By Liz Bowie
6:33 PM EDT, September 30, 2013
In an unusually open letter to administrators and teachers Monday, Baltimore County school Superintendent Dallas Dance took responsibility for problems that teachers have had accessing the new elementary school language arts curriculum, which has been frustrating hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers in the first month of school.
The school system had begun rewriting the curriculum earlier this year to be aligned with the rigorous new standards known as the common core, but the system handed teachers the curriculum digitally a few days before school started.
Teachers soon started complaining that when they signed on to the website they could only access part of what they needed to prepare lessons for the next day and, as a result, were staying at school late into the night.
Dance said in an email to The Baltimore Sun on Monday that the decision to send a letter was an easy one.
“I have heard from teachers and administrators who expressed some frustration and concern with the various initiatives this year. As the superintendent, I accept responsibility and sincerely want to acknowledge their concerns,” he said.
While applauding the “hard work, perseverance, resiliency, and dedication” of those who work in schools, he said in the letter that he could “feel the high levels of anxiety throughout our organization.” He attributed that anxiety, in part, to the attempts to implement several new statewide initiatives this year.
Toward the end of the letter, he wrote:
“As we continue along our instructional digital conversion and build our curriculum in a digital platform, we have a responsibility to supply each of you with the tools and resources needed to be successful. That is our responsibility and one that we intend to meet.
“To that point, I must personally take sole responsibility for the issues and mistakes evident in our Elementary English/Language Arts Unit 1 curriculum that we implemented this school year. I have never believed in excuses, and this instance is no exception. To our elementary administrators and teachers, I want to personally thank you for your patience and flexibility as we develop future units.”
County officials said last month that they are working to correct the problems. The school system has been delivering printed versions of the curriculum to schools until computer access is improved, probably by the end of October.
Whether the letter will calm the anxiety of those who have to stand up in front of students every day is yet to be determined.
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