The results from two studies that examine teachers’ perceptions on the Common Core State Standards were released this week, and they come to some markedly different conclusions on how ready teachers are for implementation. And while both studies show teachers want more co-planning time, they diverge on where else teachers see significant challenges.
The study from National Center for Literacy Education, a group of organizations focused on supporting whole-school literacy initiatives, looked mainly at the transition to the common-core literacy standards. It says that 32 percent of teachers were not at all involved in planning their school’s shift to the common core. It also found that half of teachers said their schools are now spending more time on cross-disciplinary literacy under the new standards. That survey is based on the responses of 3,300 teachers in all subjects and grade levels conducted in October.
Preliminary results from the other study, by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were released four months ago and found, most notably, that three-quarters of teachers said they were enthusiastic about common-core implementation. This week, the organizations released the full 216-page report based on a national online survey of 20,000 teachers pre-K-12 public school teachers conducted over the summer. (Education Week receives support from the Gates Foundation for coverage of business and innovation topics.)
It’s true that the surveys differed in scope and methodology. Even so, it’s worth broadly comparing a few of their major findings.
• Preparedness: NCLE found that 44 percent of teachers said they are well-prepared to implement the new standards (4 or 5 on a 5-point scale, with 5 being “very prepared”). According to Scholastic/Gates, on the other hand, 75 percent of teachers are “somewhat” or “very” prepared to teach the new standards. (Note that the wording here is likely to have made a difference—"somewhat” is a pretty soft benchmark. And NCLE used a 5-point rating scale while Scholastic/Gates used a 4-point.)
• Challenges: In both surveys, about half of respondents said finding time to collaborate with colleagues was a major challenge. In the NCLE study, the only task rated as more challenging was lack of instructional time. The Scholastic/Gates respondents pointed to “constantly changing demands” as most challenging (and again the only task rated as more challenging than time for collaboration).
• Struggling Learners: Both surveys indicate teachers are worried about implementing the common core with struggling student populations—though they disagree on how worried. According to NCLE, about 20 percent of teachers say they are well-prepared to teach English-language learners, students with disabilities, and academically at-risk students—or 80 percent are not well-prepared for this. Gates/Scholastic found that 30 percent of teachers say a lack of academic help for ELL and struggling students is one of the most significant challenges they face. Or, if you flip that, 70 percent do not rank this as a significant challenge.
There’s obviously more to mine from both reports (head to Teacher Beat as well for more on the Scholastic/Gates survey.) But in doing so, please keep in mind that these survey results are best viewed in context—and with a healthy dose of skepticism.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.