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Fewer teachers are enthusiastic about Common Core implementation and fewer think the new standards will help their students, according to a survey sponsored by education publisher Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The percentage of teachers who are enthusiastic about Common Core – a set of academic guidelines in math and English that more than 40 states have adopted – is down from 73 percent last year to 68 this year, according to a poll of 1,600 teachers across the country. And while more teachers continue to believe that the standards will help not hurt their students – 48 percent compared to 17 percent – the percentage of teachers in the survey who think the Common Core standards will be good for most of their students is down sharply from 57 percent in last year’s poll. The percentage of teachers who think it will hurt has more than doubled from 8 percent to 17 percent. And the percentage of teachers who think the standards won’t make much of a difference remained the same at 35 percent.
Teacher enthusiasm appears to be declining despite the fact that more teachers report that they are prepared to teach Common Core – 79 percent this year compared to 71 percent last year – and more say implementation in their schools is going well – 68 percent compared to 62 percent.
Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education, points to factors outside school buildings as the reason for decline.
“Among the three most cited external factors viewed as problematic, teachers identified uncertainty about their states continuing with the Common Core. This tells us that many of the debates permeating the national dialogue are reaching and affecting teachers,” said Mayer. “Despite all of this, the data says that the further along teachers are in implementation, the more likely they are to be optimistic towards the impact of the standards on their students’ skills.”
The survey, which was conducted in July, came after a bruising few months for the Common Core in state capitols across the country. Politicians have succeeded in getting the standards either revoked or put under review in several states. Some critics have argued the Common Core is federal overreach because it was endorsed by the Obama administration during the Race To The Top initiative, which incentivized states to adopt more rigorous standards. Others have linked the standards to increased testing and student data collection.
The political furor over the standards has spilled into both mainstream and social media. And while the survey didn’t ask about how politics were affecting teachers’ perceptions of the standards, the survey did find that the teachers who had positive feelings about Common Core were more likely to have received information about the standards from professional development sessions than their peers and less likely to have received information through either the media or social networking.
The number of teachers that report receiving information about the standards from the media increased from 19 percent to 32 percent. The number reporting getting information from social media doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent.
In a separate poll recently released in Tennessee, where a debate about whether to keep the standards has escalated in the past few months, only 39 percent of teachers said they believe the standards will help students, down from 60 percent last year.
The poll also found that a majority of Tennessee teachers – 56 percent – want the state to scrap the standards.
The hostile political environment for Common Core may not be the main reason for the decrease in support among teachers, however. The survey found that teachers with negative views of the core are more likely to express concerns that the standards are not grade appropriate and more likely to worry about how student standardized test results will affect teacher evaluations.
The survey of more than 1,600 teachers – an update of a 2013 survey also sponsored by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation – asked teachers from the 40 plus states and that District of Columbia implementing Common Core to respond to the same set of questions asked the previous year.
On the top of teachers’ Common Core wish lists: 86 percent say they need more Common Core–aligned instructional materials, 84 percent say more quality professional development, and 78 say they need more planning time and opportunities to collaborate.