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Everything you wanted to know about common core, but were afraid to ask

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Common Core! Common Core! If you’re a parent in Maryland, and you have been paying attention, you are most likely aware that Common Core is coming, and will be officially implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. Oh, it’s coming, and it’s been coming for a while now. If you are unsure about what this all means, read on. In August 2010, the Maryland Department of Education (MDE) announced that it had been awarded a $250 million grant, over four years, from a federal program called “Race To The Top.” President Obama announced the initiative in 2009, when he declared that $4.35 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) would be earmarked to improve the country’s public schools. According to Obama, the program would be based on a simple belief: “whether a state is ready to do what works.” From 2009-2012, Maryland was the nations’ top school, but in 2013, dropped down to number two, right behind Connecticut. While the Maryland Department of Education must have been proud, it seems that they wanted to be better. According to the MDE website, the aim of RTTT is to boost student achievement, improve the teaching profession, turn around struggling schools, and reduce gaps in achievement among student subgroups. Another acronym floating around is PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). What is the difference between RTTT, PARCC, and Common Core, you ask? Race To The Top is the federal program that provided the money and PARCC is the program that developed the Common Core standards. These standards were created by educators around the nation, and so far, all but five states have adopted the standards: Alaska, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. Michigan has adopted the standards for ELL (English Language Learners) only. By accepting the money from RTTT, the Maryland State Department of Education essentially agreed to adopt the Common Core Standards. How does this impact your child? That depends on how you feel about the government stepping in and mandating what your child learns and how he or she will learn it. According to www.PARCConline.org, “PARCC is a group of states that have come together to develop high-quality student assessments linked to new, more rigorous English language arts (ELA)/ literacy and math standards. The assessments will be ready for the 2013-2014 school year for students in grades 3-11 and will replace the statewide tests in those subjects that students take now.” So, the PARCC assessments will replace the HSAs in Maryland high schools, and the MSAs in middle and elementary schools. The PARCC assessments have been touted as being “tests worth taking, made up of engaging texts and real-world problems. The will ask your child to write essays and answer questions that resemble the kind of high-quality coursework you see in the best classrooms at all grade levels and in colleges. The new tests will signal whether your child is making expected progress and whether he or she is on track to succeed in college or careers or needs extra support.” A possible reason for improving the nation’s public schools is the release of studies from various universities indicating that today’s college students come out of high school unprepared and often have to take remedial classes for no credit towards graduation. In 2010, The National Center For Public Policy and Higher Education and The Southern Regional Education Board released a report: “Even those students who have done everything they were told to do to prepare for college find, often after they arrive, that their new institution has deemed them unprepared. Their high school diploma, college preparatory curriculum, and high school exit examination scores did not ensure college readiness.” In addition, a study by Northeastern University found that the problem carries into students’ college years, and that colleges are not preparing students for the workforce. So, like it or not, Common Core is here to stay. If you are a parent or an educator, go to www.PARCConline.org, to learn more.

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