Overall, the Harford County Public School System is requesting a $484.7 million operating budget for next school year, a 7 percent increase over last year's $452.8 million budget.

Advances touted

Despite his worries about funding, Burbey said Common Core is a set of ambitious standards, which educators believe will equip students with technology and critical thinking skills to become more competitive in the workplace.

"It will benefit all students and raising the rigor of all students will be good," Burbey said.


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He said the concepts associated with Common Core are "admirable and sound," but without adequate training for implementation for the county's educators "teachers are left now to adapt in the classrooms."

Andrew Bleichfeld, president of the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said the council calls the Common Core Standards "an auspicious advance in mathematics education."

"[Common Core] has transformed the classroom," Bleichfeld, who teaches math at Harford Tech, said. "It has more students analyzing and critiquing each other's work and being precise in their language and mathematics."

MCTM has been a part of the conversation of implementing Common Core since it was introduced in the state, Bleichfeld said. He said the council has been providing workshops and conferences around the state for the past few years to help students prepare for the new standards.

Bleichfeld said he expects hardships as the HCPS implements the new standards and the PARCC assessment, but remains optimistic about Common Core.

"Anything that changes education takes a while to get going," Bleichfeld said.

Left in the dark

In November, Robin Payne, principal of North Bend Elementary School in Jarrettsville, said her administration had not received clear information on how Common Core is to be implemented in the classroom, more than eight weeks into the school year.

"It's almost like it is being left up to each individual school," Payne said. "The teachers are overwhelmed."

Sandra Monaco-Burton, president of the Harford County Council PTA, said her biggest concern is that in most cases Harford parents have little understanding or knowledge about Common Core.

"Most parents have no idea what Common Core means to the classroom or to their children," Monoca-Burton explained. "The creation of Common Core did not contain any parent involvement."

Monaco-Burton said even the parents who want to understand Common Core can't do it effectively.

"There's an informational website, but no person to go to talk," she said.

Kranefeld said the school system has made a "collective effort" to inform schools and parents of Common Core information from the Maryland State Department of Education. She said school officials have held meetings to educate parents and schools. There is also a video archived on the school's website which details Common Core.

But at many schools, administrators say it has been left up to them to explain to parents how the new standards will impact their children's education.

North Bend Elementary held its first Parent Academy in November, offering sessions to address parents concerns on their children's education. One session looked at Common Core's English language arts standards.

Payne said the academy was a school-led venture to let parents know where their child should be academically for their grade level and what they can do at home to reinforce the new standards.

Scarry, HCPS supervisor of English language arts, was invited to present information to parents about how Common Core will be used in the classroom and reinforced at home.

Scarry said Maryland and Harford County's high education curriculum was already a close mirror to the new nationwide Common Core Standards. She said the new standards force students to draw parallels between their fiction and non-fiction reading, which will have a 50-50 split in the classroom.

How it works

"Essentially, if your child is reading fictional book based in Egypt, they would couple that with a non-fictional informational text on Egypt," Scarry said.

Scarry said in the English language arts Common Core is pushing students toward multiple sources and becoming critical thinkers. She said the technology complement is pushing students to the Internet to gather additional resources.

Following the presentation, many parents still voiced concerns about the PARCC assessment and students being taught to take a test, which is a commonly noted criticism of the Maryland School Assessment.

Scarry said the PARCC assessment debunks the old criticism as it requires students to build on critical thinking skills by comparing themes and ideas in provided texts and consider the "big idea."