The introduction of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Maryland’s schools is a major reform that holds great promise—if we get its implementation right.
Common Core, which the state adopted in 2010, is a set of learning standards for English/Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) and mathematics developed through an initiative coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
Educators overwhelmingly support the CCSS because they present great opportunities for deeper, richer learning in reading and math that emphasizes critical thinking and real world applications. However, the transition to CCSS requires a huge amount of work, resources, and extra hours for educators to align their lesson plans, materials, and pedagogy with the new standards.
Unfortunately, this implementation process has seen repeated red flags from local school systems. These reforms are not only challenging educators, but are greatly impacting Maryland students and confounding many parents. We need to take immediate steps to improve the implementation process and ensure that these reforms truly help our students, educators, and schools reach the next level.
Are educators prepared for the transition to the CCSS and the new curriculum?
Educational standards such as CCSS are the start of a curriculum, and are meant to guide what students need to learn in each grade—but not how they are taught. Local school systems develop their own curriculum to reflect these standards. In many grades, there is a significant shift in what is being taught; for example, a skill that was once taught in fifth grade may now be taught in third grade.
Developing and fine-tuning curriculum is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, and many locals are still in the process of developing their new curricula, which are being rolled out unit by unit in some places.
In many local districts the curriculum that is being provided to teachers has not been researched, aligned, piloted, or completed. Where aligned curriculum does exist, many educators do not have the resources, materials, texts, or professional development required to deliver it appropriately. Going through the school year without a fully formed curriculum is incredibly frustrating to educators and detrimental to their ability to effectively teach the curriculum. Looking forward to the future, there remains a critical need for more resources, materials, and training—as well as time for teachers to understand, further develop, and strengthen the curriculum so students can get the most out of it.
Reforms need adequate time, funding, and training to succeed. In the absence of these, right now teachers and students are suffering the consequences of this poorly executed implementation process.
Legislation makes major progress
Along with parents, superintendents, and school board members, MSEA led the way on several pieces of common sense legislation to improve the state’s implementation of Common Core State Standards, the new PARCC test, and new teacher evaluation systems. These bills passed the General Assembly through a series of overwhelming and bipartisan votes during the 2014 legislative session and were signed into law by Gov. O'Malley.
- HB 1167/SB 676: Performance Evaluation Criteria - Use of Student Growth Data
Reaffirm the authority of local school districts and their bargaining units in the development and implementation of teacher and principal evaluations and guarantee that no state assessment can be used for personnel decisions through at least the 2016-17 school year. From protecting Maryland’s nationally recognized Peer Assistance and Review programs to cultivating the next great locally developed evaluation model, local autonomy is essential to Maryland’s abilities to encourage innovation and strengthen the teaching profession.
- HB 1001/SB 910: Education - Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act - Waivers
Ensures reforms are implemented in a dynamic process where local districts can make necessary adjustments and we are not locked into a one-size-fits-all timeline and model.
- HB 1164: Common Core State Standards and PARCC Implementation Review Workgroup
Assess the professional development needs and technology gaps necessary to successfully implement new curriculum and administer new state tests aligned with the curriculum and standards.
“These bills will help us re-establish some common sense in the implementation process,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “Maryland’s public schools have long been a national leader and, thanks to the General Assembly, Maryland is now a national leader for how a state can come together and get these major changes right."
Listen in the Tele-Town Hall
On February 18, 2014, MSEA hosted a tele-town hall to discuss Common Core, teacher evaluations, and navigating the tsunami of education reform. Click below to listen in.
Background on Common Core
For more background on Common Core, read:
MSEA has released its updated list of endorsed candidates for statewide offices, the Senate, and the House of Delegates for the 2014 elections. MSEA had previously announced its endorsement of Lt. Governor Anthony Brown for governor, Senator Brian Frosh for attorney general, and Comptroller Peter Franchot for re-election.
April 2, 2014: Through a series of overwhelming and bipartisan votes, the Maryland General Assembly passed three major bills to address the persistent problems associated with the state’s implementation of Common Core State Standards, the new PARCC test, and new teacher evaluation systems.
The House has made huge strides towards injecting some much needed common sense in Maryland’s implementation of Common Core. On the heels of the Senate’s near-unanimous passage of SB 676, the Senate cross-file of HB 1167, Maryland legislators are recognizing that students and educators need time, resources, and flexibility to get the major changes taking place in our schools right.
The Senate’s near-unanimous passage of SB 676 is an important step in the right direction for instilling some much needed common sense in Maryland’s implementation of Common Core. The bill ensures that evaluations cannot include student test scores until at least the 2016-17 school year due to their misalignment and lack of validity.
We recognize the need for a waiver and are encouraged by the main request of a two-year moratorium on counting state standardized test scores in teacher and principal evaluations. It’s common sense that new, unproven, and unvalidated assessments do not belong in teacher evaluations.