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November 29, 2017


Flickr: amber who?

Today in the Boston Herald the Pioneer Institute published an op-ed showing that the Baker Administration has been destroying Massachusetts education!

That’s not the Herald headline exactly – it was Chieppo and Gass: Education establishment ruining reform – but it sure looks like Pioneer blaming the governor for a shocking decline from the educational Golden Years of the Deval Patrick administration.

I reached my conclusion based on facts provided by Pioneer. The authors wrote:

In 2005, Massachusetts students became the first ever to finish first in all four categories of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. They repeated the feat every time the tests were administered through 2013. Scores from the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the gold standard international assessment, proved that the commonwealth’s students were globally competitive in math and science, with our eighth-graders tying for first in the world in science.

That’s right – Massachusetts rose at the end of Governor Mitt Romney’s term and dominated in the Patrick years. But then:

Results from the dismantling of education reform have been swift and predictable. Massachusetts students are no longer first in all four categories on NAEP. From 2011 to 2015, state NAEP scores fell in both English and math, with only nine states seeing a bigger drop in English.

SAT scores have also dropped significantly, especially in writing. And when it came time for the 2015 administration of the international assessment tests, Massachusetts chose not even to participate.

We were still #1 through 2013, then we began to decline so badly that we backed out of a big time test in 2015. Of all people to point out the rough correlation with the Baker years, I never expected this from Pioneer!

Actually, that isn’t the case Pioneer is making at all though I’d still suggest my headline isn’t Fake News, unless you take it seriously. Please don’t.

Instead Pioneer is arguing that the establishment has undermined accountability standards and refused to expand charter schools (you remember Question 2, right?) and that has brought us to an educational calamity. Pioneer offers two key pieces of evidence. In 2008 an office that audited school districts was closed. In 2010 the state replaced its own testing standards with Common Core.

If there was a decline at all, you could argue it wasn’t “swift and predictable” – not when it took years to manifest. But that’s not my point. And I’ll dispense with the full “correlation is not causation” lecture – both as to my argument and Pioneer’s. There’s nothing wrong with making a reasonable inference from evidence and arguing your case. Feel free to grade both Pioneer and me.

I just never thought it would be Pioneer providing ammunition against the Baker administration.

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member.]

Charlie Baker, Pioneer Institute

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