Maryland hosts Common Core forum

Darlene Gamble, whose son recently transferred to public school in Prince George's County, decided to attend a forum on the state’s new academic standards Tuesday night because she “needed to get up to speed” on Common Core.

“I got a better understanding,” Gamble said after the 1 1/2 hour session hosted by the state Department of Education at Charles H. Flowers High School.

She learned that Common Core is not a curriculum and that it was created to make the U.S. more competitive, she said.

Ray Leone, the president of the Maryland PTA, said the forums, which are being held across the state, were designed to answer questions that parents and teachers have about the new math and reading standards that have been adopted by Maryland and 44 other states and the District of Columbia.

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery said the Common Core standards will bring consistency to the educational system, ensuring that the standards are the same whether a child lives in Maine or Maryland. She said the state has not changed curriculum. It has changed how subjects are taught. Maryland decided three years ago to join a consortium of states to do away with differing standards and creating new standardized tests to align with the standards.

“As with any change, anxiety runs high,” Leone said. “Teachers have concerns as do we all.”

About a 10 people protested outside, carrying posters and distributing pamphlets from the Worcester County Tea Party about “why [Common Core] is bad for your child, your family and for America.”

Similar to the other sessions that have been held, there were a few outbursts from some who are opposed to the new standards. One repeatedly yelled for the Pledge of Allegiance to be done. Others tried to yell out follow-up questions. The public was asked to submit their written questions, which would be answered by Lowery or local education officials.

There are critics on the left and the right to the new standards. Some on the left are opposed to standardized testing and some on the right consider it a federal takeover.

“This is not a debate,” Lowery told the crowd before taking questions. “This is an informational session.”

No one was arrested, unlike an earlier forum when an Ellicott City parent interrupted Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance and complained that the new standards were not rigorous and were instead preparing students for community college not top universities. Charges were later dropped against Robert Small, who was accused of second-degree assault of a police officer and disturbing a school operation, after being escorted out of the forum by a police officer.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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