Survey Shows Teachers Still Lukewarm to Common Core

According to a new survey by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, only about half of the teachers in the 43 states who have adopted the federal Common Core standards feel the standards will be positive for their students.

The survey of 1,676 K-12 teachers also discovered that in general, teachers feel more prepared to teach the federal standards this year, and have already witnessed improvements in their students' critical thinking skills.

The Common Core continues to be surrounded by controversy, with states backing away from the tougher standards that were designed to improve college readiness skills. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has even sued the Obama administration over them, arguing that the government forced the standards on states.

Throughout the controversy, however, the standards are in daily use by teachers in 43 states.

Without a lot of resources, state and district leaders "are facing challenges trying to deal with the thornier aspect of implementation, professional development being one of them," says Maria Ferguson, executive director of the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University. "Teachers are an important voice" on the Common Core, she says.

According to survey results, progress has been made in the subject of implementation, with 25% of teachers believing the standards to have been fully implemented in their schools — an increase from the 13% who believed this last year. Another 39% believe the implementation process is almost complete, up from 33% last year.

Of the schools where implementation has been completed, most teachers agreed somewhat (62%) or strongly (24%) that it had gone well.

Also found of schools where implementation was complete, 53% of teachers felt students' critical thinking and reasoning skills had already shown improvement, as well as their ability to present their ideas coherently; 50% felt students could more easily understand informational text; and 46% said they saw better interaction when students worked in groups.

The survey also suggested that feelings concerning the ability to teach the standards were improving this year as well. Last year, 71% felt ready to teach the standards. This year, that number has increased to 79%.

Despite all of this, the amount of enthusiasm surrounding the standards has dipped from 73% to 68%. Also, the number of teachers who felt implementation is or will be difficult has risen from 73% to 81%.

The number of teachers who feel the standards will be positive for students has also decreased, from 57% last year to 48% this year. An additional 17% believe the standards will have a negative effect on students.

Teachers showed concern over at-risk students who would have to work the hardest to meet the new standards, as well as the issue of using student test scores for teacher evaluations.

But "the teachers who were more negative were also less involved with implementing the Common Core," and tended to get information more from the media than from their own districts, says Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education. The survey findings suggest that when it comes to Common Core implementation, "the more you do it, the more you love it," she says.

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