Local lawmakers support delaying or halting further Common Core implementation

Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard waits to testify his concerns about the Common Core Legislation in Annapolis Feb. 12.
Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard waits to testify his concerns about the Common Core Legislation in Annapolis Feb. 12. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Carroll County's math and English curriculum have been changed to align with the Common Core State Standards. Lawmakers are working to delay or halt any further education reform.

Dozens of bills have been filed this session in reference to Common Core State Standards or the Next Generation Science Standards. Two of these - House bills 925 and 423 - were filed with local support.

House Bill 925, co-sponsored by Del. Justin Ready, District 5A, would allow each county board of education to determine its implementation timeline for the Common Core State Standards. House Bill 423 would prohibit the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, which is set to begin this fall.

Many local people have protested the changes to curricula resulting from the Common Core State Standards. The rollout of new curricula and new tests under Race to the Top - which has the goal of creating a uniform national standard by which all students can be compared - has led to stress in classrooms and bipartisan political opposition.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, visited Annapolis Feb. 12 to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland General Assembly in favor of House Bill 423.

Howard's main concerns have been the challenges associated with the English and math Common Core State Standards. The pace of implementation has been a disaster and people are frustrated, Howard said.

"The last thing we need is to go through another set of curriculum changes at this time," he said.

The school system is feeling the stress of implementing the standards. It needs ample time to train teachers, prepare for new testing and get needed materials.

"If it stays on this pace, the quality of education is going to be challenged," he said.

Howard said it is important that elected officials prevent bad decisions by federal and state governments from hurting Carroll County schools and negatively impacting local students.

"I believe that not only are there some questionable content areas in the Next Generation Science Standards, but that asking our already overburdened school system, stressed faculty and staff and beleaguered parents and students to adapt to even one more change will push an already stretched system to the breaking point," he said in a county government news release. "This must stop."

Jonathan O'Neal, assistant superintendent of administration for Carroll County Public Schools, said the school system's interest has been having a reasonable, common sense timeline for implementation of education reform.

The Next Generation Science Standards have a three-year implementation timeline that's scheduled to start next school year, O'Neal said.

"There is sort of a period of implementation that we feel comfortable with," he said.

In November, Baltimore County teachers filed a grievance against the county school board, saying new education initiatives are forcing them to work long hours beyond their normal day.

Most school superintendents in the state have expressed approval of a document from the executive director of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland outlining some of the challenges that have been associated with the educational transition.

The document asks for more time and resources to put the reforms in place and highlights the challenges that have been associated with the transition.

Superintendent of Schools Steve Guthrie, president-elect of the association, as well as the other superintendents, said they aren't against the premise of Common Core, but it's been a struggle to quickly implement the three state laws that resulted from the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

Race to the Top includes the Common Core State Standards, teacher and principal evaluations that include a student performance component, and a new assessment.

No Child Left Behind was implemented over 12 years, Guthrie said, while this was done in just three years.

"My concern is we are trying to do too much too quickly and it's hard to implement across a system," he said.

Another worry is that, because of budget concerns, the school system can't hire teachers for professional development, Guthrie said. Curriculum is always changing and evolving over time.

Ready said that while he has more serious concerns with the Common Core State Standards, everyone he talked to can agree that the reform is happening too quickly.

"Teachers didn't have time to be trained completely," he said. "They're doing their best."

Students are confused and parents are having trouble helping their children with homework, Ready said.

"There's a lot of frustration," he said.

House Bill 925 would allow for counties to determine their own timeline, he said.

"We have enough problems with English and math," Ready said. "We should delay implementing anything new until we've squared that away."

When a process moves so quickly, there is confusion, unanswered questions and not enough transparency, Ready said.

"I think we should get out of the whole thing," he said. "But at the very least, we ought to slow things down and give people the chance to get caught up."

William Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said the state Board of Education has adopted the science standards and Maryland educators were involved in the standard's development from the beginning.

"Maryland has had statewide science standards for more than a decade, and assessments are based on these standards," he said.