New core curriculum for Baltimore County students

School officials, parents and education advocates discussed a new core curriculum coming soon to Baltimore County Public Schools.
School officials, parents and education advocates discussed a new core curriculum coming soon to Baltimore County Public Schools. (Kandice C. Wilson/Staff photo , Carroll County Times)

Getting high school students college and career ready is the purpose for implementing the Maryland Common Core State Curriculum, the new learning plan that the Baltimore County Public School system will phase in over the course of the next three years.

During a Northwest Area Education Advisory Council meeting, held at Old Court Middle School March 13, Baltimore County Public School representatives Kelly Smith and Pat Baltzley gave presentations about the standards that K-12 students will be assessed on under the new curriculum.

About nine parents, community members, and school administrators attended the meeting, including advisory council chairman Clifford Collins and Old Court Middle School principal Kyria Joseph.

The Common Core Standards curriculum is a program established by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor's Association, a group comprised of each state's governor to share ideas about leadership and national policy.

Gov. Martin O'Malley along with former State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick signed on to the program in 2009 and the Maryland State Board of Education voted to adopt it in 2010.

An advantage of the new nation-wide curriculum would be that every student has the opportunity to learn on a "level playing field," Baltzley said.

"You should see some of the essence of the Common Core this year," she said.

Funding for the school system's new curriculum is coming from Race to the Top, a $250 million federal grant that Maryland was awarded in 2010 that will be paid out over four years.

Baltzley, who is the director of the Office of Mathematics, said that for years, education in the U.S. has been "accused of being a mile long and an inch deep."

She said that the Common Core curriculum will go "deeper" into each subject, giving students a firm foundation and understanding in both language arts and mathematics.

The Common Core standards for math will include making sense of problems and persevering in solving them, reasoning, and using appropriate tools strategically.

High schools will begin scheduling students for four years of math classes, which Baltzley said some colleges may begin to require.

Smith, from the Office of Secondary Language Arts discussed the Common Core standards for language arts and reading.

Some of them include process and on-demand writing and assessing listening skills by having students take notes from a classmate's speech.

According to Common Core, the curriculum is designed to ensure that each student is equal and consistent.

"For the most part, we're fairly aligned to this," she said. "The instructional element will change more than the content."

Additionally, over the next two years, the current high school and middle school assessment tests will be replaced with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessment.

Some areas that Common Core does not cover are curriculum for pre-k students, support for special education, and advanced students.

"This is not an overnight transition," Baltzley said. "We're given time to think through this."

The 2012-2013 school year is designated for transitioning, the 2013-2014 school year will include field testing, and the Common Core curriculum and new assessment tests are to be completely in place in the 2014-2015 school year.

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