The First Semester Grades Are In. Teachers Give Common Core State Standards a “C”

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A survey of 809 teachers conducted in December 2013 by Really Good Stuff gives the Common Core State Standards a first semester grade of “C.” Multiple concerns and varying degrees of knowledge about the standards lead to this lackluster assessment.

“Many materials we have are not aligned, online resources are not updated, and neither are materials from publishers. There is very little money to buy updated materials. I have to create a lot of my own to meet the standards.” - Intervention Specialist

A recent national survey of 809 elementary school teachers in the United States, conducted by Really Good Stuff, Inc., a company that provides classroom teaching tools and elementary curriculum to K-6 school teachers, reveals that 64 percent of elementary school teachers would give the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) a report card grade of “C” or below after the first semester of the 2013-2014 school year.

The CCSS, an initiative that aims to align state curricula along national standards, are currently being used in 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education system. 46% of the respondents reported that this was the first year they have taught to the CCSS while 54% indicated prior use. At the beginning of the school year, 44% of prior use respondents rated themselves as “Knowledgeable” about the purpose and objectives of the CCSS compared to only 18 percent of first year adopters.    

Teachers’ grades reflected the challenges they faced using the CCSS during the first semester. The top three challenges were identified as:
1) Overall time needed to understand and implement CCSS;
2) Availability of teaching material and resources;
3) Students’ foundational skills.

Planning time increased for 47% of all respondents with more than half reporting five or more hours per week needed to complete lesson plans. Prior to the implementation of the CCSS, only 30% of teachers reported spending five or more hours planning each week. In fact, according to the survey, there is not a significant reduction in planning time the longer a teacher has been teaching to the CCSS. Surprisingly, 60% of those with prior CCSS teaching experience spent five or more hours per week planning during the first semester of the 2013-2014 school year, while during their first year teaching to the CCSS only 33% spent the same amount of time planning. 56% of all teachers reported a lack of teaching materials and resources aligned with the CCSS, while 53 percent of all respondents indicated that students’ foundational skills are also proving to be a major challenge when implementing the CCSS.

When asked what some of the other challenges they face with using the CCSS are, teacher responses included:
“While the foundational idea of CCSS is good in theory, it lacks the understanding that children are not machines cut from the same material.” - 5th Grade Teacher, Washington

“Many materials we have are not aligned, online resources are not updated, and neither are materials from publishers. There is very little money to buy updated materials. I have to create a lot of my own to meet the standards.” - K-3 Intervention Specialist, Ohio

“Some of the standards are not developmentally appropriate. Students are not coming to the grades with the basic foundational skills they need. Helping students learn things that used to be taught in older grades is taking time away from teaching and mastering the basic skills. It is making the gap bigger for those who are already struggling.” - 2nd Grade Teacher, Idaho

However, despite the challenges, at mid-year there was a 48% lift in the teachers’ level of comfort with teaching the CCSS compared to the beginning of the year. 40% of all respondents now rate their comfort level as “Comfortable” or “Very Comfortable” versus only 27% who rated themselves that way prior to the start of school year. As exposure to the standards grows, the comfort level with teaching them also increases.

“Studying the results, it became clear that while there are challenges with transitioning to the new standards, teachers are spending an impressive amount of time in an effort to make them work.” said Jon Sonneborn, co-owner of Really Good Stuff. “Students, teachers and local communities will need time to adjust to this new curriculum and approach to teaching. The good news is there’s evidence that the learning curve improves beyond the first year.”

About Really Good Stuff, Inc.:
Really Good Stuff®, Inc. has been dedicated to helping teachers throughout the USA and Canada change the world, one child at a time since 1992. The company is located in Monroe, Connecticut. For more information about Really Good Stuff, Inc., please visit:
The national survey conducted by Really Good Stuff, Inc. sampled 809 K-6 teachers from 45 states.

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Larry Wasserman
since: 01/2010
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