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A Blog from New America's Early Education Initiative

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Seeing Evidence of Teacher Confidence in the Common Core

Published:  March 1, 2013
With 46 states and the District of Columbia adopting the Common Core State Standards, successful implementation will require a better understanding of teacher preparedness. This proves especially true for educators in the early grades. Though much attention has been focused on higher grade levels that will begin using common assessments in the 2014-2015 school year, K-2 teachers have the responsibility for building the strong math and literacy foundation outlined in the Common Core standards.
Are teachers feeling ready? And, among early grade teachers, are they more or less concerned than their peers in the later grades? Since last week, answers are emerging from two reports, each presenting teachers' perspectives on the Common Core standards. Though news coverage of these reports has made it seem that their findings differ, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher and the EPE Research Center’s Findings from a National Survey of Teacher Perspectives on the Common Core have more in common than not.
The findings of both surveys suggest that teachers are confident in the quality of the standards; survey data also seems to suggest that most teachers – including elementary school teachers -- feel prepared to teach these standards, though we are still left with questions about the confidence of K-2 teachers, specifically. Additionally, both studies present similar findings on the tools teachers would find useful for training, including aligned curricular resources and assessments.
The Met Life Survey
MetLife’s survey has a wider overall scope, and one chapter of its report focuses specifically on the Common Core standards. The survey was administered to 1,000 teachers; of that number, 521 were elementary school teachers, about half of those working in grades K-2. In answer to each question, respondents were asked to choose from the following adjectives to describe how they were feeling: very confident, confident, not too confident or not at all confident.
Of the elementary school teachers surveyed, 93 percent indicated that they were either very confident (52 percent) or confident (40 percent) that they are able to teach the Common Core State Standards. More than three-quarters of elementary school teachers said they were very confident (19 percent) or confident (56 percent) that the standards will improve student achievement. A similar percentage of elementary school teachers responded that the standards will better prepare students for college and the workforce.
The EPE survey
The EPE survey was administered to 599 respondents, of which 120 taught in grades K-2. In answering each question, respondents were asked to respond with a scale of 1 to 5, a choice of 1 indicating they were not at all prepared and 5 indicating they were very prepared (on the scale, choices 2 through 4 were unlabeled).
Of the total teachers surveyed,  when asked if they were prepared to teach based on the Common Core standards, 78 percent selected a 5 (20 percent), 4 (29 percent) or 3 (29 percent). Further, the survey indicated that an astounding 93 percent of teachers rate the standards either of higher quality (49 percent) or similar quality (44 percent) compared to their state’s prior standards. The EPE survey did not break down their survey results by grade level – it would be interesting to determine whether these findings were consistent throughout the different grade levels surveyed.
 It’s not all clear skies and smooth sailing though. The EPE Research Center’s report, which goes into more depth than MetLife’s, brings to the forefront teacher concern for reaching many sub-groups of students. The survey responses highlight teacher concerns with Common Core instruction for student subgroups, especially English language learners and students with disabilities. While this is an important finding to note, the report does not make any distinction between concerns teachers generally have with instructing these student sub-groups and concerns teachers have regarding teaching via the Common Core standards to these student sub-groups. The survey results for these questions could be reflecting pre-existing teacher concern with differentiated instruction, unrelated to the Common Core standards.   
The findings from both surveys indicate a high level of support for the Common Core State Standards among teachers overall, as well as a strong base who are comfortable using them in their teaching. This should not be dismissed as overconfidence (something that Ed Week’s coverage of the EPE survey may have led one to believe), nor overlooked while we look toward the next challenge.
As we approach the implementation of common assessments in the 2014-2015 school year, teachers will need the appropriate tools to make sure they are fully prepared. It is more important than ever that we are using feedback from the classrooms to inform decisions moving forward.

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