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Professional Development

Calif. Teachers, Administrators Disagree About How Well Common Core Is Going

By Emmanuel Felton — March 23, 2016 2 min read
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California teachers and administrators agree that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than old standards, are more relevant to students’ everyday lives, and will better prepare them for college and careers, but they are split on how well implementation has gone in the Golden State, according to a new survey report by WestEd, a San Francisco-based research-and-consulting nonprofit.

While over 70 percent of district leaders deemed their progress as either good or excellent, teachers say there’s room for improvement and have a wish list for moving forward.

One important caveat to the study is that it only cites survey results that are consistent with findings from either more in-depth interviews or other research. That’s because the survey’s response rate was too low for it to be statistically sound. Less than 30 percent of the 835 California superintendents who received the survey completed it. That dropped to 23 percent for the 7,000 teachers contacted, and just one in five of the 7,375 principals reached. “We don’t know if the 20 percent response was from the most positive Common Core believers or not,” WestEd senior policy associate Reino Makkonen told EdSource.

Those teachers who did respond said that their principals haven’t been given the needed knowledge to weigh in on curriculum, instruction, and assessments under the common core. And in interviews with WestEd, district leaders acknowledged that they hadn’t been targeting principals with the same level of Common Core focused professional development that teachers have received.

As for their own professional development, the teachers said they want more job-embedded training. According to their responses, the quality of their professional-development experiences so far has varied greatly. About two-thirds of teachers said the trainings were well-aligned with the new standards and that more training is necessary, but others rated their prior trainings as helpful. (It should be noted that WestEd is itself a provider of common-core professional development.)

The teachers also said they wanted more structured time to work with their peers to develop strategies to teach the new standards. The report found that some California districts are adjusting schedules to facilitate that kind of collaboration: “for example, implementing early release or late start days, procuring external funding to provide substitute teachers, or rotating teachers on special assignment back in the classroom.

Teachers would indicated that they could also use greater access to interim and diagnostic assessments aligned to the common standards. They say the current lack of these assessments makes it difficult to assess whether their students are really making progress toward the new standards. On this point, district leaders agreed and told surveyors that it has also been difficult to find common-core-aligned English/language arts textbooks and curriculum.

For curriculum resources, teachers said that they have been turning to their peers, both in their buildings and online, for instructional materials. WestEd’s findings echo a national study that found teachers are now each other’s primary sources for instructional materials.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.