Maryland schools prepare for Common Core

Maryland public schools plan to move ahead with a new curriculum next school year, undeterred by opposition to the Common Core curriculum standards in other states.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, but some states are reconsidering or slowing implementation due to opposition. Much of that opposition comes from conservative and Tea Party groups concerned about the federal government taking over the education system.

Yet it was the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — not the federal Department of Education — that coordinated the creation of the new state standards.

In Maryland, the new curriculum is moving forward with little controversy. It was adopted in 2010 by the state and is being rolled out over a three-year period.

Curriculum called different, but not drastically so

William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education, said the new curriculum is different than the current one, but not drastically so. The difference is bigger in math than reading, he said.

Reinhard said the sense from the nation’s governors and education leaders was that they needed a national standard that was internationally benchmarked.

The development was welcomed by the U.S. Department of Education, but the federal government did not have input on the standards themselves, he said.

“We’re happy to put Maryland students up against any in the country and any in the world,” Reinhard said. “We welcome this opportunity.”

‘Tsunami’ of reform

From the teachers’ perspective, it’s jokingly being called the “tsunami” of education reform because the new curriculum is being introduced at the same time the state is changing the way teachers are evaluated, according to Cheryl Bost, vice president of the Maryland State Education Association.

Bost, who was a fifth grade teacher until she took the position with the state teachers’ union last year, said some teachers are concerned about getting enough training on the new curriculum. But many teachers are looking forward to the new content itself.

To help prepare teachers, the state has held three-day Educator Effectiveness Academies each summer for teams of teachers from the state’s 1,500 schools.

“This is a big task, but our teachers are well prepared,” Reinhard said.

– By Meg Tully