Teachers Now Lack Faith In Common Core Too

One day after a poll showing that a plurality of parents split opinions on Common Core, another survey by Gallup shows that public school teachers are having major doubts about the new multi-state education standards as well.

According to Gallup’s survey, only 41 percent of teachers view Common Core very or somewhat positively.

That’s less than the 44 percent who view it very or somewhat negatively (16 percent have no opinion). After accounting for the margin of error, the poll essentially measures a tie between supporters and opponents of the standards.

That’s a bad sign for Common Core supporters, however, who have fought to defend the standards from a rising tide of opposition by emphasizing their popularity with professional educators. Those who know the most about the standards, they say, are the most enthusiastic about them. If teachers are no more upbeat on Common Core than parents, that claim holds less water.

Supporters can take heart, however, that in states that have progressed the farthest in implementing Common Core, teachers are more likely to view it favorably. In states where Common Core has been fully implemented already, 61 percent of teachers are favorable to it, and just 35 percent view it negatively.

Where the implementation is still a work in progress, only 37 percent think positively of the Core, while 43 percent dislike it. In states that have never used Common Core or have abandoned it, only 26 percent view the standards positively and 59 percent view them negatively.

Those numbers have supporters of the standards sticking to the narrative that familiarity with Common Core breeds support rather than contempt.

“Teachers who have implemented the standards like the standards,” Michael J. Petrilli, president of the pro–Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

However, it is also possible that Common Core’s stronger reception in states with full implementations simply reflects political realities, with states that are more enthusiastic for the standards also adopting them more swiftly.

Interestingly, opinions differ sharply based on teachers’ grade levels. Elementary school teachers are the most positive on Common Core, with 43 percent viewing it positively and 41 percent negatively. Among high school teachers, however, the situation is reversed, with only 39 percent happy with Common Core and a hefty 49 percent viewing it negatively.

Respondents to the poll had the opportunity to explain in a free response what they thought Common Core’s best and worst aspects were. While Common Core has been touted by supporters for allegedly being more rigorous or encouraging greater critical thinking, 56 percent of teachers said the best aspect of Common Core has nothing to do with its content at all. Instead, they say Common Core’s supreme feature is that it makes standards identical between states, something they view as good regardless of what the standards actually are.

On Common Core’s negative aspects, teachers were far more divided, with five different criticisms garnering between 10 and 15 percent of responses. Teachers faulted Common Core for being unrealistic, for being badly implemented, for placing too much emphasis on standardized tests, and for creating a “one size fits all” approach that hurts student achievement.

The survey was conducted from Aug. 11 through Sept. 7, and had a sample size of 854 public K-12 teachers. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

This piece was originally published at the Daily Caller News Foundation

Is Common Core Technology Worth It?

This piece was originally published on Fox and Hounds:

California’s transition from its previous STAR program to the Common Core State Standards has been slow and more costly than expected. With the first Common Core tests scheduled for this spring, school districts are still struggling to provide all of the necessary technology and bandwidth for the new assessments, which are required to be administered electronically in lieu of traditional paper-and-pencil tests.

State Budget Solutions, a nonprofit research organization, released a report last week on the technology spending for Common Core in California’s top five districts: Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Fresno, and Elk Grove. The study revealed technology cost overruns, controversial funding plans, and a myriad of problems that accompanied the new technological devices in multiple districts.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), for example, has been heavily criticized for using public bonds to finance its iPad program that is estimated to exceed $1 billion. Immediately after the first batch of iPads was distributed, LAUSD dealt with additional challenges of students breaching firewalls, missing and stolen devices, and confusion over accountability. Last month, the district officially suspended its contract with Apple due to high costs and ethical questions regarding Superintendent Deasy’s relationship with Apple during the bidding process.

Other districts, such as Fresno and Elk Grove, are facing problems of technological readiness. Fresno Unified found that the new tablets are difficult to use for students who are unfamiliar with touch-screen keyboards and do not have computer access at home. Elk Grove Unified would like to incorporate more online content in the classroom, but lacks adequate funding after spending the majority of its Common Core money on installing wireless access, replacing obsolete computers, and buying over 8,200 Chromebooks.

These findings raise an important question that states and school districts ought to consider: is Common Core technology worth it? Advocates often talk about closing the “digital divide” and providing students with the skills and technology necessary for the 21st century workforce. Ideally, every student in the country will at least have access to a personal computing device in the near future. But to ask states and school districts to finance this massive technological overhaul in a limited time span of a few years is not only likely to fail, but also fiscally irresponsible given the deep cuts in education during the recent recession.

The report lists a handful of the many solutions available that can offset technology costs for districts. Among them include a tax credit to incentivize low-income families to buy computers or tablets for students to bring into schools. California education leaders have a tough job of implementing Common Core ahead of them, but ensuring the state’s financial stability and focusing on student learning and growth (as opposed to standards-based exams and technology purchases) are essential for the future of the state.

Hannah Oh is a Visiting Analyst at State Budget Solutions, focusing her research on education.