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Baltimore County Teachers School Political Leaders on the Problems with Common Core

John Lee

Baltimore County teachers repeatedly stuck figurative knives and forks in their leaders’ implementation of the controversial Common Core standards during their annual legislative breakfast over the weekend. Members of TABCO, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, complained to local and state political leaders that they have been overwhelmed by a tsunami of reforms. It’s a wave that includes Common Core.

They said Common Core has been poorly implemented: that it’s been a rush job, it was given to teachers too late and that they’ve had to work extra hours to put in place the more rigorous curriculum with little training.

TABCO President Abby Beytin said teachers weren’t asked for their advice about the set of national standards the state adopted and is requiring localities to implement. And that led to a train wreck. “What surgeon asks the hospital administrator how to perform delicate surgery?” Beytin said. “Yet teachers are constantly being directed how to teach.”

Maryland is among 45 other states and the District of Columbia that have adopted the Common Core curriculum. Delegate John Olszewski, chairman of the county’s House delegation, state senate candidate, and former teacher, cited a Maryland State Education Association poll of teachers in which 43 percent said they received their curriculum two weeks or less ahead of time. “I can tell you right now if I were still teaching, my hair is going grey already, which is a concern, but I would have no hair because I would be pulling it out,” Olszewski said.

Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance told the teachers he gets it and promised that help is on the way. Dance said elementary school teachers will have in their hands the English Common Core curriculum for the next school year by June first. He said he will set aside about two million dollars to pay for teacher training. And Dance said he will hire more substitutes so teachers can at times step away from the classroom to learn the Common Core curriculum. Dance said he’ll let the individual schools figure out how to make that work, so teachers aren’t missing in action from their classrooms.

TABCO filed a grievance against the county school board last November on behalf of the 8.700 teachers in the system. Union leaders said some teachers were working 30 hours or more extra each week just to keep up with the changes.

Baltimore County School Board President Larry Schmidt agreed there have been a lot of stumbles out of the gate with the Common Core and that some of the fault lies with the county.  But he said change is hard, and that everyone needs to come together to make it work because like it or not, common core is here to stay. “Grievances for resistance sake, at least in my view, is not the path to cooperation that will lead to a teamwork approach which I think we really need to get this goal accomplished,” Schmidt said.

Beytin said in an e-mail that the union is working with the school system to address the issues involved. “The grievance will most likely take quite some time to resolve since the issues are so overwhelming,” she wrote. “Our goal is to work with the system to make the changes necessary.”

Cheryl Bost, vice president of the Maryland State Education Association, set another goal for the teachers: get legislators and county officials to lean on the state and federal departments of education to slow the pace of reform. She said she wants no new education reforms until the current problems are fixed. “We have to provide our educators time, resources, professional development and the technology they need to be successful in the classroom,” Bost said.

State Senator Katherine Klausmeier told the teachers to call their legislators during the upcoming 90 day session with solutions on how they can help make things better in the classroom.