- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The founder of a protest group against the Common Core state standards, now being implemented in Maryland schools, said the new rules for teaching are too political.
At Dec. 4 meeting at Waldorf West Library, she warned Charles County parents about problems with the curriculum, which school officials say is aimed at linking curricula in English and math from state to state.
The standards are also aimed to provide a clear understanding of what students are to learn, according to information on the Maryland State Department of Education’s website.
Maryland adopted the standards in 2010 and is among 45 states, Washington, D.C., and four territories that have adopted them.
Jennifer Hicks, of Charles County Values Educational Excellence, called the state standards a “cure-all.” in a press release. Hicks hosted the citizen-led meeting that featured guest speaker Ann B. Graves, founder of Maryland Values Educational Excellence.
Hicks said in a later interview that she has a son who graduated from Charles County Public Schools but opted to home-school her younger child this year because she found out the system was fully implementing the new standards.
Graves presented a PowerPoint presentation with clips of news reports on Common Core and testimony from parents in other counties on the standards and how they have affected their children since implementation.
Graves said the main goal of the presentation was to show parents that Common Core is a one-size-fits-all approach, and that it’s not state-led as many say.
Charles County Public Schools assistant superintendent of instruction Amy Holstein said in a later interview that Common Core Standards were not created at the state level and that they are used as the system’s academic benchmark.
She said the curriculum and how it is taught to reach the benchmarks is a state decision.
Graves questioned the politics that she said is present in the curriculum.
During the meeting she discussed the many private companies that have had a hand in Common Core and said looking at some of their individual websites, it is clear to her that there is a clear social lean.
“Most of Common Core is based on social change through social justice,” she said.
Holstein said she isn’t looking at politics but focusing on educating children.
Graves cited educators who are against Common Core saying the math is not as rigourous as the standards claim. She said one professor, James Milgram, who was part of giving input on Common Core, spoke out against it, saying students weren’t getting higher levels of math as they should be such as calculus. Some students, Graves said during the meeting, aren’t getting algebra until grade 9.
Holstein said she did not agree with that.
Algebra II is offered to students through Common Core, and she said depending on the path a student is on, they can even get calculus.
Holstein said the difference between Common Core and what was being taught before is that Common Core is focusing on teaching skills until they are mastered as opposed to teaching bits of skills in one grade and some more in another grade.
Based on the recommended sequence of math courses for Charles County schools, eighth-grade students, depending on the path they are on, will either be instructed in eighth grade mathematics or algebra 1.
According to the recommended sequences, all Charles County Public School students will have “the opportunity to pursue college-level mathematics courses such as pre-calculus, AP calculus and AP statistics, while classes still provide appropriate assistance for students with math needs.”
Holstein said all public school graduates under Common Core would meet at least the minimum math requirements for Maryland universities.
Graves addressed concerns with the English portion of Common Core also being less rigorous and not having been put together by educators.
Holstein said one of the big differences in the English and language arts portions of Common Core is a focus on nonfiction writing samples students are to analyze as opposed to fiction.
Holstein does not agree with many of the claims coming from those who oppose Common Core, but she does agree in some areas. One area she agrees with the opposition is with children who have special needs.
Graves explained during the meeting that children with special needs are not addressed in Common Core, and many parents are upset that their children with special needs are being set up to fail.
Holstein said the school system does have concerns with special education, but the concern lies with new state tests known as PAARC, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, and not specifically the new standards.
Special accommodations for students with special needs have been taken away for the new tests, Holstein said. That first came about last year when the accommodations were taken away for students with special needs taking the Maryland School Assessments.
She said there will be some special considerations for students with special needs, but there is a concern.
Holstein would like to see special needs students addressed differently.
“We want to make sure our students are tested the way they are instructed. That’s only fair,” she said.
Holstein said the state is currently looking into concerns in regard to special education.
Keeping parents informed is another area in which Holstein is in agreement with Graves. Holstein said she strongly believes it is a school system’s responsibility to inform parents and keep them up to date on the curriculum changes. By doing so, she believes it will rid a lot of “misconceptions.”
Graves encourages parents to get involved by visiting classrooms, seeing for themselves what is being taught and getting involved.
Hicks said she would like to have another meeting about Common Core and have more of a forum approach to it including educators. Holstein, in a phone interview, said she would be willing to participate in such a meeting.