Thursday, September 12, 2013

NEA Survey on the Common Core State Standards

Background:  Today as a part of President Van Roekel’s back to School Tour, NEA will release the findings of a member poll on Common Core State Standards.  NEA conducted a survey of more than 1200 members to gauge awareness and opinions of the new Common Core State Standards and their support for its goals.  The findings revealed that the vast majority of educators support the standards. 

Here are the 4 key points from the poll results to underscore:

1.       Our members wholeheartedly embrace the common core standards’ promise – that all students will have an opportunity to learn the same skills they need to succeed, regardless of where they live.
2.       These standards have the potential to be the biggest game changer for public education in a generation.  But in order to fulfill the standards’ worthy goals we need an equal commitment to common sense implementation.  We owe it to our students to provide educators with the time, tools and resources to get it right.
3.       Our members support the Common Core State Standards because they’re the right thing to do for our children. And we all need to work together – parents, educators, administrators, communities and elected officials – to ensure we get this right.  That requires a commitment to the time, tools and resources to ensure that the goals of the standards are realized.
4.       Even as our members strongly support the Common Core State Standards, they have deep reservations that there will continue to be too much emphasis on testing. The polling confirms what our members have said for some time—the current testing focus takes too much time away from student learning. Members also expressed a need to focus on doing things in the right order…we have the standards, now we must focus on aligning curriculum and students’ instruction, and then begin assessments. They are concerned that assessments will begin before schools and educators have had time to align curriculum and that they will be held accountable for those test scores in unfair ways. Based on those beliefs, NEA members also believe states should institute some type of grace period on the accountability provisions of the common core standards in order to give schools more flexibility to implement the standards successfully.

 Basic Frame:  NEA members believe that Common Core State Standards represent a game changer for students and public education if we get implementation of the standards right. There is overwhelming consensus among educators across the country that the Common Core will ultimately be good for students and education.  There are significant challenges associated with implementing Common Core, but the possibilities are far too great for us to throw up our hands and say, “this is just too hard.”  

·         98 percent of NEA members have heard about the standards
·         75 percent of those surveyed support the standards

The Standards:  Educators believe the standards can lead to better instruction, because they don’t dictate how teachers should teach, but they do provide clear goals. NEA members are particularly excited to have the time and freedom they need so their students can gain a greater and deeper understanding of the material.

·         Roughly  40 percent support the standards because they set clearer guidelines and education goals. Twenty five percent support the standards because they provide greater opportunity for all students, and provide more rigorous standards.
·         Teachers in upper grades believe that as the curriculum is laterally integrated, their students will be better prepared to learn and comprehend complex material.

NEA is a strong advocate for coursework that ensures students can think critically, solve problems, and attain global competence.  According to the PDK/Gallup poll released last month:

·         More than 90 percent of Americans believe a well-rounded education which includes activities like music, sports, drama and newspaper is important.
·         Three-fifths of respondents strongly agreed that today’s schools should: teach students how to set meaningful goals (64%); teach students communication skills (78%) and teach students critical thinking skills (80%.) 

These new standards help address inequity by providing a wide set of standards which ensure a complete education for all students, and increase the likelihood that students will persist in school and attain a high school diploma. Common Core State Standards is a positive step in the right direction.

·         NEA members in high poverty districts appreciate that the standards have the potential to increase opportunities for students.

Implementation:  NEA members support the common core standards because they are the right thing to do for our children. We all need to work together –parents, teachers and elected officials – to ensure we get this right.

·         Half of members who support the standards express reservations, but members are more supportive when they feel their districts are prepared to implement the standards—support rises to 87 percent among educators who think their districts are prepared.
·         While they know about and are excited to implement the standards, only a quarter of members report that their districts are ready to implement the new standards, and just a third feel well prepared to teach the new standards at the start of the year.
·         NEA members believe more family involvement would go a long way towards making common core successful, but more than half (55 percent) either say their school or district does not have plans to communicate with parents about the common core, or they do not know about such a plan.

The great promise of Common Core State Standards for students will be realized if the voices and expertise of educators lead efforts to develop relevant and engaging instructional materials to create the strongest next generation of assessments possible. 

·         Asked what measures could be taken to help teachers with the standards, educators cited collaboration time with colleagues, more planning time, updated classroom resources, in-service training and better technology to administer the computer-based assessments.
·         Educators also pinpointed other factors that would help students learn the new standards. Forty-three percent cited smaller class size, 39 percent suggested greater parental involvement, and 22 percent said students need up-to-date books and materials.
·         NEA has established a Common Core Working Group (CCWG) which comprises representation from state affiliates to leverage our collective knowledge and expertise.

It’s no surprise that after a decade of the NCLB test and punish regime, NEA members are wary of the ways in which the standards will be implemented and evaluated.

·         Three in four members who hold back from supporting Common Core cite assessments as the reason for their concern: they believe they won’t have the opportunity to align their curriculum to the standards before their students are tested on the material.
·         More significantly, educators are concerned assessments won’t be used as a tool to help their students, but instead as a weapon to punish their students, their schools and themselves.  More than half believe there will continue to be too much emphasis on testing, stifling their ability to reach out and motivate their students.
·         We know that students’ mastery of the new standards cannot be demonstrated fully or appropriately through the use of the same old multiple choice items on a poorly designed standardized test. These standards will require a new generation of authentic assessment systems that provide students with multiple ways to show what they know.
Social Media Tools: Join in on the conversation on Twitter with hashtags:  #CCSS and #CommonCore

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