Common Core Debate Sparks Controversy on Delmarva - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Common Core Debate Sparks Controversy on Delmarva

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SALISBURY, Md.- What is the best way to teach your child? It is a question that has been asked for generations, sparking plenty of debate. Back in 2010, states across the country started adopting the Common Core Standards, including Maryland and Delaware. Virginia was one of five states to say "no" to the changes. Now, students and teachers are slowly adjusting to a new method of learning and teaching. And that adjustment isn't without controversy.

Welcome to a new age of learning, where collaboration is the name of the game.

"Children are learning together," explained Snow Hill Elementary Principal, Dr. Mary Anne Cooper. "They're learning from each other, they're learning from the teacher, and the teachers are learning from the students as well."

Common Core encompasses a set of standards, describing what students should know within each grade level. The curriculum is based upon the achievement of these standards, and has changed teaching methods in the classroom.

At schools like Snow Hill Elementary, Common Core seems to be working.

"We're using lots of different techniques and strategies, like the technology, like the iPads, so that our children are engaged with learning," Dr. Cooper noted. "Our parents are thrilled. Our parents are thrilled with Common Core. We do not have parents that have any other ideas than this is good learning. This is good teaching. Our children are excited. They want to be in school."

"If Common Core is the reason this is happening, then I think it's a really good thing," added Christina Hulslander, mother of a Snow Hill Elementary second-grader.

But is it Common Core, or is Snow Hill Elementary doing something other schools aren't?

From coast to coast, Common Core has people fired up, and media buzzing.

In New York, parents -- even the teacher's union -- have been highly critical of Common Core's implementation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is even calling for possible reforms of the program.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has made his views known.

"We don't need the federal government telling us how to run education," he said.

In Maryland, lawmakers are considering legislation that would repeal Common Core entirely. Another proposed bill would slow its implementation.

In Delaware, people like Desiree Deegan echo the frustrations of many parents, seeing her normally "straight-A" children struggling.

"They've come home with a lot of their homework that creates an issue, because it's not the way they've been taught previously, it's not the way I've been taught, so when we go to do it, they say no, we can't do it that way," Deegan explained.

Her boyfriend, Michael Scheerer, has similar issues with Common Core.

"You would think it was supposed to make things easier, by standardizing everything, but in fact, I think its made it harder," he said. "There's more steps. Two plus two no longer equals four. You know, two plus two has five different steps to get to four."

Desiree's daughter Isabella, a fifth-grader, says she no longer enjoys school like she used to.

"It makes me feel mad at myself, because I can't get it, and I like to get things the first time," said Isabella. "Some people just don't get it, and not just in math. In reading and science and social studies, too. And some are just like totally clueless, and sometimes I am too. I just sit there, and I don't get this."

That is part of the reason Desiree says her daughter will be transferring next year to Sussex Academy.

Among the criticism of Common Core, which has changed the way children are taught, is testing.

The accompanying standardized tests won't be ready until next year, which means students' progress must be measured using old tests.

But back to Snow Hill Elementary, where Dr. Cooper says progress is being made every day.

"Our children are highly engaged with the reading and with the math, and with STEM," she noted. "So, as we start to look at benchmarks, our scores are going up as we're looking at them. When you're at behavioral problems, our office referrals have dropped. We have less than 13 office referrals this year, because our students are so engaged with learning.

It is progress that parents like Christina Hulslander can attest to.

"Anthony's made a lot of jumps going into 2nd grade, and he really seems to just be excited about the activities that they do," she said. "It seems inherently more creative and more empowering for the students. That there's not just one way to get to an answer, but multiple ways.

This spring, students in Maryland and Delaware will be part of a Common Core pilot test. Legislation that would repeal Common Core in Maryland is currently in the House. 

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