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WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

No Surprise With Maryland Test Score Decline

"State’s Test Scores Decline,” the banner headline announced. Really? How could that have happened?

Actually, it was inevitable. And for some teachers it might have been even satisfying. Not the bad scores. But the explanation for them. 

Once again, teachers and principals are coping with a major change in what is taught and how it’s taught. This change is called Common Core.  Public schools must teach new curriculum in all reading and math classrooms by this fall.

But some of the change had begun. The result? A misalignment between what was being taught and the tests designed to measure the effectiveness of the teaching. New tests lining things up are still being developed.

Okay, so we are in a transition. But why not finish that shift before we start measuring? I hate to suggest that someone’s political interests force the system to plow ahead. Change is tough, we know, but changing on the fly is worse and could be counterproductive.

“On an individualized basis teachers were feeling very, very demoralized,” said an education union official. No wonder. And it’s not a new thing in public education. Teachers have complained understandably for years that there is a new approach – not hourly but often. We have STEM. We have No Child Left Behind and now Common Core.

So we should have anticipated declines in the scores. Dallas Dance, the superintendent in Baltimore County says it’s really okay if you’re replacing the old with something better. Hard to argue with that, but every one of these reforms has arrived with the same promise—and the same pressure on teachers. 
Maybe it’s time to think more seriously about the morale and development of the teacher corps.

We could call it Common Courtesy or Common Sense.