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School Committee Asked to Support Common Core on Upcoming Ballot

Mendon Upton Regional School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak appealed to the School Committee during a February 22 meeting to aid in informing the public about a November ballot initiative looking to eliminate the Common Core state standards in Massachusetts.

"This ballot initiative is extremely important," said Maruszczak, who voiced that repealing the Common Core would mean a "significant step backwards" for school districts in the state.

Maruszczak brought the upcoming ballot question to the attention of the Committee at the meeting, reminding them of a 2012 presentation that he gave about the Common Core state standards. "We talked about how important they are, how well researched and how they represent an evolution in the state's progression of thinking deeply on how kids read, write, and problem solve," said Maruszczak.

In the past three to four years alone, Maruszczak said that the Mendon Upton Regional School District (MURSD) has invested between $200,000 and $250,000 just in curriculum materials alone to implement the new Common Core standards, such as the new Reading Wonders literacy program rolled out at the elementary level. "And I think this is a conservative number," said Maruszczak. Along with the dollars, Maruszczak also referenced the significant time that has been invested in Professional Development over the past three years.

School Committee Chair-person Phil De Zutter asked Maruszczak how quality of education would be impacted by Common Core being repealed.

"In my opinion, it would be a significant step backwards in a sense that the 2004 standards [those prior to Common Core being adopted] are not as rigorous and that they don't ask to the degree for students to go deeper in their explanations and problem solving," said Maruszczak. "Do I think teachers would adapt? Yes, but it would be a step backwards."

When asked, Maruszczak explained that the driver behind the ballot question to eliminate Common Core was a political issue and seen by some as "federal overreach." He pointed out, however, that it is "ironic" that President Obama's administration is credited for Common Core, when the idea actually came from the National Council of Governors which was chaired by Republican Governor Jeb Bush.

De Zutter also asked what it would mean for the MURSD should Common Core be eliminated. MURSD's Curriculum Director Maureen Cohen answered that the district has spent the past 3 years rewriting the curriculum to align with the Common Core state standards, so it would take years to roll-back to the old standards.

"I think it is incumbent on this committee and upon the district to put factual information out there to the public as we get closer to the general election," said Maruszczak.

School Committee Member Diane Duncan agreed that it was important to educate the public on what Common Core is heading into the ballot. "Sometimes when you talk about Common Core it is very abstract; people don't know what it really is. Most parents and people need it to be demystified," she said.

The Committee will continue talks about communication strategies in the coming months.

"This is a national issue but something that we need to think about deeply and talk about at the local level," said Maruszczak.


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