Although more than three-quarters of teachers support adopting the Common Core State Standards for English and math, many in high-poverty schools doubt that their districts are prepared to implement the standards, according to a new poll from the National Education Association.
In a poll released on Thursday, the NEA found that the majority of its members either "wholeheartedly" supported the standards (26 percent) or supported them with "some reservations" (50 percent). The NEA is the nation's largest teachers union, representing roughly 3 million employees working in every education level, from preschool through college.
"Our members support the Common Core Standards because they are the right thing to do for our children," NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement. "We all need to work together – parents, education support professionals, teachers, administrators, communities and elected officials – to make sure we get this right."
Since 2010, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, which set grade-level benchmarks for reading and math and focus more on thinking and reasoning than current standards. Accompanying assessments that will be fully implemented by the 2014-15 school year test the knowledge and skills students should acquire each year.
Although the majority of NEA's members support the idea of the standards, many feel they are not being properly trained to prepare for their implementation. Two-thirds of members, for example, reported participating in training surrounding Common Core, but only 26 percent said the training was helpful. Additionally, less than a quarter of all NEA members and those in high-poverty school districts said they felt their districts were well-prepared to implement the standards.
Teachers were also concerned that they do not have the necessary resources to make the transition, such as more planning time, better technology to administer the computerized assessments, smaller class sizes and more up-to-date books and materials.
A handful of states have begun administering assessments that align with the more demanding standards and have seen students' test scores plummet. New York began administering the tests in 2012 and saw a sharp decline in students' scores when the results were released Aug. 7: less than one-third of students in third through eighth grade tested as proficient in math or English. And in Minnesota, every grade showed a significant drop in reading scores. Statewide, the number of students who tested as proficient in reading dropped from 76 percent in 2012 to 58 percent in 2013.
The poll's results also reflected teachers' concern that the inevitable drop in test scores may be used against them: more than half of the teachers surveyed said their schools plan to use the tests to measure their performance.
"In order to fulfill the standards' worthy goals we need an equal commitment to common sense implementation," the NEA's Van Roekel said in his statement. "We owe it to our students to provide teachers with the time, tools and resources to get it right."