By Chris Maza
WILBRAHAM – Concerned parents and residents have taken up an effort to remove the Common Core State Standards from the Massachusetts educational frameworks through a petition that is currently being circulated.
Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee member D. John McCarthy, one of those behind the drive along with members of the citizen’s group Falcons for Educational Freedom, said the petition was designed to be sent to the district’s representatives in the state government, namely state Reps. Brian Ashe and Angelo Puppolo Jr. as well as state Sen. Gale Candaras.
“With this petition, parents of students in the district and residents can ask their legislators to require the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to drop the standards,” he said.
McCarthy said that parents in Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) were not alone in drafting petitions calling for the removal of Common Core standards from the Massachusetts frameworks. He explained that the petition currently being circulated was a modified version of a petition that was drafted on behalf of concerned citizens in the Tantasqua Regional School District, which encompasses Brimfield, Brookfield, Holland, Sturbridge and Wales.
McCarthy said his primary concern was the fact that there was a lack of communication prior to the DESE adopting the standards and requiring districts to incorporate them.
“These frameworks were passed down from the DESE, who agreed to adopt the standards really without any debate or discussion,” he said. “Massachusetts already had the highest standards in the country, so I don’t understand the need to change.”
McCarthy asserted that while not all of the standards have negative impacts – “in fact, some are very good” – local districts should be able to maintain control. He said under the Common Core, districts are required to implement all of the standards, but are only allowed to improve upon those standards by 15 percent.
“I don’t understand why there is a limit on our educational standards,” he said. “The state should give the district the power to change our educational frameworks the way they feel it would best serve the students.”
He also expressed concern in the costs associated with implementing the standards and the proposed Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessments, which are being piloted this spring.
“The district never got any of the federal Race to the Top money that the state received, but it has to pay to implement the changes,” he said. “We’re saddled with that unfunded mandate.”
McCarthy added that the petition drive was independent from his work on the School Committee. On Jan. 29, School Committee Chair Peter Salerno and HWRSD Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea sent a letter to Candaras, Puppolo and Ashe stating their displeasure with the unfunded mandates and the pace at which the educational initiatives have been handed down.
The letter stated that during the past two years, the district had been required to implement new English language arts (ELA) and math standards in all grade levels, create a new educator evaluation framework, create a new set of district determined measures to evaluate student learning as part of the educator evaluation process, take on PARCC testing, and adopt a new approach to teaching ELA. The cost of the changes and the training associated with them, Salerno and O’Shea said, was “conservatively” estimated at $1 million during that two-year span.
“The letter sent by the School Committee to legislators was more focused on the unfunded mandate aspect,” he said. “This petition is a little bit stronger in its wording.”
McCarthy said he hoped to be able to present the signatures at the upcoming Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ Day on the Hill at the State House in Boston on April 29 and therefore set April 28 as the deadline for collecting signatures. He also planned to present it to the Massachusetts Association of Regional School Districts.
Those interested in signing the petition may contact McCarthy through his website,http://djohnmccarthy.com
and a PDF version of the petition is also available for download.