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Hope and anxiety: What do teachers think about the Common Core standards?

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The more teachers get to know the controversial Common Core State Standards, the more they like them, according to a teacher survey published this week. And even as many states debate whether to stick with the standards, which lay out what students need to know in math and English based on requirements in other countries, the survey suggests that the Common Core is already being taught at most schools in the 45 states that adopted it.

Assistant Principal Tracee Murren leads ninth-grade Algebra 1 students at the Kingsborough Early College Secondary School in Brooklyn in a discussion about how to make a graph. (Photo: Sarah Garland)

Assistant Principal Tracee Murren leads ninth-grade Algebra 1 students at the Kingsborough Early College Secondary School in Brooklyn in a discussion about how to make a graph. (Photo: Sarah Garland)

The survey is one of two reports published this week that goes beyond the fights over whether to throw out or slow down Common Core to find out how local school districts and classroom teachers are dealing with the standards in their classrooms. The findings—both reports are published by staunch supporters of the Common Core—were largely positive.

But the feedback from teachers and districts also uncovers anxiety about how classrooms and students will be affected by the tougher standards. Teachers are still worried about how to help struggling students keep up, while districts that adopted the standards early have resorted to coming up with their own curricula to meet the standards because they’ve found few off-the-shelf materials that do a good job of matching Common Core.

And training teachers to be able to handle the Common Core remains a major concern. As one teacher in Washington told researchers: “I feel that my ability to be the best teacher possible for my students is most critically affected by the lack of professional time to adjust the curriculum to the Common Core.”

CLICK TO READ THE SERIES

CLICK TO READ THE SERIES

The first report, published Tuesday by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates is among Hechinger’s many funders), surveyed 20,000 American teachers last July about a range of topics, including the Common Core. The second report, published Wednesday by the right-leaning Fordham Institute, examines how four local school districts that launched Common Core early have fared and highlights best practices.

Here are some of the main takeaways about how teachers are reacting to Common Core from the Scholastic and Gates survey:

  • Half of teachers in Common Core states say they are already teaching the standards in their schools. Only 6 percent say they haven’t begun.
  • While the majority of teachers, 57 percent, say Common Core will be positive for most students, a third don’t think it will make a difference. Eight percent say it will be negative. Elementary school teachers have a sunnier outlook on the standards than middle and high school teachers. Among high school teachers, just 41 percent think the new standards will have a positive effect.
  • The survey asked teachers about whether the standards will meet the goals set for them, including better preparing students for careers and to compete in a global economy. The views were mixed: An overwhelming majority of teachers say the standards will help with consistency and clarity about what students are expected to learn across states. But just half agreed that they’ll help students prepare for careers and to compete globally.
  • For teachers that have already started working on the standards, 62 percent say it’s going well while 20 percent say it’s not going well. At the same time, 75 percent of teachers say they feel prepared for the standards.
  • Forty percent of teachers say they worried about how students who are below grade level will keep up with the new standards, though, and more than a quarter worry about their special education students.

ccgraphicWhat to do about the lingering worries? The Fordham report highlighted best practices being used by the early adopters of the Common Core that might be helpful for others who are further behind. (The districts were Nashville, Tenn., District 54 in Shaumburg, Ill., in the Chicago suburbs, Kenton County School District in Northern Kentucky, and Washoe County School District in Nevada, which encompasses the Reno-Tahoe area.) Here are outtakes:

  • Two of the districts profiled by Fordham have pushed principals to spend more time in the classroom. In the two that hadn’t encouraged principals to focus more on teaching and less on administration, the report found that “teachers and principals alike report that insufficient principal training on the new standards is the biggest implementation challenge.”
  • Educators have been disappointed about the curriculum materials produced to match Common Core. The early-bird districts were adapting what they had in place previously or starting from scratch to create new curricula and lesson plans. According to the report, “All four expressed caution about spending limited dollars on materials that were not truly aligned to the Common Core and are delaying at least some of their purchases until they see products that demonstrate better alignment.”
  • And to address the big worry of how to train teachers? In the four districts profiled in the Fordham report, in-class coaching and joint planning time for teachers worked better than workshops. “Teachers in these districts use their time to focus relentlessly on instruction and the Common Core—not on administrative obligations,” the report said.

The four districts didn’t have all the answers for making the transition to Common Core a smooth one, though. As one Nashville educator put it, “All our teachers feel like they’re first-year teachers right now.”

Comments & Trackbacks (10) | Post a Comment

Bruce William Smith

It’s too bad those teachers are having to work so hard to adjust their practices to an inferior set of standards. For example, look at the photograph illustrating this story. This is their version of an “Early College Secondary School”? Pupils in east Asia learn the equivalent of Algebra I in seventh grade; therefore these future “collegians” are already two years behind. The No Child Left Behind promoters are making sure all American children get left behind.

But there is an answer: enrol your children in a private upper secondary school like ours at One World Lyceum, and you can be free of the Common Core, and can instead access the world-class mathematics (and English, and science, and other humanities and social sciences) curricula that Common Core promised to deliver, but that won’t be arriving in our state school classrooms in the foreseeable future.

Ed Hauc

That first paragraph says it all, “Common Core is already being taught at most schools…” So why do we have to reinvent the wheel? It is a waste of time.

Suzanne Schiavoni

I am a fourth grade teacher, and have been for 26 years. I have never had any issues with The Common Core. It’s the modules from engageNY that I dislike. The ELA modules are deadly. They are dull, cumbersome and in no way inspire children to read more. Also, the implementation of the modules leaves very little time for the science or social studies curriculum. I have no doubt that in 5-10 years the next push will be for increased science and social studies in our classrooms because our students will be lacking… severely.

MountainMan57

The advertising company paid to produce this article should be doing pretty well. It let in just enough light to make it believable while covering up the BS well enough so it didn’t stink too bad. It is kind of like humor where there must be some truth in order to make it funny.
The reactions I have encountered from experienced and professional teachers has been in the 75-80% negative. From the material stating the period of President Reagan’s time in office creating the longest period of economic instability and negative effect to the “newest new math” that no one can decipher, not much to accept.

Glen Dalgleish

So both reports have been published by organizations that have received funding from Bill Gates, who has poured millions into…Common Core. Add to that the article also divulges that Hechinger received donations from Gates too. You think there might be a credibility gap here that is even larger than the one Common Core has created for our Special Education children?

Even after years of rolling this one-size-fits-all mandate out there is still NO proof that the standards actually work but we continue at full speed without even looking back. And there is tons of proof these standards are flawed, age in-appropriate and actually harming our kids. Many States have legislation passed, on the floor or in the making to stop Common Core. A shame that hasn’t been mentioned in this article. Or is it an ad that I thought was an article. Don’t let facts get in the way of the way of your reporting.

Kevin Kelly

This study wouldn’t be the same one that got money from the Gates Foundation to promote common core would it? Thomas B. Fordham Institute $1,961,116. It doesn’t matter how it leans if it’s being paid to promote this garbage.

Aaron Grossman

As someone working in one of the districts highlighted in the Fordham study—Washoe—I can tell that a big part of our effort has been to share the Common Core message “unfiltered.” That is, instead of relying on someone to tell us what it means to do CCSS, we watch video of the authors, work team members, and validation team describing how they reached the conclusions that they did. This is important because when I read a comment, like Suzanne’s noting social studies and science have been marginalized, my first impulse is to show her video of authors saying that sharing content with kids is crucial to doing the standards well. In fact, that’s what we did as teachers. We downloaded video and shared it in our staff meetings because these standards enable us to do what we’ve always wanted to do—focus on instruction instead of “schemes” or fidelity to programs.

Pam

It appears that there is always some political ploy to once again reinvent the wheel. This is just another example of politicians and businessmen trying to tell those of us who are passionate about kids and teaching how to do our jobs. We’ve been told that handwriting and spelling are irrelevant. We no longer “add”…we “construct”. We no longer “subtract”…we “decompose.” REALLY? It’s like rewriting the Ten Commandments! The new buzzword is “rigor”. As an educator for over 20 years, I feel as most of my colleagues feel. There is already a great deal of rigor in our curriculum. Somebody somewhere seems to be set on destroying public education, and I’ll bet that somebody is getting rich at the expense of teachers and the kids that we love. Couple Common Core with the Danielson framework and you have a recipe to destroy teachers and the public school system. Believe me when I say that I totally support private schools. That’s everyone’s personal choice. However, when I am forced to teach material in a manner in which my lower students will NEVER grasp, we are losing the personal connection that is so vital in the public schools. Some of these kids have no quality home life and school is their reprieve. Now they are being targeted to perform to standards that are so ridiculously out of whack that only the Einsteins of society could achieve. There is a developmental factor that is sorely missing here. Common Core seems to want to mass produce a society of anxiety-ridden young people, along with stress-laden teachers. When kids are cutting themselves and no longer want to live because of this “wonderful educational miracle”, we have crossed a somber line. ENOUGH! If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it! As far as many of us are concerned, Common Core is the educational anti-Christ!

Richard Innes

The survey is almost stillborn after the NY State teacher union severely criticized CCSS in late January and then on February 19, 2014 the president of the NEA penned a letter that says “Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get CCSS implementation right.”

Some of the issues raised by the unions go to the heart of the standards, not implementation. The lack of a viable feedback process was a gross oversight in the development of CCSS. Ignoring math beyond the 10th grade was another.

These problems could be fixed, but there doesn’t seem to be any action on the part of the CCSS copyright holders to do so.

Marie

It doesn’t matter what teachers think. We are the least important factor in this equation. Why else would the standards be written without real input from teachers. The standards designers do not care what we think, do not want our input, and just want us to shut up and drink the koolaid. Any set of standards that makes perseverance a math skill as opposed to a life skill clearly show trying to fit round pegs in square holes. But I bet the textbook companies will sell a lot of new books.

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