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Future Teachers Uncertain About Entering Common Core Fray

'This is a great concern of ours.' —UMBC education department chair on preparing teachers for Common Core

Future teachers worry whether they will be prepared based on their degrees.
Future teachers worry whether they will be prepared based on their degrees.

By Ethan Barton, CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

With schools scrambling to implement the Common Core State Standards and legislators, officials and parents battling over the next steps, college students studying to be teachers have mixed feelings about entering the rocky terrain.

Common Core, a set of educational standards adopted by many states, was fully implemented across Maryland at the beginning of this school year and required many teachers to create new lesson plans and curriculums with little notice.

College students soon to enter the teaching world, however, still have time to be educated and adequately prepared.

“In order to be successful in the teaching world, I need to know about [Common Core],” said Erin Sullivan, 19, a sophomore at Towson University.

Kirby Buttry, 20, a junior at Salisbury University originally from Gaithersburg, added: “As of now, looking at the curriculum, I’m fine with it. But if they change it, it’ll definitely take a while to get used to.”

In fact, legislators have already considering bills that would change a variety of factors about Common Core.

But students’ knowledge of the reform isn’t as universal as the standards itself.

“I’m hoping that as I get into my higher-level classes, they’ll be teaching me more and more about Common Core,” Sullivan, of Denton, said.

Sullivan isn’t alone in feeling unprepared.

"I haven’t been educated on it,” said Kayla O’Brien, 20,  who is in her third year at Anne Arundel Community College. "I didn’t even know this whole thing was happening until this past semester."

"I don’t feel prepared right now, because I only had one semester that brought it up," O’Brien, who will transfer to University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the fall, continued. "I would hope my professors [there] would prepare us."

According to the university’s education professors, she doesn't have to worry.

“We know that the people that graduate this coming spring will be entering the classrooms and will be teaching Common Core,” said Eugene Schaffer, chairman of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s education department. “This is a great concern of ours.”

This concern is handled by requiring students to complete internships in the classroom under mentors who work closely with the university.

"When they’re [interning] for a full semester, they’re teaching the skills they have developed, and a lot of that is related to Common Core," Schaffer said.

Prior to that practical experience, students prepare in their education classes.

“Methods courses have specific lessons geared toward explaining what Common Core is,” said associate professor John Singer, director of secondary education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “They have three or four lesson plans they have to develop in connection to Common Core.”

Upperclassmen who have had both experiences express more confidence in entering the teaching world.

“Senior year does a fairly good job preparing us for Common Core,” said Lacey Smith, 22, a senior at University of Maryland, College Park, who is also student teaching at Hollywood Elementary school. "I’m more prepared than at the beginning of this year."

Despite this, younger students are still nervous about the career field they will enter when considering pending legislation that would shake it.

“By the time I’m teaching I’m hopeful that it will have worked itself out,” Sullivan said. “I definitely think it would be easier if I were a sophomore five years from now.”

But ultimately, students recognize that new standards are typical for teachers.

“Teachers are always expected to change,” O’Brien, of Annapolis, said. “I realize that not everything is going to be set in stone all of the time. Something I’m working on professionally and personally is being resilient to change.”

With their limited experience in the classroom, the students are uncertain about their thoughts on the effectiveness and practicality of Common Core.

“It’s more real-world problem based,” Smith, of Frederick, the oldest of the students interviewed, said. “They are operating at a higher level than I was in fourth grade.”

O’Brien, however, said: “My gut feeling is that I don’t think [Common Core] is the best course of action. I don’t know how you expect every single student to learn the same way or to be held to the same standard.”

However, Sullivan, who “flew by” in high school said: “I came here to Towson and it was a wake-up call. [Common Core is] going to challenge students, which will help them in career and college prep.”

Kolo Jezdec March 05, 2014 at 01:55 PM
Get out of education before it is too late! Teaching used to be an enjoyable and rewarding profession, but not so for the past 5 or so years.
Ananke April 03, 2014 at 08:10 PM
Please, don't go into teaching. As a teacher, we aren't even properly trained for common core. We are demanding things from our students cognitively that they cannot do! Students are badly behaved and the parents are worse. Save your sanity, health and happiness and get into another field. I have at least a dozen teaching colleagues that are leaving the profession this year and at least twenty that left last year because of the enviornment. Teachers are the scapegoats of education. "Why is my child getting a "D"..because your child does nothing! Because you don't help your child or parent your child! Teachers are forced to be accountable for failing students..where are the parents/students responsibility in this...administratively...nowhere!!! Get out now!
Roger April 04, 2014 at 09:14 AM
It's always about money. Our public education is underfunded intentionally to fund the war and prison industries. And to fund maximum tax evasion by millionaires.

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