SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 11, 2014

With Common Core on the way, committeeman sounds an alarm

McGeney invites opponent of national standards to speak

PEABODY — Dave McGeney is seeking a cure for the Common Core.

The veteran school board member is speaking out against Common Core, the federally sponsored effort to promote common educational standards and testing across the country. Already approved here in Massachusetts, Common Core testing will begin this spring on a trial basis in schools in Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Middleton, Salem Academy Charter School, Swampscott and Peabody. Eventually, Common Core is slated for use in every city and town in the state.

The new test, known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), is seen as a replacement for the MCAS — something McGeney feels is a mistake. With MCAS, student test scores in Massachusetts have climbed to the highest level in the nation, he said. He also is wary of a loss of control by local boards and the potential for abusing student information. Consequently, he’s asked Common Core critic Sandra Stotsky to speak at the Higgins Middle School tonight at 7.

Stotsky, he said, was involved in education reform in Massachusetts in the 1990s and was also part of the team developing Common Core before turning against it.

So exactly what is the Common Core?

Megin Charner-Laird, an education professor at Salem State University, explains it as “an effort to bring a core set of standards to as many states as possible. ... It’s called a core because it’s a core set of knowledge and skill.” It was designed in the early 2000s, she said. So far, 45 states plus the District of Columbia have opted into the program.

Charner-Laird, a former elementary school teacher who holds a doctorate in education from Harvard, is already preparing would-be teachers to respond to the requirements of Common Core.

She sees in Common Core the potential to accomplish something vital by helping teachers and administrators set a direction for education nationwide. The program won’t be telling them how to teach, she says: “There still is a lot of discretion at the local level.”

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