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Maryland teachers overwhelmed by Common Core and new evaluation system

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Teachers in Maryland are feeling overwhelmed- overwhelmed by our workload, which was next to impossible before Common Core and BCPS’s teacher evaluation system came into play. And, we are used to a ton of work- our day does not end when we leave school. Many, many hours are spent grading papers and planning lessons after school and on the weekends.

We are also used to new initiatives implemented by the Board of Education. If we got upset every time a new initiative was unveiled, we would have constant heart attacks. In order to keep our sanity, we roll with the punches. But, with the two major changes in BCPS, it feels like a double sucker punch. Not only do we have new curricula, and no time to learn it ourselves before we have to teach it to our students, but a new evaluation system that requires, among other things, that we keep track of data from our students in order to show that they have improved. And the student improvement- or not- and the motivation of our students- or not- now impacts our job.

The pressure is unbelievable. A typical day for a teacher is a crazy mix of teaching, modeling, consoling, laughing, mentoring, disciplining, evaluating, planning, anticipating… the list goes on and on. The day goes by very quickly, and before we know it, the day is over and we feel like we have gotten absolutely nothing done. In order to be ready for tomorrow, we have to make sure that we have our lesson ready. Elementary school teachers must have many lessons ready- they teach multiple disciplines. Often, middle school and high school teachers must also have multiple lessons ready to go- they teach more than one curriculum. Add to the mix the typical interruptions- a student has to go to the bathroom or the nurse, the front office or guidance office calls to take a student out of class, multiple students have issues or problems that demand our attention, students go to an assembly or on a field trip… we only have so much time to implement the curriculum, especially now that we are mandated to implement the lessons that are aligned with Common Core and now keep track of data to show student improvement.

TABCO (the Teacher’s Association of Baltimore County) has filed a grievance on behalf of the county’s 8,700 teachers saying that they are being forced to work hours beyond their normal day because of changes related to Common Core and the new teacher evaluation system- which uses standardized test scores in part to determine the effectiveness of a teacher (despite warnings from assessment experts who say this is not a reliable and valid way to do so). And while that’s a good step, the problem is that the State of Maryland accepted millions of dollars from the federal government to implement the Common Core. Ironically, the state of Florida, which was the first state in the country to embrace Common Core, has dropped out of the consortium, amid growing opposition to the initiative.

In addition, parents around the country and here in Maryland have increasingly been staging protests and using social media to spread the word that maybe Common Core isn’t that great after all. In September, a parent from Maryland voicing his concerns at a Board Meeting was thrown out and arrested for assaulting a police officer. He could face 10 years in jail.

Regardless of the protests, the ones who are in charge, as always, will ultimately make the decisions that affect many, many people- students, parents and teachers alike. We will have to wait to see what happens, but in the meantime, we teachers will continue to roll with the punches, like we’ve been doing all along.

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