Do Delaware Educators Really Embrace Common Core? Or Is This Just Another Fluff Report?

Fallacy

Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education came out with a press release today which indicates 73% of Delaware educators fully embrace the Common Core State Standards.  The report from the Center for Education Research Policy at Harvard University used five states in their findings: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and New Mexico.  Each state had “ten clusters” of schools to answer surveys.  The report does not show what the ten schools in Delaware were, but I did just email Chris Ruszkowski and Alison May at the Delaware DOE to find out.  I just received a response from May including the Communications Director for CEPR at Harvard, so hopefully answers will be forthcoming.  Ruszkowski is the head of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Department.

Any report like this can be read in many different ways.  We don’t know which schools and how many teachers in each school responded to the survey.  We don’t know if this survey was given before, during, or after the first round of Smarter Balanced testing in 2015.  If anyone has any information on these surveys from last Spring or which schools had these surveys, please let me know.  As well, were ALL teachers in grades 4th-8th given these surveys or just certain ones?

Educators: Common Core going well here

A significant majority of educators are supportive of the Common Core State Standards and believe their colleagues are effectively implementing them, according to a new study of educators in Delaware and four other states by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.

The report – “Teaching Higher: Educators’ Perspective on Common Core Implementation” — collected perspectives from a sample of teachers and principals in Delaware and four additional states last spring, focusing on math and English language arts (ELA) teachers and principals in grades 4 through 8. All were asked to provide their views of the Common Core training and supports they received prior to the administration of their state’s assessments.

The survey found 73 percent of teachers feel their colleagues have embraced the standards. The study also spotlights how teachers are making substantial changes in their instructional practices and materials and are collaborating frequently with their peers.

The Common Core State Standards, developed by states and adopted by Delaware and most other states, set consistent learning goals for each grade across state lines. For most states, including Delaware, the standards also raised expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level to have the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the 21st century.

The study found 69 percent principals believe these new standards will have a positive effect on students. Just 9 percent of principals reported resistance to the new standards from parents in their schools.

“This study gives a voice to what I hear from so many educators in schools across our state: Common Core is better preparing our students,” said Gov. Jack Markell, who co-chaired the National Governors Association’s bipartisan Common Core Standards Initiative.

“While the shift to higher standards is an undisputable requirement to best prepare our students for the new economy, we know it will only succeed with effective implementation. I’m encouraged by the feedback we have received from educators so far and by the tremendous work happening in our classrooms. Teachers have embraced professional learning opportunities to deepen their understanding of the new standards and collaborated to adjust their instruction to meet student needs. We must continue to listen to them and ensure we fully support their hard work,” he said.

The study found 76 percent of teachers said they have changed a significant portion of their instruction as a result of Common Core, and 82 percent said they had changed a significant portion of their math instructional materials; 72 percent said they had done so for ELA materials.

That work is paying off for Delaware students. Last spring, Delaware’s third graders had the second-highest mathematics and second-highest English language arts scores in the nation on the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment. Of all the students tested, third-graders had the greatest proportion of their academic careers under the Common Core.

Students who had the benefit of instruction aligned to the new standards appear to be better prepared for these more challenging expectations,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said.

Alison May

While Delaware may have had these great third grade scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, that isn’t exactly something to write home about considering the overall proficiency rate for third graders in English/Language Arts was 54% and for Math it was 53%.  Aside from white, Asian-American, and American Indian sub-groups, every other sub-group did worse than the state average in both ELA and math.  It’s very easy to praise success without talking about the factors that surround the supposed success, something we see from the DOE and Governor Markell every single chance they get.

There are 11,000 teachers in Delaware.  The CEPR report wished to thank “hundreds of teachers” in their report.  I’ve found when reports like this come out, if it is over 500, they will say “over five hundred” or give a number like 800 to show a bigger number.  This report came from five states, so for the sake of argument, they surveyed 500 teachers.  That breaks down to 100 in each state.  Over ten schools, that is about ten teachers per school.  Can we say for certainty there was no bias in who was picked to take this survey?  I will wait to hear back from the Communications Director at CEPR to see if she is even able to say which schools had a part in this report.  There are certain schools in Delaware that are very loyal to Common Core and the DOE.  Most of us know which ones those are…

To read the full report, go here: http://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/teaching-higher-report.pdf

20 thoughts on “Do Delaware Educators Really Embrace Common Core? Or Is This Just Another Fluff Report?

  1. Kevin, I applaud you for further looking into this as I too am always leery when it comes to surveys. I agree with the report, but that is based on the school my kids go to and the fact that I had a third grader take this test last year. She did very well, though I think she would have done well on any test. That being said, which schools are loyal to Common Core in Delaware? Thanks.

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  2. I suspect the survey is correct. If so it highlights the distinction beween the standards and the tests. The standards are a pedagogical improvement; the current tests (or at least the uses to which they are put) are a disaster. Critics do not observe this distinction and blast all things Common Core.

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    • I completely agree with you. From conversations with several teacher friends, as well as my kids teachers, they all like the Common Core Standards. The testing on the other hand has much to be desired and I have found that not one teacher likes all of the testing. They agree that some testing is needed, but not as many as they have had in recent years.

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        • I don’t understand your criticism of the school my kids go to? Why can you never just answer the question….I come here to try to learn why some people don’t like the CC standards.

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          • What is your question? And how would either of you know the survey is correct? Common Core and the high-stakes tests that students are assessed on are socio-economic indicators. The creators found a way to make this even more visible to those on the outside looking in. How can you not see this Kristy?

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          • I think you need to read my first post before critisizing me or if I even said it was correct. Please read my first post….I find it hard to take you seriously when you bash me without responding and without reading my first post.

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  3. I have to disagree with both of you. I know you both support Common Core, but many, including teachers, students, citizens, and legislators do not see it as an improvement. I will say it is a majority of folks who don’t see it this way. It also depends on which school your children attend in Delaware. It comes down to those who drank the Kool-Aid and those who didn’t. These aren’t the standards your looking for…

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    • My first post (first comment at the top):

      Kevin, I applaud you for further looking into this as I too am always leery when it comes to surveys. I agree with the report, but that is based on the school my kids go to and the fact that I had a third grader take this test last year. She did very well, though I think she would have done well on any test. That being said, which schools are loyal to Common Core in Delaware? Thanks.

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  4. I’m a teacher and I don’t support CCSS. It is extremely developmentally inappropriate and is worse the younger the child. Teachers are guarded when talking to parents meaning that just because you talked to a teacher, that doens’t mean your heard anything other than the company line. Do we implement the CCSS? Yes, because it is our job and it is law. Do we always like it or agree with it? No. Do we make it work for our kids? Yes, because we are professional educators and we are trained to teach children, no matter what the standards do or don’t say.
    There is another aspect to consider. Most teachers leave the profession within 10 years. Teachers who have come to the profession in the last 5 years don’t know any other way, so of course they like and support the CCSS. That is what they were taught to do. Those of us who have been around a while know that teachers teach children, not standards. So it will largely depend on which teachers you are asking, and like Kevin said, who has drank the kool-aid.

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    • I agree with you that my kids teachers may not speak the truth when it comes to CC Standards. However, I have an abundance of friends who are teachers, in many different states, and have not heard one say they didn’t like it. Again, I know it’s anecdotal. That being said, I don’t believe in drinking the kool aid….I only drink water.

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      • Another teacher here – and parent – who is pretty anti-CCSS. I have been trained extensively in it at the state and national levels. I understand why it gets accolades. The bottom line is child psychologists and researchers involved with brain based pedagogy say it is not developmentally appropriate. Many educators are not real concerned with the standards because of the overreacting AND the overemphasis on testing AND the statistically erroneous use of tests as part of their evaluation systems. Your friends who are teachers may well like the standards. And that’s fine. But many, MANY in this state and nation do not. Our unions support them, our bosses say we have to use them, and (as pointed out above) the large amount of turnover guarantees that many educators don’t know any different. Also fine. But as a parent I see the pitfalls. As an educator I see the narrowing of the curriculum and the overreach of math and English language arts instruction into every aspect of the school day. It’s extreme, and it can be traced back to these standards and their ties to testing, promotion of non-traditional public schools such as charters, and the privatization of the American public school system. At its most basic level, CCSS is one way in which the people who have no business making decisions about education are doing so anyway.

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        • As a parent, I like the CC Standards and like the way our district is teaching them. Are the standards much different than the previous ones? I don’t know and am asking a serious question. I personally like how there is more writing, reading and math incorporated into the curriculum.

          I don’t like the abundance of testing or how its tied to teacher performance any more than a teacher does. However, there does need to be some testing in order to keep track of how the kids are doing….I’m not saying it has to be like it is today.

          Since you do not like the Standards, what do you propose? How should they be different?

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          • First, the idea that the kids need to be testing so we know how well they are doing is a statement so common it’s become the only fact under which folks operate. It is simply not true. There are plenty of ways to know how students are progressing in school without taking tests. I’m not going to list them all here, but if you do a Google (or other) search you will find dozens of fair, valid, reliable ways to show how students are learning. One quick example: My third child is in pre-k. At my first conference with his teacher, she showed me his “self portrait” from the first three months of school, one drawing for each month. She was able to point out to me the differences in his ability to draw, creation of details, use of color, and other factors that I (with my untrained eye) could not see, but because she is the professional and this is her trade, she COULD identify. I could clearly see the differences in the three pictures, but had I not put my trust in her as a professional I would not have known what those differences meant in terms of my child’s progress in her class.

            So first, trust the teachers who are teaching your children. If they say Johnny is learning, and they can show you work that demonstrates acquisition of skills and content, that should suffice. It means a lot more than a test, and values the educator as a professional.

            As to liking the standards, well that’s totally subjective. Most people have no clue what standards are, how they work, or whether they are appropriate. Most people don’t know whether what the kids are learning is tied to the standards. For instance, the textbook companies are rebranding their materials as “Common Core aligned” but the reality is many of those materials are actually NOT CCSS-aligned. Additionally, in some places, the CCSS replaced standards that were independently reviewed and found to be higher in quality than the CCSS. Furthermore, CCSS only addresses math and ELA. The logical question that would follow that statement is are you also familiar – and satisfied – with the science, social studies, physical education, health, music, technology, library studies, vocational, etc., standards your students are also learning? Why such a big deal about THESE two content standards but nothing else? Why such a big deal about a specific TEST, but nothing else? Is math and ELA all you want your child to learn in school? Will that prepare your child for life?

            I can tell you now it will not, and if we continue to overemphasize these things at the expense of all other things we will continue to see the degradation of our work force, the increase in “remedial” classes at the college level, the decline in value of a college degree, and the increase in socio-economic inequity in America. It’s nice that the kids can write across the curriculum and read informational texts, but they can’t talk to each other and they can’t work together, and that’s what employers value. Plus, when was the last time you read an instructional manual to figure something out? I myself used YouTube to figure out how to use my daughter’s rubber band loom, and it’s been ages since I got furniture that had written explanations for assembly.

            To specifically respond to your question, I do not know whether the prior standards were “better”, because I’m not trained in evaluating standards. What I DO know as a parent is my kids are learning, just like I learned when I was a kid. What I DO know as a teacher is your average student spends 2-4 times as much of the school day in math and ELA at the expense of all other subjects. What I DO know is what I said before, that the professionals who HAVE evaluated the standards have very valid, scientifically-derived concerns about the CCSS, and I cannot ignore that.

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          • Thank you for your perspective, as both an educator and parent. I appreciate your insight.

            However, I would say that the standards themselves may not be the problem, but perhaps the “teaching to the test”….hence the reason more time is focused on math and ELA. From what I have read about the current standards is that they are not much different than they were before. I would suggest getting rid of testing if there is too much focus on math and ELA. Of course that will probably never happen.

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          • I pretty directly stated that the problem with the standards is they aren’t as good as some of the standards that already existed AND that they have been identified by scientists and psychologists as developmentally inappropriate. The overtesting is an issue, but that’s not all that I used in my statements. It isn’t simply that I personally don’t like the standards or the testing.

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  5. Thank you JAX2816 for your perspective! I’m not a teacher but a parent and I could absolutely tell by my children’s frustration that these standards are developmentally inappropriate. Especially at the elementary school age. I hate the CCSS and hope that one day this state will wake up and abandon them as most states are doing. However, the damage has been done to this generation.

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