states were allowed.  But NO changes were made to the CC standards themselves.  The new standards (mainly for creative writing and for pre-school) were inserted into the 2011 document, which is why it credits David Coleman, James Patterson, Susan Pimentel, and Susan Wheltle as co-authors (the last-named was a member of the department staff at the time). The first three were the ELA standards writers chosen by the Gates Foundation and Achieve, Inc., so far as we know.  None of these four people has an advanced degree in English, none has taught literature at the high school level.

As for the claim that Common Core’s standards incorporated international standards, the major reason why mathematician R. James Milgram of Stanford University and I were among the five members of Common Core’s Validation Committee who refused to sign off on Common Core’s standards in May 2010 was the fact that Common Core’s standards were not research-based, rigorous, or internationally bench-marked (comparable).

All the MBAE “talking points” can be viewed below.  Parents simply need to be on the alert for a coalition claiming these talking points as facts.




Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas.