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Carroll County forum to cover Common Core, PARCC assessments

Local parent groups are hosting a forum on Common Core and PARCC assessments in an effort to educate the community and provide answers to any questions.

The forum, hosted by Carroll Values Education and Parent Guides for Carroll County Public Schools, will take place Thursday at Winters Mill High School. Additionally, the Maryland State Department of Education is hosting four regional public forums concerning the Common Core state standards, including one in Towson, also Thursday.

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The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, which enable teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well, and to give students the opportunity to master them, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website.

Carroll Values Education is a grassroots, nonpartisan, community organization created by parents to inspire, inform and empower citizens to advocate on behalf of Carroll County's children and public education system, according to a Carroll Values Education news release.

Parent Guides help parents understand and negotiate the school system's policies and procedures, according to parent guide Claudia Lewis.

The Carroll County forum will focus on the changes being made to the curriculum and how it will affect students and parents, according to Bob Lord, founder of Carroll Values Education. He is also a parent guide.

Three speakers include Margaret Pfaff, director of Curriculum and Instructional Resources for Carroll County Public Schools; Pam Mesta, supervisor of English for Speakers of Other Languages for Carroll County Public Schools; and Cheryl Bost, vice president of the Maryland State Education Association. They will each have 10 to 15 minutes to present, then there will be a question-and-answer session at the end of the meeting.

"We chose the speakers because of their knowledge of the implementation of the Common Core," Lord said.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers assessments, but the goal of the event is to only deliver information, Lord said.

"We saw the greatest benefit to parents in the community as just focusing on the changes that are happening," he said.

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Since Lord started Carroll Values Education this year, he has gotten several emails and phone calls from parents concerned about the changes being implemented in the school system.

The forum is being limited to an hour-and-a-half time slot to avoid a long, drawn-out meeting, Lord said.

"We'll also provide phone numbers and contact information for parents with unanswered questions," he said.

Lewis said the topics that will be discussed are hot-button issues that are poorly understood.

"People don't understand how [the Common Core standards have] been developed," she said.

Any resident of Carroll County who is concerned about the education of local youth would learn a lot from attending the forum, Lewis said. The information will be dispensed in a nonpartisan way, she said.

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"It shouldn't be a partisan issue, it should be a parental issue," Lewis said. "Parents should want to know what is behind the Common Core."

The MSDE forums, held in Easton, Hagerstown, Towson and Springdale, will include remarks from State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery, Maryland Parent Teacher Association President Ray Leone, and a teacher's perspective on Maryland's new academic standards.

Bill Reinhard, spokesman from MSDE, said the forums are being held in an effort to continue to provide parents and the public with information on the Common Core.

"We've been talking about the Common Core State Standards for three years, and the movement to the new standards has generated widespread approval, but we know that with anything new there can be questions," he said.

The state forums will be informal and the local, state, parent and teacher perspective will be represented. After the speakers present, the meeting will be opened for questions.

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