Teachers: We’re Ready To Teach Common Core, But Will It Help Students?

By Catherine Gewertz — February 21, 2013 2 min read
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A new survey shows that teachers are confident that they’re ready to teach the new Common Core State Standards, but they aren’t entirely convinced that doing so will help students.

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, released today, examines teachers’ and principals’ attitudes about their work. My colleague Liana Heitin has a full account of the study for you. But Chapter 4 of the study focuses on the Common Core State Standards. And it turned up an interesting mix of feedback about educators’ own readiness to teach them, and their views on whether they will improve student achievement or better prepare students for college or work.

More than 90 percent of teachers and principals said they consider themselves knowledgeable or very knowledgeable about the common core.

Nine in 10 teachers and principals believe teachers in their schools have the skills and abilities needed to put them into practice. But digging into that area further shows a mixture of confidence levels. Among principals, for instance, 51 percent said they were “confident” of teachers’ common-core skills and abilities, and 38 percent said they were “very confident.” Among teachers, the pattern was flipped: 53 percent said they were “very confident” that teachers in their building had the requisite skills and abilities, and 40 percent said they were “confident” of that.

Asked how confident they are that the new standards will improve student achievement or readiness for college or careers, teachers and principals were “somewhat muted,” according to the study. Only two in 10 said they were “very confident” that the common standards would bring about such changes. Another five in 10 (among teachers) and six in 10 (among principals) rated themselves “confident” that the common core would drive such improvements. Middle and high school teachers were less confident than their elementary-level colleagues that the Common Core State Standards would make a difference in student achievement and readiness for college and work.

More than 60 percent of teachers report that they’re already using the common core “a great deal” in their teaching, though this was more the case in elementary schools than in middle or high schools. Not too surprisingly, educators who report that they’re using the common core a great deal also tend to report being more knowledgeable about it and more confident in teachers’ abilities to teach it.

Not all key skills from the common core were being taught evenly across the board, however. Teachers reported in the survey that colleagues in their school are far more likely to focus instruction on reading and understanding complex literary and informational texts, and on applying mathematics to everyday problems than they are to focus on reasoning abstractly and quantitatively and figuring out how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Other studies have shown that teachers’ strengths at teaching higher-order skills, which are emphasized in the common standards, aren’t always up to snuff. My colleague Stephen Sawchuk wrote about these findings over at Teacher Beat.

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