Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
MALDEN — The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted this morning to replace the state’s highly regarded academic standards with national guidelines.
State education officials have been exploring the possibility of adopting the national standards for more than a year, a controversial proposition for a state known to have some of the most rigorous academic standards in the nation.
The national standards, which Massachusetts officials helped to develop, specify what material should be taught in English and math at every grade level. The voluntary effort was spearheaded by associations representing the nation's governors and state education leaders and has received the support of President Obama, who is now pushing states to adopt the standards by offering financial incentives.
Education Secretary Paul Reville called the vote a "watershed moment" and "a great decision for the people of the Commonwealth."
Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, said the national standards will lay a strong foundation to bolster the quality of public education in Massachusetts with an eye to preparing students to be productive members of the workforce.
"It really helps to shift the focus to college and career readiness," Noonan said.
But Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, said adopting the standards would make it more difficult for the state to revise those standards in the future, if the state wants to further accelerate student achievement. That's because major changes in the national standards would have to be negotiated through a consortium of states.
On Friday, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, recommended that the board members adopt the national standards, after reviewing several analyses that found that the national standards were on par with or exceeded the state standards in most cases. He also took into consideration public comments.
State Republicans urged state officials Tuesday to delay a vote on the standards, saying that the public had not had enough time to weigh in.
The issue has made its way into the governor's race. Both Republican Charles D. Baker and independent Timothy P. Cahill have expressed opposition to adopting the national standards, while a spokesman for Governor Deval Patrick said they were playing politics with children's educations.
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