Experts say Common Core could decrease remedial courses at college level

Educators at Harford Community College say the new Common Core State Standards, which are being implemented in Harford County Public Schools and across the nation, could dramatically decrease the number of students needing remedial courses when they enter HCC.

In 2010, Maryland became one of 45 states to adopt the controversial Common Core State Standards, which are set to reform mathematics and English language arts in kindergarten through 12th grade to create consistent educational standards for all students, regardless of school district.

During a HCC Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, Dr. Annette Haggray, vice president for academic affairs, said HCC faculty have been working with personnel in the public school system to write learning objectives and lesson plans based on the new standards. She said while the Common Core initiative primarily affects kindergartners through 12th graders, it has implications at the college level.

HCC President Dennis Golladay said when students require remedial courses, it takes them longer to obtain a degree and "burns up their financial aid." He said the implementation of Common Core will be important for students who come to HCC.

Under Common Core, Maryland will be implementing a new annual student assessment, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC. The new assessment, which is being field tested in Harford public schools this spring, will replace the decade old annual Maryland State Assessment.

Chris Jones, professor of mathematics at HCC, said Common Core aims to make a high school diploma equal to college readiness. He said the new standards focus on real-world, higher-order skills and push students toward evidence-based thinking.

Jones said PARCC will test students in grades 3 through 8 and again in the 11th grade. He said if students are not performing up to standards in 11th grade, Common Core is designed to start giving poor performing students remediation.

"If you aren't ready by the 11th grade, remediation will be offered," Jones said. "This way when students enter college they will be ready for 100 level courses."

According to Jones, PARCC will measure student performance on a five-point scale, with a score of a four or a five meeting educational standards, deeming the student college-ready.

Carl Henderson, HCC's Dean of Education and Transitional Studies, said that if implemented correctly, Common Core is set to phase out remedial, or developmental, course offerings at colleges.

Henderson said there is discussion that the PARCC could replace HCC's Accuplacer Placement Test, designed to measure student readiness in specific courses. He added, however, that he does not see that happening immediately.

But Henderson also said that by 2025, the timeline for first graders to reach college age, there may be a "great shift" in how HCC staffs and the selection of courses offered at the college.

HCC Trustee John Haggerty said about 45 percent of Harford public school students who enroll in HCC require some developmental courses during their matriculation.

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