CUMBERLAND — David Cox and Janet Wilson, the school superintendents for Allegany and Garrett County, respectively, along with Garrett College President Richard MacLennan, gave an update on the challenges currently facing education at a meeting Thursday of The Greater Cumberland Committee.
“We are moving toward having assessments that increase the demand of our kids cognitive skills. It’s been long overdue,” said Wilson, during the luncheon at the Cumberland Country Club.
Wilson and Cox gave a joint talk on the new curriculum and testing assessments being implemented in Maryland’s public schools known as Common Core, which is being phased in with the goal of the new system replacing traditional assessments by 2015.
For years, Maryland students were assessed by two tests: Elementary and middle school students took the Maryland Standard Assessment and grades 9 through 12 were given the High School Assessments.
Before Wilson and Cox spoke on the Common Core, MacLennan gave committee members in attendance an overview of the challenges facing education today.
MacLennan said the demand for workers with some level of higher education is continuing to rise.
“About two thirds of all employment will require some college education,” he said.
An estimated 81 million Baby Boomers will leave the job market, according to MacLennan, in the next 18 to 20 years, creating a high demand for educated workers.
“There is a sense of urgency here,” said MacLennan.
He also spoke on the skyrocketing student loan debt.
“Last year, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt nationally. It is closing on $1.12 trillion now. It increases by $2,853 every minute,” said MacLennan.
MacLennan stressed the need to close the gap between employer needs and workplace readiness through education.
“We are 16th in the world in our graduation rate. Today, 13 million attend a community college while only 25 percent will earn an associate degree within four years,” he said.
MacLennan also said that early college access during high school is critical.
“We know that those who get some college-level exposure while in high school will do better in college and are more likely to graduate,” he said.
Following MacLennan’s presentation, Cox and Wilson explained the Common Core assesment for K-12 students, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Wilson and Cox both think that Common Core can add to the quality of Maryland’s public education standards.
The educators pointed out that Maryland has ranked number one in the U.S., based on six levels of criteria, by the trade publication Education Week, for the last five years.
“The old testing was basically multiple choice questions with the students regurgitating the content,” said Cox.
The educators said the new PARCC testing will stress analytical, abstract and quantitative reasoning.
The tests will stress the coordination between math and science and language arts by requiring the student to defend or argue their answers using their technical language.
“The students will use computers and utilize models as well,” said Wilson.
Wilson described moving from the traditional MSA and HSA testing method to PARCC as “going from the rural dirt road to the highway.”
The educators said the Common Core has been vetted by business, researchers and education.
“This is the most monumental change I have seen in 33 years in education,” said Cox.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.