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Topic: Teachers Say They Are Unprepared for Common Core
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Teachers Say They Are Unprepared for Common Core
Posted: Mar 1, 2013 4:34 PM
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From Education Week [American Educations Newspaper of Record],
February 27, 2013. Volume 32, Issue 22, pages 1,12 [Published in
print as Standards Worrying Teachers.] See
Teachers Say They Are Unprepared for Common Core

Unpreparedness is cited in common-core survey

By Catherine Gewertz

Even as the Common Core State Standards are being put into practice
across most of the country, nearly half of teachers feel unprepared
to teach them, especially to disadvantaged students, according to a
new survey.

The study by the EPE Research Center, an arm of Editorial Projects in
Education, the publisher of Education Week, found deep wells of
concern among teachers about their readiness to meet the challenges
posed by the common core [see

"Teachers are under tremendous pressure," said Lisa Dickinson, an
assistant director of educational issues for the American Federation
of Teachers, which conducts several common-core training programs in
school districts each month. "The new standards do require a major
shift in instruction. And the needed supports really aren't there."

Teachers in adopting states were asked to rate their preparedness on
a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being "very prepared" and 1 "not at all
prepared." When asked how prepared they were to teach the common core
to their own students as a whole, 49 percent rated themselves a 1, 2,
or 3.

More than two-thirds said they were not well enough prepared to teach
the standards to English-language learners or students with
disabilities. More than half said they were not yet ready to teach
them to low-income students or those considered at risk of academic

Another survey, released last week, however, found teachers feeling
confident about their readiness to teach the new standards.

The Neediest Students

The EPE study, based on an online survey conducted in October, is not
nationally representative of U.S. teachers. It is drawn from 600 K-12
educators who are registered users of

But the sample is quite diverse, drawing on K-12 teachers,
school-based curriculum coordinators, instructional coaches, content
specialists, and department leaders in cities, suburbs, small towns,
and rural areas, and in schools of all sizes, serving students of
varying income levels. As such, it is one notable gauge of how the
precollegiate world is responding to the expectations of the common
standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of

And that gauge shows pronounced worry that teachers, students,
districts, and states are far from ready to make the common core a
success in the classroom, a little more than two years from when the
first tests on the standards are scheduled to be given.

Students with special challenges, such as learning disabilities or
limited English proficiency, appear to be particularly at risk of not
being well served, since educators said they were the least prepared
to teach those students. Even teachers who have had more rather than
less professional development in the common standards reported that
they were the least ready for those subgroups of students.

Three-quarters of those who have had more than five days of training
said they felt prepared to teach their own students as a whole,
compared with one-third of those who had had less than one day of
professional development.

Six in 10 of those with more than five days of preparation felt ready
to teach low-income students or those academically at risk, compared
with about one-quarter of those who had had less than a day of
professional development.

Students with disabilities and English-learners posed the greatest
challenges: Only four in 10 of the teachers who have had more than
five days of professional development in the common core felt
prepared to teach the standards to such students. Fewer than 14
percent of those with less than a day of training said they felt

While teachers' sense of readiness to teach the common core tracks
with how much professional development they've had, the survey shows
nearly three in 10 have not had any such training at all. Of the 70
percent who have, 41 percent have had four days or more. Three in 10
have had only one day or less. Thirty-one percent reported having had
two to three days of professional development.

Many in education contend that the common standards demand
significant changes in pedagogy, and, in some cases, teachers'
content knowledge. In math, for instance, students are being asked to
demonstrate their understanding not only of procedures, but also of
their conceptual underpinnings. In English/language arts, they're
expected to marshal evidence from what they read to support arguments
and build their muscle with informational texts.

Quick-Hit Training

The most frequently addressed subject of professional development was
English/language arts, followed by math and a comparison of the
common standards with states' previous standards. Curriculum
resources and collaboration with colleagues to teach the standards
were also popular topics of professional development.

The least-frequent topic of professional development was how to teach
the standards to subgroups of students. Only 18 percent of those who
have had some training said it explored that area.

That's a worrisome sign for some of the neediest students, said
Sherida Britt, who oversees some of the professional-development
activities conducted by the Alexandria, Va.-based group ASCD.

"We have to look at what teachers are saying and give them
opportunities to engage in professional learning that addresses these
issues and the needs of those particular students," she said.

Although research has shown that job-embedded professional
development is the most effective kind, only three in 10 educators
who had received some training for the common core said that was the
way it had been given.

"Due to resources, professional development is still the drive-by"
variety in most districts, said the AFT's Ms. Dickinson.

More typically, professional development was provided through
seminars, lectures or conferences, or collaborative planning time
with colleagues.

The most frequent providers of that training are staff members from
the teachers' schools or district central offices. One-third reported
getting it from outside professionals; one-quarter received it from
the state department of education; and 15 percent got it from a
professional association.

What teachers really need, Ms. Dickinson said, is time to collaborate
during the school day, when they can "really unpack the standards and
look at lessons and understand what it looks like for student

"Teachers need time to collaborate [not only] within their grade, but
across grades," she said, "so they can understand the progression of
the standards, what's come before, and where they're going. This is
very complex work, and the time is just not built in for them."

Funding and capacity problems complicate the provision of
good-quality professional development, said Ms. Britt. Without a
"strong, clear vision and support" for ongoing, consultative
professional development, teachers get quick-hit sessions that don't
really build their collective capacity to improve instruction, she

"That's pretty much in line with what teachers have been getting in
previous years," said Ms. Britt. "But the common core compounds the
problem because there's a sense of urgency. [The common assessments]
are coming [in 2014-15], so people are really scrambling."

Schools, Districts, States

In addition to being asked about their own sense of preparedness for
the common standards, educators answering the EPE Research Center
survey were also asked to size up the readiness of their schools,
districts, and states for the new standards. On the whole, they had
more confidence in their own readiness than in that of the systems in
which they function.

Fewer than one-third said their schools were well prepared or very
well prepared for the standards, and more than two-thirds said their
schools were not well prepared. Confidence dropped as the locus of
authority moved even further from the classroom: Only 27 percent of
the educators said their districts were up to the task, and only two
in 10 said their states were.

Turning their eyes to their own students, teachers showed grave
concerns about the children's prospects for mastering the standards.

Asked to rate how well prepared their students are for that task on
the 1-to-5 scale, with 5 being very prepared, only 23 percent of the
educators gave the students 4's or 5's. Thirty-seven percent gave
them 1's and 2's, and one-third gave them 3's.

Teachers gave a mix of responses when asked about the standards'
quality and their potential to improve their practice. About 37
percent said the common standards are about as good as their own
states' previous standards, and 41 percent said the common standards
were better. But even with that mixture of views, two-thirds said
they thought the new standards would improve their teaching.
The EPE Research Center's survey of educators' views on the common
core was funded by the Hewlett Foundation.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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