- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Among budgetary concerns and elementary school redistricting of the northern end of the county, Common Core State Standards and the uncertainties associated with them are at the forefront of parents, administrators and teachers’ minds.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have rolled it out too fast, and people are not ready with materials and supplies,” Carol Howard, a special education teacher at Patuxent Elementary School, said about the lack of materials elementary school educators have received to administer lessons correlated with the state-mandated standards.
Amid a turbulent time due to the educational shift into Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by 45 states, including Maryland, the state-mandated standards are said to be more rigorous and offer students a better opportunity to be college- and career-ready after high school, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. For some teachers, their issue is not with the standards themselves but with the lack of resources given to properly teach them.
“This is not about bashing Common Core by any means. This is about not being given any resources to teach Common Core,” said Donna Ostenso, a teacher at Sunderland Elementary School, who approves of the Common Core lessons, especially in math.
Ostenso said there are no textbooks for her to use with her students to teach to Common Core. Instead, she is given an outline and expected to create lessons, which includes purchasing materials using money out of her own pocket.
“Last year, I stopped counting at $1,200,” Ostenso said, “… out of my own pocket.”
In addition to purchasing materials, Ostenso needs to find the time to create these lessons and put together activities for students to use to learn the lessons. That time, Ostenso said, isn’t accounted for during her regular work day. This also creates a lack of consistency within the county when teachers are forced to use different materials, Ostenso said.
“I would like to see time. My 45 minutes of planning is not the kind of time I’m talking about. ... I don’t wish to attend any more staff development or training where I’m told I can go to the dollar store and buy that, or that I can go on this website and print this out — I am very resentful of that. … I want to see resources put in the budget that provides for curriculum and instruction, and I don’t see that,” Ostenso said.
This new wave of reform also includes the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and new teacher evaluations, which altogether, Howard said, affect young teachers negatively, as they are seeing an increase in work with no increase in salary.
“I think the state jumped on being a part of this because they saw the dollar signs, but there isn’t the infrastructure to support it,” Howard said. “The county hasn’t provided it, and I think the state’s been turning a blind eye.”
Howard and Ostenso share the concerns of thousands of educators across the state concerning Common Core. In November, a group that included parents and public officials from Southern Maryland gathered to protest Common Core outside the Maryland State Department of Education in Baltimore. Last month, the Washington Post reported nearly all of the superintendents of Maryland school districts signed a statement that criticized federal and state education officials for forcing them to implement several major reforms, including the Common Core State Standards, on what they say is an unrealistic timetable.
During the summer, some teachers from Calvert County were chosen to attend training at an Effective Educators Academy at North Point High School in Charles County. Those academies drew teams of four to five teachers from every school in the state to translate what Common Core will be like and how it will work for the rest of each school’s staff. Teachers who attended the academies were to return to their respective schools and disseminate the information to the rest of the staff. However, Howard said those teachers who did not attend the summer training did not receive the proper materials.
In an effort to have teachers share their concerns with county officials, Debbie Russ, president of the Calvert Education Association, the union representing the county’s public school teachers, said the association will have a special meeting with the Calvert County commissioners and members of the Calvert County Board of Education. Russ said this will be beneficial because county officials will be able to hear directly from those educators with concerns. She said a date for the meeting has not been set yet.
“The ideal Common Core would be a good thing,” Howard said. “It’s tough, it really is, because the kids suffer, and we’re trying as hard as we can to make this successful for our students. … I think Calvert County is going to do their best to make it better than what it is, and that’s a problem right there — there’s too many things that are not settled with it.”