Common Core-Aligned Standards Decrease Massachusetts Students’ Achievement, Study Finds

massachusetts state house

Massachusetts student achievement continues to decline in the wake of the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a new study has found.

“The 2017 update of Massachusetts’ English and math K-12 academic standards represents further deterioration in English, while the math standards are essentially unchanged from the 2010 version, according to the first independent evaluation of the newly revised standards,” the Pioneer Institute reported in a December 2017 press release announcing its publication of “Mediocrity 2.0:  Massachusetts Rebrands Common Core ELA & Math.”

“The 2010 standards, which were based on Common Core, led to declining scores on national tests in both English and math,” the release states.

In 2010, K-12 public schools in Massachusetts implemented Common Core, a set of standards dictating what students should know at the end of each grade level, in exchange for Obama administration financial incentives.

‘So Disappointing’

Jane Robbins, an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project and coauthor of the study, says the results of the research are especially jarring in light of how highly regarded Massachusetts’ state standards once were.

“Massachusetts has always been the crown jewel in America’s academic standards,” Robbins said. “It was so disappointing [for those] who knew about the Massachusetts standards, that they decided to get rid of those and accept the federal money to use the Common Core standards.”

‘Diversity’ Replacing Classics

Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University and study coauthor, says Common Core has watered down the use of traditional educational materials in favor of more politically correct ones.

“What Common Core did to Massachusetts in English Language Arts was deplete the curriculum of strong literary-historical and philological content,” Bauerlein said. “Multiculturalism demanded that the English literary tradition be displaced and ‘diversity’ replace it. The new revisions extend this break-up even further. It will produce high school graduates with less knowledge of the literary patrimony, which includes less historical and philological knowledge.”

Missing a ‘Golden Opportunity’

Even after the first wave of decreased achievement scores came in, education decision-makers held onto the federal standards, Robbins says.

“In 2016, [the state] decided to update the standards, so this was the golden opportunity to fix it, to go back to what they had or at the very least fix the most egregious problems with their Common Core standards,” Robbins said. “They didn’t change very much.

“The evidence is all trending in the same direction, but I think there are a couple of things that are keeping them from going back,” Robbins said. “The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is supposedly taking the boot off the neck of the state as far as standards go, but if you read ESSA, it does describe the standards that it wants, and it describes the Common Core standards. A lot of states are reluctant to change because they don’t want to fight with the feds over ESSA. … The path of least resistance is just to keep what you have so you don’t have to defend it to the federal overlord.”

Editor’s Note: This article was published in partnership with The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News newspaper. SRN’s managing editor is Teresa Mull and SRN’s senior editor is S.T. Karnick. 

PHOTO: Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA. Photo by Ken Lund.

Ashley Bateman

Ashley Bateman (bateman.ae@gmail.com) writes for The Heartland Institute from Alexandria, Virginia.