MA Gov Baker Straddling the Fence on Common Core Ballot Initiative


Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is on the fence about the Common Core ballot initiative that will be voted on this fall.  He testified against adopting the Common Core in Massachusetts in 2010. He believes the state getting out of PARCC and the current review the state will accomplish the same goal as the ballot initiative.

Commonwealth discusses his “Common Core caution.”

“We’re not going to be the caboose to the train of a federal program,” said Baker. “We’re in Massachusetts going to chart our own course. And the board of education is going take the best of what I would describe as all possible options that are out there and create an MCAS 2.0 framework here that will work for our kids and our families going forward. I think that’s pretty consistent with the basic intent of the [ballot] question, which is to have Massachusetts chart its own course and make its own call.”

Anti-Common Core activists in the state are not convinced.

“I‘ll just respectfully disagree with the governor that what we want has been addressed,” said Donna Colorio, leader of End Common Core Massachusetts, which is spearheading the ballot question campaign. She said Chester has signaled that as much as 90 percent of the updated MCAS 2.0 assessment will draw from the PARCC test, meaning Common Core standards will largely have to be kept in place.

Opponents have criticized the heavy hand of the federal education department in pushing states to adopt Common Core. They’ve also leveled detailed critiques of the standards themselves, taking issue with Common Core’s approach to understanding math and criticizing the English language arts standards, which call for an increased emphasis on nonfiction “informational” texts, saying they are misguided and will diminish the study of literature and poetry.

Common Core is currently being reviewed in Massachusetts, but don’t expect any major changes.

Jim Peyser, Baker’s education secretary, said he doesn’t expect the current review of the state’s standards to lead to “radical change,” but he does “expect a conversation about meaningful change.”

While the process now underway is “not identical to the one that’s specified in the ballot question, it is intended to be a good faith effort, in substance, to accomplish what they are looking for,” said Peyser.

The administration has “made a decision to work through a revision of the standards” with a belief that this is “a process that may get them to a place where they have standards that approximate or, in their hope, go beyond what Massachusetts had prior to adoption of Common Core,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute. The right-leaning Boston think tank, where Baker and Peyser both previously served stints as executive director, is a leading national voice against Common Core. “We’re empiricists so we’ll see how it comes out,” said Stergios.