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April 15, 2014

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Study: Teacher Support for Common Core Standards Growing; Public Awareness Still Lags

Although 46 states and Washington, DC, have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), less than a quarter of the general public knows about the academic standards for K-12 education that are designed to prepare students for college and the workforce, says a recent poll by a nonprofit education reform organization.

teacher support Study: Teacher Support for Common Core Standards Growing; Public Awareness Still LagsA whopping 79 percent of the voting public say they’ve heard nothing or not much about the standards in math and English, developed through a multi-state initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, according to a report by the DC-based Achieve called, “Growing Awareness, Growing Support: Teacher and Voter Understanding of the Common Core State Standards & Assessments.”

With the new standards and assessments affecting more than 42 million K-12 students and 2.7 million educators nationwide, it’s not surprising that there’s been a significant rise—from 68 percent in August 2011 to 87 percent today—in the number of teachers who say they know about the CCSS, the report says.

But both educators and the public—regardless of age, education level, race, ethnicity, or party affiliation—strongly support the standards and assessments once they understand its goals.

Survey respondents were read this brief description: “These new standards have been set to internationally competitive levels in English and math. This means that students may be more challenged by the material they study, and the tests they take will measure more advanced concepts and require students to show their work.”

When provided this information, 77 percent of voters say they support implementing them, which the report says, further reinforces “the conclusion that more knowledge about the CCSS leads to a more positive view of the standards.”

Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of teachers, 72 percent, support the standards.

“The more teachers know about the Common Core State Standards, the more positive their impression, with the highest favorability ratings among those educators who know ‘a lot’ about the CCSS,” the report says. “The data also suggest that opposition among teachers is somewhat concentrated among those with the least amount of knowledge about the standards.”

As a result, the report says, it’s critical to “sustain and even ramp up” efforts to inform educators about the details of state implementation plans and what teachers can expect in terms of professional development, aligned instructional materials, and opportunities for cross-state collaboration.

It also an opportunity for school librarians to step up and be noticed. Since reading is at the core of the CCSS, media specialists are in the perfect position to collaborate with teachers to identify literature and texts for students to read in the content areas. And since the standards are interdisciplinary, librarians can help teachers make connections across various subjects.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) encourages its members to study the standards to determine how library programs support students in meeting the CCSS.

“As students strive to meet the rigor of the standards, certified school librarians will play an essential part in ensuring that 21st-century information literacy skills, dispositions, responsibilities and assessments are integrated throughout all curriculum areas,” AASL says. “The school library professional as leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator is critical for teaching and learning in today’s schools.”

The more teachers know about the CCSS, the more supportive they were of implementing the standards, including new assessments, says Sandy Boyd, Achieve’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives. “These findings demonstrate the importance of communicating with educators, especially as the task at hand moves from broad awareness of the standards to the deep understanding necessary for the CCSS to be taught in every classroom. Ongoing professional learning opportunities and support will be key.” Of the teachers who have seen, read, or heard about the CCSS, 68 percent currently have a favorable impression of them, up from 59 percent in August 2011.

More voter awareness about CCSS and what it means for students and parents also are key, the report adds. These include knowing how will these expectations change and what kind of supportl struggling students will receive, as well as how will these changes fit into the broader educational reform agenda, why it’s important, and what value will the new standards have on our education system, economy, and country.

“Voters support the implementation of the CCSS, but they, too, will need more information about the CCSS and what it means as the standards move from being an idea to a reality in schools,” says Boyd.

The national study is based on surveys with 1,000 registered voters and 500 K-12 teachers from May 6-10, 2012. The poll has a margin of error of +3.1 percent among voters and +4.4 percent among teachers.

About Debra Lau Whelan

Debra Whelan is a former senior editor for news and features at SLJ.

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