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Teachers Say They Are Not Well-Prepared for Common Core

By Catherine Gewertz — August 19, 2014 3 min read
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Teachers are getting steadily more training in the common core, but they’re not feeling much more prepared to teach it, according to survey results released last week by the Education Week Research Center.

The study, “From Adoption to Practice: Teacher Perspectives on the Common Core,” shows that while far more teachers are attending common-core training, they’re giving the sessions low marks for quality.

Those findings were drawn from an online survey of registered users of edweek.org in October 2013. The pool of respondents is not nationally representative, but it is a snapshot of a diverse group of 457 teachers in states that adopted the Common Core State Standards. Support for the survey was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which also provides support for Education Week‘s coverage of deeper learning.

Quality an Issue

Compared with a similar survey by the Education Week Research Center in October 2012, the new study shows significant shifts in teachers’ professional development and training for the common core.

In last year’s report, 71 percent of teachers said they had attended professional development or training on the common core. This year, that figure rose to 87 percent. Teachers are spending more time in that training, too: Four in 10 said they had spent more than five days in common-core training, compared with 28 percent the previous year.

But they’re far more critical of that professional development than they were the year before. Two-thirds of the teachers said it was of high quality in 2012, but barely half said so in 2013.

Ready or Not?

A survey by the Education Week Research Center finds teachers have participated in more professional development related to the common core, but they are more critical of how that training has equipped them for changes in instruction.

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCE: Education Week Research Center

States are edging closer to giving common-core-aligned assessments this coming spring, but few teachers were getting training on them. In the most recent survey, only 23 percent said they’d received professional development on that topic.

Far more common is training on the English/language arts standards; 82 percent reported it as a topic of professional development. Training on the mathematics standards ran a distant second, with only 55 percent saying it was covered. Just 15 percent of the teachers reported sessions aimed at helping them teach subgroups of students with specific challenges, such as those with disabilities or from low-income families.

Even though far more teachers are receiving common-core training, it doesn’t appear to be helping them feel more prepared to teach the new standards. Their sense of preparedness, ranked on a scale from 1 (“not at all prepared”) to 5 (“very prepared”), was about the same in this year’s report as it was the previous year: Slightly less than half gave themselves 4s or 5s on that preparedness scale.

Meeting All Students’ Needs

Teachers feel even less prepared to teach the common core to students with more challenges. Fewer than 4 in 10 teachers said they felt well prepared to teach the common core to students who were from low-income families or were academically at risk. One-quarter or fewer said they felt prepared to teach it to students with disabilities or those still learning to speak English.

Teachers are unhappy with the lack of alignment between their instructional materials and the common core. Nearly 6 in 10 said their main curricular materials were not aligned to the new standards, a picture that’s stubbornly unchanged from the year before.

Textbooks came in for a particularly hard hit. Less than one-third of the teachers said their textbooks were aligned. Supplementary resources and digital/multimedia resources were better aligned, teachers said. But even so, barely half gave those materials strong marks for alignment.

Teachers reported deep skepticism about publishers’ claims that their materials are common-core-aligned. Fewer than 4 in 10 said they’d trust curriculum providers’ claims of alignment. Two-thirds said they’d trust the judgment of “independent panels of experts.” Nearly 9 in 10, though, said they could put their faith in the judgments of fellow teachers when it comes to materials alignment.

Familiarity with the common-core standards was on the rise, the survey shows. Only 18 percent classified themselves as “very familiar” with the math standards in fall 2012, but that number rose to 31 percent in the fall 2013 survey. The proportion who described themselves as very familiar with the English/language arts standards rose from 34 percent to 45 percent.

Far fewer teachers were familiar with the common-core assessments being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced consortia, however. Just over half said they were familiar with the consortia’s math tests, and about two-thirds said they were familiar with their English/language arts tests.

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Coverage of “deeper learning” that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, at www.hewlett.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the August 20, 2014 edition of Education Week as Teachers Feel Ill-Prepared for Common-Core Despite Training

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