Standards

Common-Standards Implementation Slow Going, Study Finds

By Catherine Gewertz — September 14, 2011 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Barely half the school districts in states that have adopted the common standards are taking essential steps to implement them, and most cite inadequate state guidance as a major problem in moving forward, a new study finds.

Districts are also deeply divided about how rigorous the new standards are and how much they demand new curricula and instructional strategies, according to the survey released today by the Center on Education Policy.

The portrait that emerges from the study suggests that too many districts are woefully unprepared for the challenge of the new standards, some experts say.

“What it says to me is that there is a large percentage that don’t seem to understand the train that is about to hit them,” said William H. Schmidt, a Michigan State University education professor who is conducting his own research on districts’ readiness for the new standards. “That, to me, is somewhat scary.”

In a survey of 315 districts, the CEP asked superintendents to report on activities their districts were working on in 2010-11, or planned to undertake in 2011-12, to put the standards in mathematics and English/language arts into practice.

About half the districts reported that they would craft or buy new curriculum materials, and just under half said they planned to provide professional development for teachers or devise local tests to gauge student mastery of the standards. Fewer than one-third reported plans to revise teacher-evaluation systems or change teacher-induction practices to reflect the new expectations.

The area that reflected the greatest progress was developing an implementation plan and timeline; two-thirds of the districts reported that such work is under way or planned.

Still, “a sizeable share” of districts have no plans to move ahead in any of the areas the center probed, the study’s co-authors write. That share ranged from one-third to three-quarters, depending on the activity the CEP asked about.

Budget Constraints

The district feedback is part of the Washington-based research and advocacy center’s work to track progress of the common standards, which have now been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Its study of states, released in January, found that they planned professional development for teachers in 2011-12, but changes in other areas, such as curriculum, were a year or two away. (“Full Standards-Based System Several Years Off,” Jan. 12, 2011.)

Many districts are diving into work on the standards, including groups collaborating through the Council of the Great City Schools and the Aspen Institute. New York City, for instance, has piloted several aspects of the new standards for more than a year, and it immersed all its teachers in the standards during a professional-development day that kicked off the school year last week. But the study suggests that most districts are not heavily engaged in such work.

See Also

On-Demand Webinar: Bringing Common Standards Into the Classroom

Nearly every state in the country has adopted a new set of common academic standards in mathematics and English/language arts. The new guidelines lay out fundamental changes in the skills students are expected to have. But there is a long road from understanding the standards to putting them into practice in the classroom.
View this free webinar.

Large proportions of districts in the CEP survey might have reported no plans in key areas because of the timing of the study, which was conducted from February through April, less than a year after most states had adopted the standards, the study’s co-authors note. Budget cuts and lack of state guidance could have been factors as well, they write.

Indeed, three-quarters of the districts cited funding as a “major problem” in implementing the common standards locally, and two-thirds reported that inadequate guidance from their states was a big problem.

Half said their states had distributed a comprehensive plan to implement the standards, but fewer than four in 10 reported getting state help with new curricular materials for the standards or creating local tests to track students’ progress on the standards. Only three in 10 said their states had offered help with teacher evaluation or induction systems that reflect the standards.

District staff members are attending meetings about the common standards, though. Six in 10 districts reported sending staff to state or regional meetings to plan ways to implement the standards. But more often than not, central-office and administrative personnel, rather than teachers, were the ones participating in the state-sponsored meetings, the study says.

The survey reveals a mix of judgments about what the standards will require of students and teachers. Fewer than 60 percent of the districts said they view the new standards as more rigorous than their states’ previous guidelines. Fewer still—55 percent in math, and 58 percent in English/language arts—said they believed the standards would improve students’ skills.

Two-thirds of the districts anticipate the need for new curriculum materials in math, and 56 percent anticipate a similar need for the literacy standards. About half the respondents said they thought the new standards would demand “fundamental changes” in instruction.

Since the CEP study drew responses from superintendents, it is likely that their assessment overstates districts’ readiness for the common standards, Michigan State’s Mr. Schmidt said. In his work surveying 700 districts, he said, he has found that teachers know less about the standards than do staff members at district headquarters.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2011 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Explainer What’s the Purpose of Standards in Education? An Explainer
What are standards? Why are they important? What's the Common Core? Do standards improve student achievement? Our explainer has the answers.
11 min read
Photo of students taking test.
F. Sheehan for EdWeek / Getty
Standards Florida's New African American History Standards: What's Behind the Backlash
The state's new standards drew national criticism and leave teachers with questions.
9 min read
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference at the Celebrate Freedom Foundation Hangar in West Columbia, S.C. July 18, 2023. For DeSantis, Tuesday was supposed to mark a major moment to help reset his stagnant Republican presidential campaign. But yet again, the moment was overshadowed by Donald Trump. The former president was the overwhelming focus for much of the day as DeSantis spoke out at a press conference and sat for a highly anticipated interview designed to reassure anxious donors and primary voters that he's still well-positioned to defeat Trump.
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in West Columbia, S.C., on July 18, 2023. Florida officials approved new African American history standards that drew national backlash, and which DeSantis defended.
Sean Rayford/AP
Standards Here’s What’s in Florida’s New African American History Standards
Standards were expanded in the younger grades, but critics question the framing of many of the new standards.
1 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in the teaching of Black history.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida state board of education in the teaching of Black history.
Fran Ruchalski/The Florida Times-Union via AP
Standards Opinion How One State Found Common Ground to Produce New History Standards
A veteran board member discusses how the state school board pushed past partisanship to offer a richer, more inclusive history for students.
10 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty