Teachers Say State Standards Are Good for Instruction. But Testing? Not So Much.

By Liana Loewus — October 04, 2017 2 min read
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About 9 out of 10 math and English/language arts teachers say having state standards is good for classroom instruction, according to a recent survey from the RAND Corporation. But less than one-third of teachers say they support the use of the current state tests to measure whether students have mastered those standards.

“I didn’t know there would be this blanket, ‘Yeah, we support the use of state standards for instruction,” said Julia Kaufman, the report’s lead author. “Most teachers don’t seem to have an objection to that.”

The analysis, released today, looked at how teachers feel about standards and testing, as well as the factors that might affect their stances. RAND administered the survey in February 2016 to a nationally representative sample of teachers.

Support for state standards was high—above 85 percent—across teacher subgroups, including among teachers in low-income schools, those with high percentages of English-learners, and those with high percentages of students with special needs. Teachers who reported being in states using the Common Core State Standards and those who reported being in non-common-core states were both overwhelmingly supportive of using state standards.

The study also suggested that, among teachers who do not support standards, a key reason is they believe they contain an unmanageable number of topics.

When it came to state assessments, teachers were much more skeptical.

Thirty percent of math teachers and 31 percent of English/language arts teachers said they do not support the use of the state’s current assessment. And teachers who reported that their state had adopted the common core were much less supportive of using statewide assessments to measure mastery than those who said they were not in common core states.

“I think in some of those common-core states where they are using new assessments, they’re unfamiliar to teachers, they often have a little bit of a higher bar, and that produces anxiety for teachers,” said Kaufman.

Teachers who did not support state tests seemed to have two major concerns: that the tests would be too difficult for their students and that they would not provide accurate scores for students with special needs.

Kaufman said those concerns could be linked to the newness of the tests as well. “It suggests to us that teachers need more tools to understand tests and to help them support students in preparation for the tests,” she said.

Many states have linked student test scores to teacher evaluations in recent years, which has ramped up anxiety about testing as well—though that may be changing in some states under the new federal education law.

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