Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Stance on Common Core Curriculum

My stance on the highly controversial "Common Core Curriculum" is not necessarily black and white because I believe there is alot of misconception. In addition, the old saying of "you can't believe everything you read on the internet holds quite true. The numerous emails. links, videos, etc., i have received against the Common Core Curriculum, cite other states, other systems, etc. We (CCPS) cannot be held accountable for the how and why the standards are implemented in other areas, or the curriculum they are teaching. Hopefully, my explanation below will help clarify. If it doesn't, I'll try again and as always I'm open to suggestions.
To start with, I was one of the board members voting "No" from the the very beginning for the Race To the Top grant back in March of 2010.  This grant obligated CCPS to proceed and implement, with the assistance of federal funding, what is now known as the "Common Core Curriculum.” 

With that being said, (and noting the EACC was adamantly against Race To The Top also), I was in the minority and the proposal passed, funds were received, RTTT was initiated and implementation began.  Our system became one of the "lucky" few to be guinea pigs and receive federal funding.

While I was being sarcastic with the word "lucky" above, as "luck" would have it, we later discovered,  the local school systems still retained control over the actual curriculum and implementation.  The mandates only pertain to the actual "Standards" that must be met by each student (and later teachers evaluated).  How we achieve those "Standards" is up to the individual system.  Hence CCPS has modified the curriculum, for what is best for our students to achieve those mandated standards.

The concerns about the new Common Core curriculum are not limited to Charles County – they are nationwide concerns by both parents and educators.  It is change, and change is always difficult.  We need to focus on our students achieving the standards– and with a positive attitude – to the extent that we are able…and voice all the concerns – whether about funding, resources, implementation, content, etc. to CCPS in a collaborative fashion.  

The MSTA Legislative priorities states:
“Poorly planned implementation of new curriculum, student assessments, educator evaluations, and school accountability systems are all hitting at one time. This tsunami of education reforms threaten the pillars of our world-class schools. While accountability and student achievement are important goals, we cannot let unproven and unreliable testing and evaluation systems punish our teachers and principals, unfairly label our students and schools, and usurp local school systems’ abilities to make policy decisions that work for their communities.”

All of these are valid concerns, but I want to be sure that we set an example for students, parents, and staff too – that we will approach change with an open mind and strive to succeed and meet the standards, and be positive about it.  Failure is guaranteed – for everyone – if we dig in, refuse to try, and not work collaboratively.  We MUST listen to our teachers and our administrators about the handicaps they face in trying to meet these standards.  At the same time, we MUST listen to our parents and students about their concerns and obstacles being faced with the achievement of the standards.   Working collaboratively together, altering the curriculum to the needs of our local community and working toward solutions at the local, state and national level will ensure the success we all want for our students.

In closing, as I previously stated, my answer isn't neceessarily black and white.  Am I against Common Core Curriculum.  Yes.  However, I want to make it very clear....the Common Core Curriculum is NOT what is taught in Charles County Public Schools.

15 comments:

Bill Slack said...

The curriculum is being taught in my 2nd graders class, and if it is not stopped, this will be her last year in public schools in this County

Jennifer Abell said...

Bill,
Can you elaborate and give me more specifics, either publicly or privately? As i tell people all the time, i can't help fix something if i don't know about it. I only know what i witness and what i'm told by staff. If it's not correct, then i need to know.

Anonymous said...

Your response was ridiculous, first you defend CCC and the misperceptions, then you say you are against it, then you claim it is not being taught in Charles County. Oh, are they exempt from teaching it in this county, where Maryland has accepted it statewide. Give me a break. The state gets funding from the feds and it trickles down to the counties, counties are not exempt from it. You play both sides of the fence on this issue, like a typical politician. disgraceful!.

Anonymous said...

perception is reality!

Jennifer Abell said...

Tony you are welcome to your opinions. You are an angry, angry person and your mind was made up before i even responded. (BTW-i thought you weren't going to read my blog?)

Anonymous said...

check your BoE website you do in fact teach Common Core. DUH!
http://www2.ccboe.com/instruction/commoncore/index.cfm

you sound like a liberal, when you don't use facts to base your opinion on, then when someone calls you out, you say they are angry, next I suppose you will say I am racist too. sad that this is who runs our kids education.

Jennifer Abell said...


@Tony - You are posting the same messages on my Facebook and my blog?
As i stated on FB, this says we are transitioning to the Maryland Common Core State Standards. The standards that i reference in my article. It does not state that we adopted or are teaching the common core curriculum. We set the curriculum.

In addition, my post clearly states that i voted against it. I was in the minority. Race to the Top was adopted (the beginning of the Commom Core Standards) and we have to move forward. As long as we are retaining local control of the curriculum and working collaboratively (teachers, staff, boe, parents and students) we will have a good curriculum.

In addition, you are allowed to state your opinions, use facts, and have your freedom of speech, but please refrain your anger, name-calling and reference to profanity.

Sue Manning said...

Jennifer, first of all, thank you for posting your position on CC. As a voter in Charles County it is important to be fully educated before casting your vote, but more importantly, as a parent I believe this is the single biggest issue of the day. In the interest of full transparency, I should tell you that I am vehemently opposed to CC in any form.
It seems from your blog post, that your position is essentially this : You do not agree with the concept of CC, but as it has been accepted by the state of MD, CCBOE must work as effectively and efficiently as possible within the boundaries of the standards to develop a curriculum which will allow students to meet the standards. You close by saying that CCBOE does not use CC curriculum. I think I understand what you are trying to convey - that while the county must align to the standards, they have developed curriculum outside of the "CCC"?
If in fact I have interpreted what you are saying correctly, I still have some concerns I hope you can address.
*As curriculum companies rush to comply with the new standards, how will the county continue to remain disassociated from the CCC? The position you take seems to be a very slippery slope - it will become increasingly difficult to adhere to the standards without using curricula that are explicitly aligned.
*How does the county intend to provide for the needs of students (both accelerated and challenged) who do not fit into the "one size fits all" expectations of CC?
*If you oppose CC, what will you do to encourage the County and the State to disassociate from it?
*What plans to you propose to encourage maximum parental involvement and transparency. And, how do you propose to minimize the impact of the changes on students and teachers who are already miserable, and growing more so?
*Just this week, in response to a request for more information about a CC pilot test my daughter was used as a guinea pig for, I was told that I shouldn't expect to always be able to see what she was doing in school. How would you respond to that?

Thank you in advance.

Jennifer Abell said...

Sue, Thank you for your comments and questions. You have interpreted what I was trying to relay perfectly and more eloquently than I did. (May I use your wording in other forums?) Your version makes it a lot clearer. I would like to add, in order to make any changes to our policies curriculum, etc., we MUST have a quorum or majority in favor of the change (which I am sure you are aware, but for the benefit of others). As you witnessed from my initial vote for RTTT, I was then, and still am in the minority. As for your questions, I’ll address each one below.

"As curriculum companies rush to comply with the new standards, how will the county continue to remain disassociated from the CCC? The position you take seems to be a very slippery slope - it will become increasingly difficult to adhere to the standards without using curricula that are explicitly aligned."

I agree, and it’s hard to predict how we will proceed in the future as this all unfolds, but as a board member I still have to strive to do the best I can for the students while maintaining local control of our system. I do not have an educational degree, however several candidates running do have educational degrees. It is my hopes that after the election, I may no longer be in the minority vote and we will never have to address the above question.

Jennifer Abell said...

(Part 2)
"How does the county intend to provide for the needs of students (both accelerated and challenged) who do not fit into the "one size fits all" expectations of CC?"

I can honestly say I am not as familiar with the standards as they pertain to accelerated or challenged students. However, I will research this and ask our Department of Instruction to provide me information on this aspect. I do know the school system has expanded the curriculum through the years to always try and challenge the accelerated students and I know we will continue that effort. I also know we have expanded the current curriculum to include Braille. But as I stated, I will definitely look into any additional efforts and ensure we have plans in place to address.

"If you oppose CC, what will you do to encourage the County and the State to disassociate from it?"

As I stated above, I opposed RTTT from the very beginning. If it came to a vote of repeal today, I would vote to repeal it. It is my hopes that after the election, (and if I’m re-elected) I may no longer be in the minority vote locally and can lobby for legislative change at the state level.

Jennifer Abell said...

(part 3)
"What plans to you propose to encourage maximum parental involvement and transparency. And, how do you propose to minimize the impact of the changes on students and teachers who are already miserable, and growing more so?"

We currently have created links on our website to help inform parents about the transition, changes they will notice in their child’s curriculum, and how to assist them. We have “BackPack Guides” for both English and Math. In addition, we have developed Parent Roadmaps for English and Math. The Roadmaps were designed to help parents understand how the State Standards will affect their child at each grade-level and suggest ways to help their child succeed. We intend to add more subjects as they are developed. Here is a link http://www.ccboe.com/departments/instruction/commoncore.php
We have begun meetings/workshops/homework help at several schools to assist parents with the new curriculum. However, I would like to propose the development of an “Instruction Committee” formed that includes parents and allows for collaboration and input.
I propose, and we have already begun, to try and slow down the implementation or shift to the new standards to help minimize the impact on teachers and students alike. In addition, we need to provide resources for our teachers and parents BEFORE implementation of the next stage.
I am also open to additional ideas on how to help minimize the impact on everyone and ensure everyone is successful.

"Just this week, in response to a request for more information about a CC pilot test my daughter was used as a guinea pig for, I was told that I shouldn't expect to always be able to see what she was doing in school. How would you respond to that?"

I would say that is definitely an inappropriate response and I hope and pray that wasn’t in Charles County. If it was, you should immediately bring it to the attention of the Principal. If you don’t receive the outcome you desire, bring it to the attention of the Superintendent and then the Board. I cannot tell you how many times parents think we (the 7 board members) are aware of a situation or incident and we have no clue. If an issue is not elevated or brought to the attention of the Board (again, just the 7 elected members), many times we are not aware of it. If the principal or even superintendent handles a specific issue or situation, it may not be reported to us. I ALWAYS tell parents to CC a board member or contact them directly whenever you have an issue or concern. Back to your specific issue, if this was indeed Charles County, please email me with more specifics and I WILL follow up. Parents should ALWAYS know what their child is learning and doing in school. They may be our students but they are YOUR child first and foremost!

Again, thank you for the questions and please let me know if you need further clarification on anything.

Anonymous said...

you're quoted as saying the following: " I want to make it very clear....the Common Core Curriculum is NOT what is taught in Charles County Public Schools."

REALLY? this Charles County BoE Link says otherwise. You do currently work for them, correct?

http://www2.ccboe.com/instruction/commoncore/index.cfm

Parent's Handbook 2012-13, page 2, letter from Superintendent
http://www2.ccboe.com/PDF/parent-handbook-calendar.pdf

Parent's Handbook 2013-14, page 2, letter from Superintendent
http://www.ccboe.com/aboutus/calendar/ParentHandbookCalendar1314.pdf

CCBOE Update: http://www.ccboe.com/aboutus/CharlesCountyPublicSchools2013AnnualUpdate%20PartI.pdf

Not sure where the disconnect is between you, a Board Member, and the rest of the Board and State. Not sure I would want someone who does not know what is going on with our kids education, actually working for the Board that controls our kids education. just sayin...

Jennifer Abell said...

@Tony - I said and I still say, CCPS does NOT teach Common Core Curriculum. The state adopted and we must adhere to the Maryland State College and Career Readiness Standards. We develop our own curriculum to meet those standards. In fact, thank you for pointing out that our website needs correcting. I've reported it to our IT department. As for "working". No i do not. I work for the March of Dimes and I was elected to the Board of Education.

Diane Stevens said...

Sue posted this comment: "Just this week, in response to a request for more information about a CC pilot test my daughter was used as a guinea pig for, I was told that I shouldn't expect to always be able to see what she was doing in school. How would you respond to that?" As a teacher in an elementary school in CC, we wont' even get any results from these trial tests. To the best of my knowledge, these are being used only to create valid tests; they are being used to test the tests. Jennifer, do have any more input on that?

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Si-kx5-MKSE&feature=share