Cumberland Times-News

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November 7, 2013

Panel discusses Common Core, workforce needs of area businesses

CUMBERLAND — A panel of eight educators gave an update on the new K-12 Common Core curriculum Thursday during a meeting held by the Greater Cumberland Committee.

The meeting, held at the Cumberland Country Club, also featured a presentation of the results obtained from a survey, conducted by TGCC, of businesses called the Regional Education and Workforce Study.

“We (the TGCC) agreed that there was a need for a greater understanding of the workforce and needs of our workforce in the region,” said Brenda Smith, TGCC’s executive director.

The survey, which received 172 responses, was completed in an effort to determine future hiring needs of business, their training plans and other related data.

Part two of a two-part series called “The ABC’s of Education,” featured an inside look at the Common Core curriculum and how it can help meet the needs of business.

“We wanted to focus our work so we could check the alignment of our curriculum and our perception to the workforce needs within our region,” said Smith.

The businesses in the survey included nonprofits, governmental agencies and public and privately owned for-profit enterprises.

The survey revealed that area businesses plan to hire 899 full-time and 579 part-time workers in the next 12 months, in addition to 1,388 seasonal and temporary workers.

Businesses reported that the largest reason, ranking at 67 percent, for rejecting applicants was a lack of relevant work experience. The second most common reason, at 63 percent, was an unacceptable appearance or poor attitude and work ethic.

Changes in technology received 66 percent of the vote for the top reason for the conducting of training and development.

Businesses in the survey reported the top four weaknesses of their workforce were communication and interpersonal skills, customer service skills, problem solving and abilities in critical and analytical thinking.

The panel gave a presentation on Common Core and how it hopes it will better prepare individuals to meet the needs of business.

Common Core, and its testing evaluations called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, is expected to shift learning from memorization and multiple choice testing to an increased focus on critical thinking with the use of evidence based argument and analytical thinking.

Teachers and administrators from Garrett and Allegany counties were on the panel.

“The rigor has increased greatly,” said panelist Christine Ashby, a math teacher at Northern Garrett Middle School.

The educators said students will learn how to analyze a problem and solve it using technology and seeking out information available to them. The students will then have to explain the reasons behind their answers using their technical language skills.

“The students will actively be involved in their learning,” said Kim Green, the chief academic officer for Allegany County Public Schools.

Green said teachers will be less like directors as in the past, and be more like facilitators that teach real world problems.

“We are moving from memorization to application, conceptual understanding and analysis,” said Barbara Baker, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Garrett County Public School System.

An example of a PARCC math test question shown at the meeting gave a list of seven different equations. The student was asked to choose three equations that met a certain answer criteria and then drag and drop the three equations into an answer box.

In the spring of 2015, students will take first PARCC assessments in English language arts and math. Some students will participate in a field test in the spring of 2014.

“We are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. In fact, the top 10 engineering jobs of 2010 weren’t even around in 2004,” said Ashby.

An attendee at the meeting asked how a parent can get involved in learning the new system.

Panel members suggested attending the forums held at Frostburg State University of common core. The next forum is Thursday at 7 p.m.

“You can ask the child what they have learned today and to tell you about it,” said LeeAnn Zlomek, math teacher at Mountain Ridge High School.

Other educators on the panel were Jane Wildesen, director for elementary/middle school education in Garrett County, Carol Garner, environmental science teacher at the Center for Career and Technical Education in Cresaptown, Erica Foley, teacher at Swan Meadow School and Shannon Miller of Route 40 Elementary.

To see a complete report of the results from the survey, visit the TGCC website and go to work groups/education.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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