April 2, 2014

Common Core relief bills heading to governor

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By Margaret Sessa-Hawkins

Margaret@MarylandReporter.com

Common Core world cloud overwhelmedThe Maryland Senate took action Wednesday on three bills that address concerns over the implementation of new Common Core curriculum standards across the state.

Two of those bills will immediately head to the governor’s desk for signature.

The most far-reaching of the proposals, HB1167, delays the use of student test performance data in teacher evaluations and personnel decisions. Another bill, HB1001 will require legislative oversight if the state education department files waivers to the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. That act requires states to meet goals for standardized test results in order to get federal funds. Both bills passed unanimously.

A third bill,  HB1164, was slightly amended in the Senate but passed with one dissenting vote. It establishes an implementation workgroup for Common Core and the standardized tests that go with it. The amended bill must go back to the House for consideration.

The bills all previously passed the House with little or no debate, and are expected to be signed into law by the governor.

Delay using tests for evaluations

The bill dealing with standardized tests results will delay their use in personnel decisions until 2017. Del. Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery and chairwoman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, led a coalition of 47 delegates in sponsoring the bill.

Using student growth data in teacher evaluations was key to Maryland receiving a federal Race To The Top grant in 2010. But teachers and principals did not want to use this data while Maryland school systems were going through the process of switching both curriculums and standardized testing methods.

This new standardized testing method, known as the PARCC assessment — Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — is the subject of the second bill, HB1164, sponsored by a coalition of 19 delegates led by Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery.

The emergency bill establishes a workgroup to make recommendations for best practices and resources to implement Common Core standards. It will look at how the assessment affects students with disabilities and students with English as a second language, identify best practices for implementing the test, and identify how the state education department will help local school systems and parents prepare for the new test.

The PARCC assessments replace the Maryland School Assessment tests, and are expected to be conducted entirely on computers. The test will first be field-tested this spring. The workgroup will begin in June and present their findings by the end of the year.

The final bill, HB1001, also sponsored by a coalition of 47 delegates led by Hixson, will require any federal waiver filed with the U.S. Department of Education to first be presented for review by the Legislative Policy Committee.