When it comes to something as complex as education reform, especially when it’s as sweeping as Common Core, which applies new standards in reading and math from kindergarten to 12th grade, it would have wise to follow the old axiom: Measure twice, cut once.
Maryland agreed to the new regulations three years ago, and Common Core was supposed to be implemented this year. In contrast, No Child Left Behind took 12 years to introduce. In introducing the new curriculum, Maryland went straight at the cutting and left the tape measure in the toolbox.
It’s become painfully clear that this timeline for implementation was too aggressive, and more time is needed for the program’s rollout. The warning signs that Maryland bit off more than it can chew have been there, though and we’re glad they’re finally being heeded. A year ago, Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller called Common Core “the tsunami of education reform” in a 2013 Washington Post article.
“The state has never tried to implement new standards, curriculum, student assessments, and high-stakes evaluations in such a short timeframe,” MABE notes in a report outlining the impact of Common Core. “The time and resources to get these reforms right simply have not been provided to the educators who are responsible for making them happen.”
The resources may or not be available, but time is. Superintendent Lillian Lowery wants to delay evaluating teachers on Common Core student assessments until the 2016-2017 school year. Given how much teachers are trying to accomplish with implementing a new curriculum for their students on top of actually teaching them, grading them and attending to their own professional development among the myriad of duties already on their plates, that delay is more than reasonable.
Twenty-two of 24 school system superintendents have signed a statement that, while supporting Common Core, asks for more time to implement the reforms. That, too, is a reasonable request.
“Parents, elected officials, community leaders, and pundits are reacting sometimes with alarm as local school systems throughout the state deal with the challenges of implementing the many components of education reform,” it notes.
That reform, the statement says, includes new curriculum in math and English language, new assessments, new teacher evaluations, and new school accountability measures , all being initiated simultaneously in Maryland schools “to fulfill commitments associated with federal grant programs from the United States Department of Education.”
“As one might imagine with such change of this magnitude,” the statement continues, “educators, including teachers and administrators, are feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
This uncertainty is by no means unique to Maryland. In a Feb. 19 article in “NEA Today,” the president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the U.S., said implementation of the reforms in “far too many states” had been “completely botched” and seven out of 10 teachers believed the ongoing adoption of Common Core was going poorly in their schools.
“In fact, two thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel wrote. Bear in mind, the NEA supports Common Core.
These reforms have been widely welcomed by educators, although not without opposition from some quarters. Ultimately, we feel the Common Core approach will benefit our school systems. What is critical here is that overwhelmed teachers aren’t providing the best education possible to their students. We need to take the pressure off. A two-year delay will do that.