1 in 5 Teachers Unfamiliar With the Common-Core Standards for Writing

By Liana Loewus — June 24, 2016 2 min read
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If you haven’t yet seen the excellent new package of stories about writing instruction in the common-core era by our Education Week Teacher team, you’ll want to head there right away.

The upshot of what our reporters found is that the standards require more writing, more different types of writing, and an increase in the use of evidence from outside texts—and yet professional development efforts haven’t kept up in helping teachers meet these new demands.

A study published in last month’s Reading and Writing journal echoes many of those conclusions.

The authors, Gary Troia of Michigan State University and Steve Graham of Arizona State University, surveyed teachers in states that are using the Common Core State Standards on their attitudes and beliefs about the common core’s writing and language standards and associated tests. About 480 teachers in grades 3 through 8 responded.

A majority of teachers said the common-core writing standards are more rigorous than previous writing standards and have led them to focus more on teaching writing. About half said that there are too many standards to cover within a year.

And only about a quarter of all teachers said they had had sufficient professional development to successfully implement the writing standards in their classrooms.

The lack of PD was emphasized in another finding as well: About 1 in 5 teachers said they were not very familiar with the common-core writing standards.

About a third of teachers also said they were not very familiar with their states’ common-core-aligned writing tests—though this isn’t very surprising given how much upheaval has occurred in the state testing processes. (Many states have recently switched from tests developed by the two federally funded consortia—PARCC and Smarter Balanced—to other options.)

“This proves that a great deal of work needs to be accomplished by state and local education agencies to prepare educators for meaningfully and successfully applying these reforms in their classrooms,” Troia, an associate professor of special education, said in a press release.

Preservice Writing Preparation

The study also includes some interesting findings about teachers’ preparation to teach writing generally.

The researchers found that:

  • About 20 percent of teachers said “they had taken no coursework during their credentialing teacher preparation program that included content related to writing instruction.”
  • Almost half of teachers said they’d taken one more or more college courses with some time devoted to writing instruction.
  • Nearly a third had taken at least one class devoted solely to writing instruction.

For more on teaching writing, see the new story package “Next Draft: Changing Practices in Writing Instruction.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.