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Union Says Common Core Overworks Teachers

Gwendolyn Glenn

The Baltimore County teachers’ union has filed a grievance against the school board, alleging that the new Common Core curriculum makes teachers work too many hours.

Union officials said they support the new, more rigorous Common Core standards, but many teachers have not received formal training in those standards and don’t have time to prepare lessons. Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said teachers are getting the new curriculum from the district a week or two before they have to teach it, and that violates their contract.

The Common Core is a set of national standards that Maryland, the District of Columbia and 45 other states adopted. It outlines what students should learn in math and English/language arts.  Local districts developed their own curriculum in line with the Common Core standards.

Beytin asked her teachers to keep logs for a two-week period to document the hours they worked. She said many are putting in 30 to 40 extra hours each week. “My teachers are drowning under the work load,” Beytin said. “We need some of this work load taken off the plate and we need the curriculum in a timely manner so the teachers can really do their best work.”

Beytin, whose union represents the county’s 8,700 teachers, said her members are spending time during their lunch and planning periods as well as after hours through the week and weekends trying to figure out the new curriculum.

Some county teachers received Common Core training over the past three summers in classes organized by the state and county. At a Common Core conference earlier this month in Washington, Maryland Superintendent Dr. Lillian Lowery said her goal is to have 50 percent of teachers in the state formally trained in the new curriculum by the 2016-2017 school year.

Beytin said she has discussed her concerns with the county’s school board and officials in county school district offices. “We are happy to work with the school system in a collaborative manner to come up with solutions,” she said. “But we felt we needed to move this faster so the importance of it was understood. My teachers are really upset about not having the curriculum in a timely manner so they are comfortable with what they are teaching students.”

Beytin wants more aides hired to take over some of the teachers’ clerical duties, such as copying documents, helping to collect data the district requires, taking attendance or collecting money for student projects. She said this way the teachers could focus more on the new curriculum.

Baltimore County Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance said in an email Wednesday that he could not comment on the grievance because he just received a copy. But he added he would “be looking at the remedy, which every grievance must have, to determine what are federal, state versus local concerns.”

He noted that all parties, including the union, signed on to the curriculum change.

But Beytin accused officials of rushing the implementation of the Common Core. “The state and feds are in a rush and insist that things have to be done now without building in professional training and development,” she said. Beytin said she is optimistic that union and school officials can reach an agreement. If not, they would bring in a mediator to help resolve the issues.