Teachers Support Common Core and Other Reform Policies

March 21st, 2012

Category: Policy and Practice

Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released the 2012 “Primary Sources” report (PDF), an annual survey of teachers’ views on their profession.  I was particularly interested to see how my colleagues across the country viewed the ongoing implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  The report’s findings include:

  • There is tremendous support for curricular reform among teachers.  Nearly two-thirds (64%) of teachers said they expect the new standards to have a “strong or very strong” impact on student achievement.  Meanwhile, 79% of teachers said better curricula – ideally a byproduct of common standards – would have a similarly positive effect on achievement.
  • Among respondents, 78% of teachers said they were aware of the forthcoming Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but only 22% reported feeling “very prepared” to implement the new standards. A majority of teachers reported feeling just “somewhat prepared” (51%) to implement CCSS, while a disconcerting 27% still feel “very or somewhat unprepared.”
  • Among teachers who feel unprepared to implement CCSS, nearly 80% say they need more CCSS-related professional development.  That percentage drops to 38% among teachers who reported feeling “very prepared” to implement CCSS.

These findings largely mirror what I have observed in my own school and district, namely that the promise of CCSS is very real and tangible but the implementation of the new standards leaves something to be desired.  As I wrote last week, it seems we’ve been distracted from CCSS implementation by other reform efforts, especially the DPAS II teacher evaluation model. The “Primary Sources” report indicates that this challenge is being experienced elsewhere as well.

The entire report is long but full of interesting statistics.  Many of the findings either challenge conventional notions of teacher opinion (particularly regarding evaluation and retention), while others confirm that we’re seeing in Delaware is happening across the country.  Some other highlights include:

  • Staffing Decisions: Only 14% of teachers support a policy of “last in, first out” (or, LIFO, as it is called) with regards to staffing reductions.  The overwhelming majority (74%) believe seniority should be one of several factors considered when districts need to make layoffs – not the first and certainly not the only.  Similarly, 89% of teachers responded that tenure should be based on effectiveness, and 92% said that tenure should not shield ineffective teachers from dismissal.
  • Class Sizes: Teachers say their ideal class size would be 20 students (although the average now is 23) and that, once classes exceed 27 students, achievement suffers.  These numbers increase in the higher grades.
  • Observations: 95% of teachers believe they should be observed at least annually by their principals.  There is also tremendous support for peer reviews (81%), although only roughly one-third of teachers are observed by a colleague.
  • Student Readiness: A bare minimum (54%) of teachers reported that students generally arrive in their class prepared for grade-level material.
  • Teacher Retention: Hoping to help combat the rate of attrition in low-income schools, the report finds teachers believe administrative support (68%) and family involvement (63%) to be the most essential factor in retaining young teachers.  This approximately doubles the percentage of teachers who believe higher pay is essential to slow attrition (34%).
  • Workday: On average, teachers work 10 hours and 37 minutes per day.  That breaks down to 7:20 in instructional time, 1:42 at school outside the regular school day, and 1:35 minutes at home or the library.
  • Student Contact: A plurality of teachers (47%) reported being unsure of their district’s policy regarding teacher-student interactions outside of school.  In the Facebook era, district social media policies (or, in many cases, the lack thereof) are coming under scrutiny, as schools try to balance teachers’ free-speech rights with the imperative to protect children online.

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Dan Hay




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