Associated Industries of Massachusetts commends the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for adopting federal “Common Core” educational standards. Federal standards will accelerate the commonwealth’s 17-year effort to build a world-class public education system that supports educational opportunity for children and economic competitiveness for everyone.
AIM has been deeply involved in efforts to improve public schools since the early 1990s, when the association funded studies that led to the landmark Education Reform Act of 1993. Our approach to education has always reflected the practical mindset of the employers we represent – deliver results, measure results, insist upon accountability, educate young people and never mind labels and political wrangling.
The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, AIM’s partner on elementary and secondary educational issues, commissioned an independent study comparing Massachusetts’ K-12 English and math standards with the proposed Common Core Standards.
The study, conducted by WestEd, found that:
- There is more in common than not between Massachusetts academic standards and the proposed Common Core; and both sets of standards are high;
- There is substantial alignment in math (96%) and English (74%) and they are comparable with regard to whether they are clear and measureable;
- In math, the two sets of standards reflect a comparable level of rigor;
- In English, the Common Core tends to have a heavier emphasis on standards that focus on strategic thinking and those begin in earlier grades.
“The study,” MBAE says, “found that these standards not only draw heavily from Massachusetts' current standards, but improve upon them by incorporating the some of the best international standards. To maintain our competitive advantage, Massachusetts must regularly update its standards to make sure that we’re applying the best current thinking about educating our young people.”
Common Core has other advantages as well. A national curriculum will allow financially strapped school systems to reduce costs by using common textbooks, software and learning materials. And Common Core will also improve Massachusetts’ chances of winning $250 million in federal education funding through the Race to the Top Program.
Under the Common Core adoption process, states may choose to exceed the standards by up to 15 percent.
Education matters to Massachusetts employers because it is one of the few areas where a high-cost, highly regulated commonwealth competes effectively with other states and countries. Employers also care about education because they recognize the importance of having a work force with the math skills for metal machining, the science skills for biotechnology or the literacy skills to fill out job applications.
Opponents of the move to Common Core view it as an abandonment of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Achievement System (MCAS) that has pushed Bay State students to the head of the class when measured against their peers. AIM does not share that concern. Common Core will maintain the emphasis on testing and accountability while improving the performance of Massachusetts students in key areas such as science, probability and strategic reasoning.
Education reform, like the students themselves, is ready to graduate to the next level.