Arundel delegation hosts Annapolis meeting on Common Core

Parental Awareness of Common Core group rallied outside Statehouse

January 28, 2014|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

The public wasn’t invited to give input during the Anne Arundel Delegation’s meeting on Common Core State Standards on Tuesday night, but the nearly 100 people who showed up didn’t need to say a word.

Time and again, delegates offered sentiments they said were fueled by constituent outcry that appears to be a common consensus.

“I am hearing from teachers who are feeling overwhelmed. Parents are feeling that their rights are violated and they don’t have as much input,” said Delegate Ron George, a Republican from Arnold who is also a candidate for governor.

George questioned state and local educators’ implementation of the Common Core, a set of academic benchmarks for English language arts, math and technology aimed at consistency for students across the country.

Dozens of states have adopted the standards. Maryland signed on in June 2010. Since then, as the standards have been implemented, concerns about implementation time, course alignment, school autonomy and student privacy have been waged statewide.

On Tuesday, members of the Anne Arundel House and Senate delegations were briefed by representatives of the Maryland Department of Education, as well as by the county’s Interim Superintendent Mamie Perkins about the standards and the curriculum the county has developed to address them.

About an hour before the meeting, about two dozen members of a county-based group objecting to the nationwide initiative protested before the State House.

Members of the Parental Awareness of Common Core said they formed last year to share information and support students about the Common Core. The group’s Facebook page said it has about 270 members.

“At this point, we need to hit the pause button,” Kimberlee Shaw of Annapolis, a member of the PACC group. “I’m not sure that any bill would get passed right now that would repeal Common Core. ... We can take a step back and pause the implementation, because they’ve rushed to implement this.”

Anne Arundel school officials said the district has transitioned to the standards since 2011, with methods that included reaching out to parents and training staff while implementing more rigorous writing and math practices in daily instruction.

Last year the school system began a newly aligned pre-kindergarten to second grade curriculum, officials said. The school system said this year it completed its transition to the standards at the elementary school level by adding grades three to five in both reading and math.

“If we want our students to compete with students around the world as we say we do, that we want them to be leaders in global economy, we must equip them with the tools necessary to do so,” Perkins said.

Still, delegates said they’re fielding complaints from parents about how the transition is working.

“I hear both things from parents and teachers, some parents say it’s easier, others say it’s challenging, other parents say, ‘It’s very hard and I’m concerned my kids are getting bad grades,’” said Del. Nic Kipke, a Republican from Pasadena. “My question is: Is that because the standard has been raised and they are suddenly more challenged, or have they not been prepared?”

George said many residents have expressed concerns about the pace in which the standards are being implemented.

“If there is one unifying factor across the board, whether it be teachers, teachers’ unions, parents or students, it’s that this process needs to be slowed down, at the very least,” George said. “There needs to be more input and more say in the curriculum and how things are done.”

School officials acknowledged the transition has been challenging and said its survey to elementary teachers about progress showed teachers need more time to plan for daily instruction and learn the standards.

Officials said they’ve established two teacher advisory committees, and have scheduled Common Core Information Night meetings for parents — the next is Feb. 7 at Old Mill High School.

Delegate Herb McMillan, a Republican from Annapolis, said teachers have indicated frustration over preparing students for testing, as MSA exams will ultimately give way to Common Core.

“I would like to do this in such a fashion that we not only set good standards but we meet those standards,” McMillan said. “I don’t see what the rush is. I believe we should have a Common Core program. But we need to have teachers comfortable with it and students comfortable with it.”

Perkins said she will address parents concerns about input and information.

“I need to sit down with my team and say, ‘What do we need to do next and differently for parents?” she said. “Some things I know we can solve easily, such as information about how we’re rolling out technology.

“These legislators, I have to count on them not to have misinformation and not to put misinformation out there,” Perkins added. “They say they’ve heard from teachers, and I understand that I also have 6,000 teachers, and I don’t think 6,000 have called them.”

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