Common Core Standards, Part 2: What Do the Teachers Think?

This is Part 2 of what will be a 3-part series on Common Core State Standards. Part 1: Busting the Myths can be found here. Part 3 will be my own reasons for supporting Common Core, as well as a couple of drawbacks I see to the standards. My goal for this post was to talk about what teachers think of Common Core. I’ve been trying to follow all the backlash against CCSS online, and have found that there is one voice that seems to be absent from the debate: the voice of teachers. I wanted to discover what teachers think of Common Core. On Facebook I asked my teacher friends to message me with their personal opinions on Common Core. Only two responded. I don’t know if they felt like I expected them to agree with me so they stayed quiet or what. I won’t lie. I’m disappointed that more people didn’t respond.

One teacher said she likes Common Core “because I teach EL. I see I can easily reach goals for more of my kids now than before. It is really allowing the kids with less to achieve expectation.” However, as a parent, she is not thrilled with Common Core because she feels like her children’s academic needs are not always met. “I have seen teachers meet the goal and stop. No common sense used to go above and beyond because it wasn’t the focus, it wasn’t required and or it wasn’t a ‘common core standard.'”

The second teacher said, “The Common Core is just one more example of trying to homogenize a system that could potentially be full of wonderful differences . . .  Has Common Core invented “high standards”? I don’t think so. Who doesn’t believe in high standards? But do we need to be told what these standards are? This implies that many of us do not know what we are doing. I’m just saying if you have to tell a teacher how to teach, you should probably get rid of that teacher. A “good” teacher already knows how to teach, again, if and only if, they really know their subject matter. You cannot teach the art of teaching. It’s a gift; you either have it or you don’t. Most of the “bad” teachers I have encountered were certified teachers and not experts in their field. The good ones majored in their subject matter and also have a gift for teaching. Without both, odds are one is mediocre.”

I am not going to comment on these teachers’ comments. They both wrote long messages to me, and these were just small excerpts. I was trying to give you the best summary of what each of them said.

I did find some polls that asked teachers about Common Core.

In this poll by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation, 57% of teachers said the standards will be positive for students, and 77% of teachers believe that the standards will have a positive impact on students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

This poll by the National Education Association found that two-thirds of teachers support Common Core standards.

I found that these polls are telling us more than just what teachers think about Common Core. They tell us what they need in order to implement Common Core. In the NEA poll, 66% of teachers said they have received training on Common Core, but only 26% said that training was helpful.

A poll by We Are Teachers found that 70% of teachers said they’d received Common Core training, but 23% felt “not at all” prepared to teach with the standards. Half of teachers polled were concerned about finding resources to use to teach Common Core standards.

I know that Tennessee has made an effort to provide state Common Core training for teachers, but the trainings are often limited to so many teachers per school. Many districts are providing training as well, but a lot of these trainings are in the summer, so not all teachers attend. In my district, Common Core training often falls on the shoulders of the literacy and numeracy coaches in the school buildings. Even with that, many teachers would like more time to plan for Common Core lessons and there just is no extra time. I don’t know what other states are doing to equip teachers with an understanding of and the tools to teach Common Core standards.

I do know that the standards represent six instructional shifts for both ELA and math. So on top of learning new standards, teachers have to keep in mind these pedagogical shifts and adjust accordingly. I’ve listed the shifts below, but you can read more by clicking the link.

ELA shifts:

Balancing Informational & Literary Text

Knowledge in the Disciplines

Students build Staircase of Complexity

Text-based Answers

Writing from Sources

Academic Vocabulary

Math shifts: 

Focus

Coherence

Fluency

Deep Understanding through repetition, core functions.

Application

Dual Intensity

Honestly, I think that teachers are so overwhelmed with implementing Common Core standards that they don’t have the time to wax philosophical – or political – about them. Teachers are under immense pressure from their administrators and school districts to understand the standards and figure out how to teach them. I think teachers need a lot more time to work with and develop resources for the standards.

That said, the teachers in my district are already implementing Common Core, and I see many of them doing it well. We are all nervous about the PARCC assessments in 2015, but we know they are coming and are working toward getting our students ready for them.

If you are a teacher, I would love to hear your opinion in the comments!

*If you don’t see your comment immediately, don’t worry. Some of my comments have been getting stuck in Spam, but I check frequently and move them over to approved. Your comment will eventually show up.

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