Dr. Susan Brown, executive director of curriculum and instruction for county schools, said Common Core creates a level playing field, but said HCPS has always had high, rigorous standards, which will continue.
"It's about accelerating students and ensuring that all children have the opportunity to be successful," Brown said.
Technology driven, but...
Under Common Core, a new annual student assessment called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC, is set to phase out the annual Maryland School Assessment test, or MSA, which was first implemented a decade ago.
MSA has served as the main vehicle for Maryland public schools to measure student learning and progress in order to meet state and federal student progress mandates under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Keeping up with new technology standards, PARCC eventually will be administered online, not in the classroom as MSA, and its predecessor, the much-maligned Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, MSPAP, which unlike the MSA didn't test an individual student's performance.
The PARCC in Harford will be field tested on both pencil and paper and online this academic year, Teri Kranefeld, county schools manager of communications, said. She said at least one class at each school will field test PARCC this year, with the exclusion of the John Archer School, which serves special needs students.
"Since there are very few classes selected to participate in the field test at each school, HCPS will have sufficient devices needed for this limited population of students," Kranefeld said. "However, HCPS does not have the technological resources to fully implement PARCC online in the 2014-15 school year."
Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, the teachers union, said technology-based learning in most Harford schools is limited because of the lack of computers for students. He said there is not even a one to 10 ratio of computers to students in Harford.
"[Common Core] is designed so that kids will seamlessly integrate their learning with technology," Burbey said. "Tell me a job you do not have to integrate technology into."
Comes with a price
Leaders in school districts across Maryland have been griping about the less than smooth transition to Common Core and Harford, where the public schools have had to battle with stagnant county and state funding support, is no exception.
Lack of resources and little professional development opportunities are just a few of the worries of educators and school administrators struggling to implement the new system.
Burbey said Harford will not be able to adequately implement the new set of standards until the county shifts its priority to properly fund its schools.
"The largest problem is because we are so underfunded and have been for sometime, teachers just are not being provided, ample resources for development," said Burbey, whose organization bargains collectively for the county's 2,770 classroom teachers.
This school year, HCPS experienced a $19.5 million gap in the amount of money it requested and what it received from local, state and federal funding sources. Another $33 million increase is being requested from the county executive and county council next school year, one unlikely to be approved, most elected officials say.
"The county executive has not put education as his top priority," Burbey said. "There have been problems with the budget for the last five years."
Kranefeld said it will be difficult to determine how much money Harford would need to properly fund and implement Common Core, "as it is a moving target at this point."
Budget requests for fiscal year 2014-205, will include requests for Common Core, the PARCC assessment and other county educational programs, Kranefeld said. Historically, she said, funding to develop curriculum, align assessments and instructional materials have been cut over time, as the overall budget has not grown as fast as school leaders believe necessary.
"[PARCC] will require most of the funding due to its technological requirements," Kranefeld said. "As this is a field test for the assessment, the requirements have not yet been finalized."