Academic Standards

Pioneer Institute has been a staunch advocate for district and school accountability, high-quality academic content, and content-based student and teacher assessments that align with the state’s nation-leading academic standards.

Nationally, Pioneer has led the campaign against federal control of K-12 education policy through the Common Core initiative. Pioneer has published a series of research papers showing that the state’s adoption of national standards weakens the quality of academic content in Massachusetts’ classrooms, and raising serious questions about the legality and the costs of Common Core.

Research

Common Core

Study: After-School Programs Can Help Improve Flat or Declining Math Achievement

Philanthropic, other organizations should consider providing financial assistance to allow programs to expand into lower-income communities BOSTON – At a time of declining state and national math proficiency, after-school math programs offer a viable option for quickly increasing the number of mathematically competent students, according to a new Pioneer Institute study that profiles two such programs: Kumon and the Russian School of Mathematics (RSM). “Given the disappointing state of math education in American public schools, after-school math programs could play a particularly important role,” said Ze’ev Wurman, co-author with William Donovan, of “Axioms of Excellence: Kumon and the Russian School of Mathematics.” For the first time since 1990, fourth- and eighth-grade math scores fell on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational […]

Study Finds Declining Student Achievement and Increased Harm to School Choice Since Common Core

Read coverage of this report in The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, and The Federalist. Curriculum centralization has failed to improve international competitiveness—it’s time to re-think curriculum standards-based reform BOSTON – While U.S. academic performance has declined since the broad implementation of Common Core, school choice programs are increasingly hamstrung by regulations that require private schools to adopt a single curriculum standards-based test as a condition for receiving public money, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “When states mandate a particular curriculum standards-based test, private schools are essentially required to adopt the curriculum content and pedagogy on which the test is based if they want to increase the probability that that their students are successful,” said Theodor Rebarber, […]

Press Release: Birmingham Touts 1993 Ed Reform Act’s Success, Expresses Concerns about Recent Policies

BOSTON – Massachusetts Education Reform Act co-author and former Senate President Tom Birmingham praised the historic success that has been achieved since the law was enacted in 1993, but expressed concern that the Commonwealth is veering away from basic principles of the law that produced that success at a State House event marking the 25th anniversary of the Education Reform Act. Describing the day the bill was signed, Birmingham, now the Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education at Pioneer Institute, said “If you had told me that over 90 percent of our students would pass MCAS and that we would have 13 consecutive years of improvement on SAT scores, or that our students would rank first in the nation in every […]

Study: Updated Massachusetts K-12 Standards Are Worse in English, Still Mediocre in Math

Check out news coverage: “Report warns of falling test scores” (Salem News, Newburyport Daily News, Gloucester Times); Bloomberg Bay State; Accuracy in Academia; The Lowell Sun; The Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise; RealClearEducation. The Lowell Sun published an op-ed as well, here. Both 2010 and 2017 standards demonstrably inferior to state’s pre-2010 academic standards BOSTON – 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, which is published by Pioneer Institute.  The 2010 standards, which were based on Common Core, led to declining scores on national tests in both English and math. The new […]

Study Finds Common Core Incompatible With Catholic Education

Singular focus on workforce development conflicts with Catholic schools’ academic, spiritual and moral mission BOSTON – The workforce-preparation focus of the K-12 English and math standards known as Common Core puts them at odds with Catholic education, and the standards should not be adopted by parochial schools, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project. As most states rushed to adopt the standards at the beginning of the current decade, the National Catholic Education Association urged Catholic schools to get on board, and many adopted Common Core.  But the tide began to turn, and in 2013 a group of 132 Catholic scholars sent a letter to American bishops asserting that adopting Common Core would […]

Study: Poor Performance of Other States in PARCC Consortium Would Translate to Lower Standards for Mass.

Attacks on MCAS for not producing “college-ready” graduates demonstrates lack of understanding of test’s purpose BOSTON – Political realities dictate that, as with any tests, passing scores on those developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will be set at a level that avoids having an unacceptable number of students fail.  Since Massachusetts is by far the highest performing of the states that remain in the PARCC consortium, the commonwealth’s K-12 education standards have the farthest to fall, according to a policy brief published by Pioneer Institute. “If too many students fail to reach the new threshold and are denied diplomas, our education system seizes up,” said Dr. Richard P. Phelps, author of “Setting […]

Testing the Tests: Why MCAS Is Better Than PARCC

Study:  MCAS Less Expensive, More Rigorous and Provides Better Information than PARCC  Authors call for state to phase out both PARCC and Common Core BOSTON – In the wake of an apparent shift by Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester making it increasingly likely that Massachusetts will update MCAS rather than adopt English and math assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a new study published by Pioneer Institute concludes that revising and updating MCAS would result in lower costs and more rigorous assessments that would provide better information about student performance. “The research leads us to support keeping MCAS and making it an even better test,” said Jim Stergios, Pioneer’s executive […]

New Book: “Drilling through the Core: Why Common Core is Bad for American Education”

With Common Core Collapsing, New Scholarly Book Informs Debate about Academic Quality, Cost, and Illegal Federal Role in K-12 Education “Drilling through the Core: Why Common Core is Bad for American Education” (377 pp, Pioneer Institute, Boston, $9.95) BOSTON – The Common Core K-12 standards have gone from “inevitable” to “poisonous.”  A new book adds to the woes of Common Core’s supporters by bringing together academic critiques from over a dozen scholars who provide an independent, comprehensive book-length treatment of this national standards initiative.  The book arrives at a moment when popular support for the Common Core is declining. Two national polls show widespread opposition; repeal and rebranding efforts are underway in numerous states; it has become toxic for presidential […]

Study: Common Core & 2 Testing Consortia Violate Federal Laws, Unlikely to Improve Academic Achievement

Study: Common Core and Two Testing Consortia Violate Federal Laws, Are Unlikely to Improve Academic Achievement “Competitive federalism” doesn’t run afoul of federal law, would produce better results Contact Jamie Gass, 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – In the wake of the U.S. House and Senate’s passage of bills that would reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind law, a new Pioneer Institute research paper finds that national English and mathematics standards, known as Common Core, violate three federal laws that prohibit the federal government from exercising any direction, supervision or control over curricula or the program of instruction in the states. Dr. Williamson M. Evers, author of “Federal Overreach and Common Core,” proposes a better approach. “Competitive federalism, […]

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester Should Recuse Himself from Upcoming Decision on PARCC & MCAS

BOSTON – Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, who later this year will make a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (the board) about whether to replace MCAS tests with those developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), chairs PARCC’s governing board. Pioneer Institute calls on Chester to recuse himself from the MCAS/PARCC decision process for the following reasons: 1. As commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (the department), Chester serves as secretary to the board of education and oversees the state agency and hearing process for choosing between MCAS and PARCC. The agency he heads gathers the information on which the policy decision will […]

Pioneer Institute Statement on MBAE PARCC/MCAS Study

Recently, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) continued its advocacy for Common Core and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a federally funded testing consortium, with the release of a study concluding that the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) performance is not an indicator of preparedness for higher education success. This study perpetuates a deeply troubling pattern of conflicts of interest marking the commonwealth’s consideration of Common Core and PARCC. MBAE has accepted several hundred thousand dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested more than $200 million in development of, and advocacy for, Common Core. In addition, this most recent MBAE report was co-authored by Scott Marion, who serves as […]

New Report: The Successes and Challenges of Educating Military-Connected Children

Study finds college and career readiness focus of Common Core a disconnect with students from Military Families since majority are under seven years old BOSTON – A remarkable education system has been created to benefit Military-Connected Children, enabling them to perform academically as well as or better than children whose families are not in the military, despite the unique challenges they face, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. In Support & Defend: The K-12 Education of Military-Connected Children, education analyst and retired career Air Force officer Bruce Wykes presents an in-depth analysis of how the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) provides high-quality education to more than 84,000 eligible Military-Connected Children in more than 190 schools around […]

Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses

Study Finds Common Core Math Standards Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Math Courses, Dumb Down College STEM Curriculum Lower standards, alignment of SAT to Common Core likely to hurt low-income students the most BOSTON – Common Core math standards (CCMS) end after just a partial Algebra II course.  This weak Algebra II course will result in fewer high school students able to study higher-level math and science courses and an increase in credit-bearing college courses that are at the level of seventh and eighth grade material in high-achieving countries, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. Study Finds Common Core Math Standards Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Math Courses, Dumb Down College Stem Curriculum […]

Study: Common Core ELA Standards Will Further Harm U.S. History Instruction

Study Says Common Core ELA Standards Will Further Harm U.S. History Instruction States and schools should offer separate standards and classes for English and U.S. History rather than follow Common Core approach of merging academic disciplines BOSTON – By trying to include U.S. History in English language arts (ELA) standards, Common Core will further damage history instruction, according to a new study authored by a preeminent Founding-era historian, a content expert, and a high school history teacher with standards-writing experience. Imperiling the Republic: The Fate of U.S. History Instruction under Common Core “Imperiling the Republic: The Fate of U.S. History Instruction under Common Core,” published by Pioneer Institute, analyzes literacy standards for U.S. History that are included as part of […]

Gov. Jindal’s Common Core Lawsuit Draws on Pioneer’s Research

BOSTON – The legal complaint issued by Governor Jindal’s office clearly builds off Pioneer Institute’s white paper “The Road to a National Curriculum,” co-authored by former U.S. Department of Education General Counsel Kent Talbert, Deputy General Counsel Robert Eitel, as well as Bill Evers of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The publication was a joint release with the Federalist Society, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute. In that paper, Talbert, Eitel, and Evers focus not on the broad issue of whether federal involvement in education is a constitutional question, although that is a matter in which all U.S. citizens and lawmakers should be interested.  Rather, they ask whether the Common Core and national testing consortia are legal […]

States Should Adopt Stand-Alone Teacher Licensure Test in Reading Linked to Common Core

States Should Adopt Stand-Alone Teacher Licensure Test in Reading Linked to Common Core Passing the test should be a requirement for all early education and elementary school teachers, most special education teachers BOSTON – States that have adopted the Common Core English language arts standards should require prospective elementary school teachers to pass a stand-alone licensure test in reading, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. How to Address Common Core’s Reading Standards: Licensure Tests for K-6 Teachers Licensure tests ensure that new teachers possess the basic content knowledge needed for professional practice. “There are two major reasons for licensure tests,” said Sandra Stotsky, author of “How to Address Common Core’s Reading Standards: Licensure Tests for K-6 Teachers.” […]

Study: New Technology, Relaxation of Protections Threaten Student Privacy

Press Release: Study Finds That New Technology, Relaxation of Protections Threaten Student Privacy Federal government using grants to induce states to build identical, increasingly sophisticated student-data systems Contact: Jamie Gass, 617-723-2277, ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinst.wpengine.com BOSTON – New technology allows advocates for education as workforce development to accomplish what has long been out of their reach: the collection of data on every child, beginning with preschool or even earlier, and using that data to track the child throughout his/her academic career and then through the workforce, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. Cogs in the Machine: Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing “It is an idea that dates back to the Progressive era,” says Emmett McGroarty, a co-author […]

Study Finds Poetry Slighted in Common Core English Standards

Significant overall reduction in time spent on classic literary texts will make it difficult to give poetry the prominence it deserves BOSTON – April is National Poetry Month, but poetry is not well addressed in Common Core’s English language arts standards. It’s unclear whether the genre will survive a Common Core-based English classroom given the dramatic reduction in time spent on literary texts implicitly mandated by these national standards, and the ambivalence, if not hostility, of the standards writers towards literature, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. The Dying of the Light: How Common Core Damages Poetry Instruction In “The Dying of the Light: How Common Core Damages Poetry Instruction,” co-authored by Anthony Esolen, Jamie Highfill, and […]

Common Core English and Math Standards Not Properly Validated

Study Finds Common Core English and Math Standards Not Properly Validated Some Validation Committee members refused to attest that the standards are comparable to those in the world’s highest-performing countries BOSTON – Five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign a report attesting that the standards are research-based, rigorous and internationally benchmarked.  The report was released with 24 signatures and included no mention that five committee members refused to sign it, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House No member of the Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language and only one held a doctorate in math.  He was […]

Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare Students for STEM

BOSTON – National mathematics standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia that supporters say are designed to make high school graduates “college- and career-ready” and improve the critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline do not prepare students to study STEM or even be admitted to a selective four-year college, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM “With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II,” said James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at Stanford University. “They include no precalculus or calculus.” Professor Milgram co-authored “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math […]

New Research on Common Core Damaging State/Local School Autonomy

Study Calls on U.S. Dept. of Education to Stop Using Adoption of Common Core as Condition or Incentive for Receipt of Federal Funds and Waivers In preface, Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley says education policy best made at level of government closest to students, parents BOSTON – The United States Department of Education (USED) should be prohibited from making adoption of national English and math standards known as Common Core a condition or incentive for receipt of federal funding, and both USED and organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, whose dues are paid with taxpayer funds, should make public the amount of time and money they have invested in promoting Common Core […]

Celebrating 20 Years of Education Reform in Massachusetts

Birmingham, Weld Oppose MA Adopting Common Core, Call for Lifting Charter School Caps Pioneer forum celebrates 20th anniversary of education reform with Weld, Birmingham, and panel of contributors to Bay State’s historic reforms Two of the three primary authors of Massachusetts’ landmark 1993 Education Reform Act questioned Massachusetts’ decision to jettison its academic standards in favor of national standards known as Common Core, and called on state leaders to lift the cap on charter public schools in the commonwealth’s lowest performing school districts at a June 20th forum to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the law’s signing. Today, Pioneer is pleased to release a video of the forum, at which former Senate President Tom Birmingham and former Gov. Bill Weld […]

Rejection of Anti-Common Core Model Legislation a Sad End to a Bizarre Process

Pioneer Institute’s statement on the decision of the American Legislative Exchange Council Board to reject anti-Common Core model legislation that had been approved twice by ALEC’s education task force.

New Study Suggests Remedies for Common Core Literature Deficit

State and local education policy makers in the 46 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards should emphasize the literary-historical content that already exists in the standards and add an additional literature-based standard to address Common Core’s lack of literary content.

STUDY ESTIMATES COST OF TRANSITION TO NATIONAL EDUCATION STANDARDS AT $16 BILLION

New study finds that aligning state and local educational systems to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math will cost the 45 states plus the District of Columbia that have adopted them nearly $16 billion over seven years.

IS THE US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION VIOLATING FEDERAL LAW BY DIRECTING STANDARDS, TESTS, AND CURRICULA?

Despite three federal laws that prohibiting the federal government from directing, supervising or controlling K-12 curricula, the U.S. Department of Education has placed the nation on the road to a national curriculum.

Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade

Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade Former Massachusetts and California Math and ELA Standards Remain Superior to National Standards Contact Samantha Levine-Neudel at 617-723-2277 ext. 211, or slevine@pioneerinst.wpengine.com Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO – The Commonwealth’s adoption of national education standards is again in the news, with the issue debated in a gubernatorial debate this morning and candidate Tim Cahill’s reversal yesterday of his opposition to the move. This summer, Cahill called the decision to adopt the Common Core national standards “one of the most alarming and egregious of the last four years.” But speaking yesterday at an event hosted to Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, he […]

National Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade

National Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade Academic Standards in Massachusetts and California Remain Significantly Better Than the Proposed Common Core Standards Contact Jamie Gass at 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinst.wpengine.com National Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO – Adopting the final draft of proposed national education standards in English language arts (ELA) would result in a significant weakening of the intellectual demands placed on Massachusetts and California students in language and literature, according to a review published jointly by the Pacific Research Institute and Pioneer Institute. In Part I of National Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade: Why Massachusetts and California Must Retain Control Over Their Academic Destinies, authors Kathleen Madigan, a senior research scientist for AccountabilityWorks […]

New Pioneer/Pacific Research Institute Report: Weak National Standards Basis for Weak National Tests

New Pioneer/Pacific Research Institute Report: Weak National Standards Basis for Weak National Tests Contact Jamie Gass at 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinst.wpengine.com The Emperor’s New Clothes BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO – A new report demonstrates that fundamental flaws within the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s push for national academic standards, especially the weak definition of college and career readiness, will result in sub-standard national assessments. The Emperor’s New Clothes: National Assessments Based on Weak “College and Career Readiness Standards” is the third in a series of analyses of the proposed standards and assessments by Pioneer Institute and Pacific Research Institute. The CCSSI was formed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to develop […]

MCAS Test Items

Below are the test items developed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for use in the tests given to all Massachusetts public school students as part of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). They were used in MCAS tests at all grade levels and for all subjects tested, from 1998 on.

MCAS grade 10 ELA 2012

MCAS grade 10 ELA 2011

MCAS Grade 10 ELA 2010

MCAS 2007

MCAS 2006

MCAS 2005

MCAS 2004

MCAS 2003

MCAS 2002

MCAS 2001

MCAS 2000

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