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'Common Core' coincides with town review

State adopts new federal student testing standard

July 25, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Hope and uncertainty seem to be the watchwords regarding new Common Core standards the state Board of Education adopted last week.

"Massachusetts had been at the forefront of the nation in English and math, and I hope we're not going to a weakened set of standards," said School Committee Chairman John Jovan Jr. "We've been on a course for a number of years to align our district with the standards Massachusetts had set forth, and I hope those things aren't drastically different."

He's referring to the federal effort to standardize curriculum requirements, which has so far been accepted by 26 states. The first of those was Kentucky, which adopted them provisionally in February and formally in June, according to Cindy Heine, Associate Executive Director of Kentucky's independent nonprofit Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a pro-Common Core advocacy group.

Like the Bay State did in 1993, Kentucky established state standards in 1990 with an education reform act, which the legislature required updating last year, she said. That updating included the Common Core, for which Kentucky is still developing implementation and testing strategies, but she said she likes the fact it allows states to compare how their students do to those in other states.

"We've had standards for 20 years, and when the national opportunity to work with other states came up, Kentucky jumped on adopting those standards," she said. "… I think they're probably a little cleaner for our teachers in focusing more on big core concepts. They may be a little tougher, but maybe not."

According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman J.C. Considine, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester plans to reconvene the panels that fairly recently revamped the state's English and math standards to review how they compare to the new version. Under the law, he said, the states can "augment them by about 15 percent" in areas the state standards are stronger than the federal ones, and DESE expects to know those areas by October.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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