Although many states have already begun teaching content based on the Common Core State Standards and preparing school staff to implement the strict educational standards, they are also struggling to come up with the funds to properly train their teachers, according to two reports from George Washington University's Center on Education Policy.
The center found that of the 40 states it surveyed, they all believe the standards are more rigorous and will improve students' skills in math and English, but few have the necessary staffing levels, staff experience and resources to provide Common Core training for teachers and principals. The reports kept states' responses anonymous to encourage "frank" answers.
The standards set grade-level benchmarks for the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn in those subjects each year, in order to be prepared for college. As of July 2013, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the voluntary standards in both subjects.
Curricula aligned with the standards is already being taught in at least some of the districts or grades in 30 of the states surveyed, in part to prepare for the 2014-15 school year, when states will begin administering assessments based on the standards. At that time, many states' accountability systems, such as teacher evaluations, will be tied to students' performance on those assessments.
And the rigor of the standards was evident when New York released its results from its first set of Common Core assessments on Wednesday. The scores showed a significant drop in the number of students that met proficiency levels – not even one-third of students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the standards for math or English. But New York Education Commissioner John King said the results do not mean students or schools are doing worse, they simply indicate the assessments give schools a "more accurate tool" to evaluate what work needs to be done to meet the new standards.
"I understand these scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals. It's frustrating to see our children struggle," King said in a statement. "But we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity."
But a combination of obstacles, such as a lack of resources and training material and a continuing drop in state funding for K-12 education in many states, will make it difficult for other states to train teachers and principals to fully implement the standards, the CEP's reports show.
"It is pretty clear that most state leaders believe the Common Core represents a significant shift toward more rigorous academic standards in math and English language arts and that students will benefit from that increased rigor," said CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson, in a statement. "It is equally clear that states are facing significant challenges in preparing and supporting teachers and school leaders as they implement the standards across grades."
In at least six states, for example, less than half of their teachers have received some sort of professional development related to the Common Core standards, one report says.
A second report describing professional development found that few states had a large percentage of their teachers receiving such training. While 22 states said more than half of their teachers have received some sort of training, only 10 said that 75 percent or more have done so.
Additionally, several states have reduced or completely eliminated certain activities related to the Common Core standards due to a decrease in state funding for K-12 education or state education agency operation budgets.
Six states said they had reduced or stopped buying computers and other technology needed for the administration of the assessments, while four states said they cut training for school staff to administer the assessments. Another three states said they have reduced or stopped professional development for teachers due to a lack of funding.
"Finding adequate resources is the main challenge looming over states' efforts to prepare districts, schools, principals and teachers for the Common Core," said Diane Stark Rentner, deputy director of national programs for CEP, in a statement.
Though the Common Core assessments are around the corner, Rentner said "funding problems will likely hamper states' efforts to make sure that principals and teachers are prepared to help students master the standards."