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Students With Rigorous Schedules Unaffected By Common Core

High school students already taking a rigorous courseload, such as Advanced Placement classes, say they are unfazed by the Common Core standards.

High school students already taking a rigorous courseload, such as Advanced Placement classes, say they are unfazed by the Common Core standards. File|Patch
High school students already taking a rigorous courseload, such as Advanced Placement classes, say they are unfazed by the Common Core standards. File|Patch

By ETHAN BARTON

Capital News Service

As some parents battle against the Common Core State Standards, many students go about their studies mostly unchanged.

That’s especially true for those taking mostly Advanced Placement classes, which allows students to receive college credit for courses if they score well on exams.

“I haven’t seen a difference because of my schedule,” said Else Drooff, 18, a senior at both Broadneck and Severna Park High Schools, both in Anne Arundel County.

The Common Core standards set universal goals for students to achieve and were implemented by the Maryland State Department of Education last fall. Various groups developed Common Core, including the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“Common Core is just the standards, the centralized basis of what each student should know when they graduate from high school,” said Benjamin Barsam, 17, a senior at Bel Air High School in Harford County.

“They’re more rigorous,” said Drooff, who tutors elementary, middle and high school students, and has noticed the change in the coursework from Common Core through her mentees. “They delve into the topics a bit more. I like the new curriculum.”

Despite greater demands, these upper-level students said they and their peers with AP-heavy schedules haven’t felt much of a change.

“It never affected me,” said Edward Town, 18, a senior at Huntingtown High School in Calvert County. “It doesn’t affect AP classes.”

“A lot of the way AP classes were structured were like Common Core, even before Common Core was implemented,” Barsam said.

Cody Dorsey, 17, a senior at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore City, is only taking two classes, neither of which are AP, and spends the rest of the day interning. He also said that he feels no change.

Each of these four students are representatives on their respective county Boards of Education. All are all college-bound. Barsam will attend the U.S. Naval Academy after graduation and Drooff, Dorsey and Town have yet to decide what college they will attend.

Maryland held the highest percentage of seniors in the country to receive a passing grade on AP exams in 2013, according to a report Tuesday by College Board. The state has also led nation in AP success for the eighth consecutive year, according to a press release from the Governor’s Press Office.

While some parents have expressed disapproval of Common Core, these students said the educational politics of the policy haven’t stretched into classrooms.

Town noted: “Most kids don’t know what Common Core is.”

And Dorsey said, “The [high school] students I speak to, they can’t really tell the difference.”

Barsam and Drooff were reluctant to comment on the effects the new standards have had on students in classes outside of AP.

“Perhaps the low-level classes are not being spoon-fed as much [as they used to be],” Barsam offered.

One controversial aspect of the new standards, which are accompanied with a new teaching style, is the vastness and speed of the implementation.

“The biggest thing is the adjustments,” Drooff said. “They’re growing pains and they’re something we all have to work together with.”

“There’s a learning curve to be had with anyone,” Barsam said. “With any change, there’s going to be some pushback at first.”

Recently, parents filled the House Ways and Means Committee room to testify in support of a bill that would repeal Common Core in Maryland.

“They [parents] haven’t been in school for a while,” Drooff said. “My curriculum was different than the students now, but it’s quite a bit more similar than the curriculum 20 or 30 years ago.”

A major concern parents presented was that student’s grades have dropped.

Drooff, however, thinks parents shouldn’t “focus so much on the grade” and that students will “be more prepared for college and a career” later on.

She also recognized that parents are aggravated.

“Parents see their kids are in elementary school and they’re frustrated because they can’t help them,” Drooff said.

But parents aren’t the only ones dealing with the complications of a new system.

“Teachers across the board are frustrated,” Barsam said. “Teachers are saying the work is being piled on and they aren’t being compensated.”

Barsam, Drooff and Town agreed that Common Core may become beneficial once the standards have settled in.

“In the end, maybe it’ll have a positive result and will improve the standards,” Town said.

Barsam said: “Once we’ve got these changes down, I think it’ll be really smooth and perhaps better than before.”

Greg Schuckman February 23, 2014 at 10:32 AM
I hope that people take note of who developed Common Core and who didn't. Common Core was developed by the governors and state superintendants, NOT the Obama Administration. This isn't a federal takeover of education! Rather, it is a bipartisan group of educators and elected officials who recognized that there needed to be some baseline knowledge for our students. By convening content experts from across the nation in mathematics, science, and language arts, the Common Core proponents sought to create a system that would be equally challenging to all students. Grades may indeed suffer at first, but which is better. A better prepared student for college and career or an arbitrarily inflated GPA that leads to college remediation and lower competitiveness in a global marketplace?
Bob February 23, 2014 at 12:09 PM
It seems to me that an across-the-board K-12 implementation may be detrimental to existing students, possibly and maybe especially those who have experienced difficulty during the previous year of school. I haven't seen anything on the internet which indicates that an in-grade MD student, for example one just entering high school, will have all the training, knowledge and skills necessary to handle more "rigorous" standards of the higher grade. Perhaps a method for reaching back to acquire these learning necessities of lower grades to meet the Common Core standards is also needed.
Jack February 24, 2014 at 02:11 AM
What parents first need to understand is our schools have lied to us about the quality of education for decades. Once you understand we were lied to and how poorly our children were educated than any improvement is welcome. The problem with common core is there is very little if any improvement and systems like the HCPSS have actually screwed up the way they teach instead of raising the bar. Never fear because once your child is decreed college/career ready our colleges have to lower their standards to accommodate them. The end result, poor quality education is extended into college and beyond. The best thing we can do is test our children on what they should really know and let the shock of reality run it's course.
Tracy Thomas Clifton February 24, 2014 at 02:08 PM
Really? Asking high school students to comment on common core specifics? As if they have studied it and looked into all its ramifications? Sure, ask them how it affects them personally, but that's it.
Donna Sudbrook February 25, 2014 at 12:11 PM
PTA Council of Howard County hosted a forum on the Common Core Standards last Sunday. There were 5 experts on the panel. A video of it will be on their website at some point, www.ptachc.org. It was said at the forum that the Common Core Standards are graded higher (A- Math, B+ English) by a Thomas Fordham Institute study, than the Maryland State Voluntary Standards which the Common Core replaced. (C something English, D something Math, this is what the MSA and HSAs test.) However one of the speakers noted that you can have poor standards and a great curriculum, or great standards and a poor curriculum. I know Howard County has written its own curriculum based on the Common Core Standards. If I understand correctly, they have phased in the new Math curriculum (at least for 6-12th) over 3 years, with this the 2nd year (2013-2014) being the year with massive? or most changes. The 3rd year will have a small number of changes. I heard Montgomery County bought a Common Core based curriculum from Utah. Does anyone know what Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County have done? Common Core Standards only address Math through Algebra II, so students in AP classes would not be seeing it. However, David Coleman, the new president of the College Board which creates the AP tests and thereby sets the AP curriculum, was a principal writer/creator of the Common Core Standards as his company was contracted by the National Governors Association, the group that started Common Core.
Donna Sudbrook February 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM
The Common Core standards aside, I wish the hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent on collecting and storing student data from PK to age 20 and moving all of the standardized testing to computers instead of paper and pencil, could be spent on implementing very basic minimum standards for students in classrooms and very basic minimum standards for teachers. Like providing separate in-school classes with concentrated intervention for the 5-10 students in a grade whose severe and chronic behavior issues disrupt the learning of students in regular classes where both grade level and below grade level students are taught. Provide peer to peer evaluation of teachers (not the teacher evaluation process that is being implemented now....where teachers are burdened along with new curriculum with few resources ... they also need to collect data, to prove that they are teaching the common core as prescribed? More money could pay for more oversight and intervention by master teachers for the 0, 1, 2, or 3 teachers in a school who may need the support.
Jack February 25, 2014 at 07:44 PM
The HCPSS BOE voted to take the RTTT cash and the pig in a poke which accompanied it. In part because they always accept large amounts of money with complete disregard to the consequences of their actions and because they wanted a seat at the table. Only BOE member Dyer cautioned them to research and educate themselves on the issue. When They took the RTTT cash they were already 89% in line with common core. For the HCPSS it is mostly realignment so very little improvement. Beyond colleges have to accept their students without making them take remedial ed the quality of education remains about the same. The nightmare which ensued in the HCPSS was a combination of their ignorance, lack of almost any resources anywhere and the fact they are teach to the test experts not educators. Somehow and what Wilson was referring to is the HCPSS completely screwed up what they had most likely because they had no idea what they were doing. Not only was nothing above Algebra 2 untouched neither was Geometry. Parts of Algebra 2 which years ago were actually Algebra 1 were moved back but nothing was added to Algebra 2
Jack February 25, 2014 at 07:58 PM
I would say Baltimore and Anne Arundel as with the rest of Maryland will follow suit with huge expenditures and little change. Baltimore actually blindly bought new books. As you point out we do not have the money for the resources to implement this and it does not address the rest of our issues, if anything it cuts resources in other areas. Another issue is computer vision syndrome which has yet to be addressed. Most people with any sense recognize we are doing a poor job of educating our children which means we need to kick out every superintendent in the state and their entire school administration as well as elect new BOE's. As to teachers you are correct we need to retrain them but you must recognize decades of poor quality education has left us with very few good teachers. In the end and sooner than later we may very well see many poor quality teachers leave the system but this is needed as well.
Donna Sudbrook February 26, 2014 at 12:14 PM
What I would like to understand better is the role of the County Executive/County Council and the Governor, State Legislature, and Maryland Dept of Ed's directions in all of these changes. While the County BOE and School System educators may have certain legal authorities, I am wondering how much political pressure they are under from the County and/or the State who together fund the school operating and capital budgets.

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