Teachers want more Common Core preparation

Credit: John Fensterwald/EdSource TodayTeachers who received extra training and support in implementing the Common Core State Standards have had a “positive” experience introducing them into their classrooms, according to a national survey of teachers.
But many teachers said they didn’t get enough professional preparation. Of the 1,676 teachers who responded to the July 2014 survey, funded by Scholastic Inc. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the vast majority said they needed more training.
Teachers said they wanted more professional development in the actual content of the standards, how to integrate the standards “across subject areas” and what they need to change in their method of instruction to teach to the standards. California, 42 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the new academic standards in  English Language Arts and Math.
“The finding that jumped out at me and gave me pause was that 84 percent of teachers said they needed quality professional development,” said Ellen Moir, chief executive officer of the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit in Santa Cruz that provides training and mentorship to new teachers.
Nearly all teachers also said they needed resources, including instructional materials aligned with Common Core (88 percent) and more planning time to find materials and prepare lessons, and to collaborate with other teachers (78 percent).
Yet more teachers (79 percent) said they felt either “very prepared” or “somewhat prepared” to teach to the standards, compared to 71 percent in a companion survey a year earlier.
Large numbers of teachers surveyed also said they did not believe that policymakers were hearing their concerns. Only 30 percent of the teachers said they felt their opinions about Common Core were heard by administrators in districts, and only 5 percent felt that policymakers in their state were responsive to them, according to the report.
The survey also found that teachers were most concerned about whether there were enough tools and resources to help students who are two or more grade levels behind meet the standards.
For Martha Castellón, executive director of the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s Understanding Language program, which focuses on helping English language learners, such concerns ring true in California. Teachers are now expected to teach their classes aligned with the Common Core, while helping English learners master the higher standards.
“The state and districts are going to have to provide teachers with this training,” Castellón said. “The curriculum addresses the content,” she said. But it doesn’t help teachers break it down, she added, “for students who have various levels of English proficiency.”
Among other findings, the survey found that elementary schools were further along in the Common Core rollout than secondary schools. It also found that teachers were worried that the results of testing could play a role in teacher evaluations. Fifty-nine percent said that among hurdles that have made implementing the Common Core difficult was “having student results on new tests be a factor in teacher evaluations.”
Teachers cited other barriers to putting the Common Core into practice, including uncertainty about what assessments states will select to administer to students, and questions about whether the Common Core standards in math are aligned appropriately to each grade level.
Ryan Jones, a high school teacher at Watsonville High School, credits teacher training with preparing him to teach his students about the French Revolution in a manner aligned with the Common Core.
Instead of teaching students to memorize the causes of the French Revolution, says Jones, “you’re going to see students developing arguments about its causes.” Those arguments, he continued, must be based on evidence from primary sources.
His school provides regular training on Common Core, where a mentor reviews lesson plans and coaches teachers, Jones said. “She’ll ask things like, ‘Does this assignment focus more on facts or about how to think?’”
If California teachers are going to get training and support in how to implement the Common Core, their schools have to provide it, Jones said.
This is the third year of the survey of U.S. teachers, which was sent by email to the same 16,000 public school teachers – in Common Core states and in all grades – who responded to last year’s survey. Teachers from more than 40 states, including California and the District of Columbia, responded to the survey.
The sample size was standard for a such a survey, according to Kristen Harmeling, a partner in YouGov, the firm that designed it.
The Gates Foundation provides funding to EdSource but has no control over its editorial content.
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