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."
Click on the video below to view a webinar especially for families about Common Core.
Click on the links below to view other available resources.
Recursos en Español
Background on Common Core
For more background on Common Core, read:
The poorly planned implementation of Common Core-based curriculum, new teacher evaluations, and the shift from MSA to PARCC assessments is all hitting at once, challenging educators, impacting students, and confounding parents. Learn more and read about the action we need to take now to get these reforms right, rather than doubling down on an implementation process that is quickly losing credibility and sustainability.
Maryland’s teachers need more time, support, and resources to successfully implement new evaluation systems and Common Core State Standards, according to a survey of 745 teachers. This survey reflects the on-the-ground perspectives of educators working hard to get these changes right despite the challenges they face.
In this interview with Center Maryland, MSEA Vice President Cheryl Bost discusses all the changes taking place in Maryland’s classrooms, including Common Core, shifting student assessments, new teacher and principal evaluations.
Read about MSEA President Betty Weller's recent statements on MSA testing and the best path forward for students.
MSEA has launched a month-long, parent-focused digital ad campaign on the issues that are critical to the success of Common Core: adequate resources for technology, textbooks, and materials; ongoing training and support for educators; and community awareness of the changes taking place.