Summer Sale! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
News Opinion

Common Core isn't ready for prime time

I am concerned by the way the Baltimore County schools are implementing the new Core Curriculum ("Charges dropped against Maryland parent who spoke against Common Core standards," Sept. 23).

Having retired after teaching mathematics in the county for 36 years, I know how the job of putting a new curriculum in place was handled in the past. Curriculum workshops were held in the summer. Teachers, department chairs and subject area supervisors worked to publish a workable guide for teachers. We had these guides in our hands, with all the necessary plans and guidelines to help us turn out solid lessons for our students.

From my conversations with friends in the classroom, I don't think this is the case anymore. Teachers are being referred to the Internet for some pages, to old curriculum guides for others. For still other objectives, there are no references at all. It's a mess that has teachers frustrated and demoralized. I recently heard the sentiment expressed that we are "building this plane in flight." Parents of Baltimore County, is that a plane on which you want your children to fly?

Recently at a town hall style meeting, a parent was arrested for trying to ask a question regarding Common Core and its implementation. Questions had to be submitted in writing, which this particular parent hadn't done. Requiring that questions be submitted in advance may speed up the proceedings and allow for more questions to be answered, but it also allows those answering the questions to pick and choose those that they want to answer.

Were all questions submitted that evening answered by the panel, or did they decide not to answer some of them? Who chose which questions to answer? Were questions edited? Were questions made up by the panel members themselves? When restrictions such as these are put on the questions asked, one can't help but be somewhat skeptical.

Why wasn't this meeting held a year ago, not now, when teachers are working hard in their classrooms attempting to implement a new curriculum with very little help? It sounds to me like we aren't ready for what's supposed to be happening in our classrooms. Wouldn't it be better to slow down, pay qualified people to sit down and write curriculum, then train the people on the front lines to use it effectively? In other words, maybe we should have built the plane before we took off.

Superintendent Dallas Dance came to us at a very young age for such a position, and with little experience in the classroom. A state required minimum of just three years of teaching experience had to be waived in order to hire him.

There are those who would say that experience in the classroom doesn't necessarily help one run a large school system from a post far removed from the children themselves. Certainly there are administrative and political skills that are necessary to effectively serve as a school superintendent, but I wonder if Mr. Dance fully understands what it takes to be successful where it matters most — in a classroom full of students.

I don't know if he taught long enough to learn that a lack of air conditioning isn't the only thing that causes a teacher to sweat during the presentation of a lesson to a group of kids who may or may not want to be there.

Whatever the reason, I don't believe that our teachers were placed in the best possible position to succeed or to make our students successful. I know that they will work very hard to somehow make it all work. Those in charge are counting on it.

Tony DiStefano, Towson

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • No to Common Core and corporate classrooms

    No to Common Core and corporate classrooms

    After reading The Sun's editorial, "Ready for kindergarten?" (May 24), I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of the editorial board's take on the Common Core and their belief that more vigorous testing and even earlier intervention is the answer to student success down the road.

  • Common Core and special needs students

    Common Core and special needs students

    When Jennifer Curley, a special education teacher in New York, asked how the rigorous new Common Core standards would affect students in her class during a training session, she learned the dirty secret school administrators have been hiding from parents: Special education students, she was told,...

  • The Common Core can't speed up child development

    The Common Core can't speed up child development

    Recent evaluations of the state's preschoolers have determined that only 47 percent are ready for kindergarten, compared to 83 percent judged ready last year. This drastic drop isn't the result of an abrupt, catastrophic decline in the cognitive abilities of our children. Instead it results from...

  • Reforms shortchange teachers

    Reforms shortchange teachers

    Kudos and thanks to Bonnie Bricker for her years of service and astute observations concerning school "reform" from the front line trenches as a teacher ("School reform needs reform," June 2).

  • Ready for Kindergarten?

    Ready for Kindergarten?

    Even Maryland's youngest students are feeling the effect of the state's switch to the more rigorous academic requirements of the Common Core standards. This week state officials reported that fewer than half the state's 4- and 5-year-olds are "fully ready" to succeed when they enter Kindergarten,...

  • School reform needs reform

    School reform needs reform

    It's time to put the narrative to rest: teachers are not lazy, incompetent, uncaring union thugs who need to be monitored by lengthy student testing and supplanted by devices. This tired, poorly drawn image brought to you by the so-called education reformers is falling to the truth, and public...

  • What the Common Core is and isn't [Commentary]

    What the Common Core is and isn't [Commentary]

    Surveys show a disconnect in the public's understanding of new standards for instruction adopted across the nation, Howard superintendent says

  • Let's provide opt-out on PARCC

    Let's provide opt-out on PARCC

    The term, "limousine liberal" was coined in the early 1970s to underscore the hypocrisy of families like the Kennedys who sent their children to private schools of their choosing while the school of choice for ordinary Americans was left to the state and a quota system.