Teacher backing for Common Core slips

Published 7:35 am Friday, September 26, 2014

A recent survey shows support for Tennessee’s Common Core standards is decreasing among teachers, even though advocates, including business leaders, say they’re needed to prepare students for college and to compete in a global workforce.
The Tennessean reports the 2014 survey released Wednesday was done by the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development, a group led by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
According to the survey, 39 percent of the 27,000 Tennessee teachers who responded to it believe that teaching to the standards will improve student learning, compared with 60 percent who said the same in a similar survey last year.
It also found 56 percent of respondents want to abandon the standards, while 13 percent would prefer to delay their implementation. Only 31 percent want to proceed. The 2013 survey did not ask questions in that area.
Dale Ballou, a Vanderbilt professor and director of the consortium, said there’s no single symptom or explanation for the decreasing support.
“It’s a lot of different factors that seem to be playing into this,” he said. “The one thing I would caution people against is jumping to the conclusion that this means now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.”
Both Peggy Campbell, assistant superintendent of Carter County Schools, and Danny McClain, secondary supervisor, agreed that overall, teachers in the county school system have been supportive of Common Core, but noted the reaction has been mixed.
“Anytime there is change, there is some resistance,” said Campbell, “ but our teachers have been on board and are working hard at making the change,” she added.
McClain said the goal of Common Core is to prepare students to be college and career ready. “One of the things I like about it is it teaches students to be conceptual in their thinking. For instance, we know two plus two equals four, but how do we arrive at that? Common Core teaches that. It’s more than just learning your multiplication tables,” he said.
“The Common Core curriculum is more challenging, not only to students, but to teachers. They must be better prepared when they go into the classroom,” McClain said.
However, he said there have been workshops conducted at both the state and local level to help prepare teachers for Common Core.
“It has taken some adjustment on the part of all. We are teaching Common Core, but we are also teaching current Tennessee standards, as the Common Core testing standards have been delayed by the Tennessee Legislature,” McClain said.
Tennessee is among 44 states that have adopted the Common Core standards aimed at improving schools and students’ competitiveness across the nation.
The higher standards have been phased into classrooms in Tennessee for the past three years, but they’ve found increasing resistance both locally and nationally from conservatives and tea party supporters, many of whom say the standards are an attempt by the federal government to take over local education.
However, supporters of the standards are quick to point out the new benchmarks were developed not by the feds but by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
During Tennessee’s legislative session earlier this year, proposed measures to do away with the standards failed, but lawmakers did pass legislation to delay the testing component of the state’s standards.
Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged the continued concern during an education summit, calling for a “full vetting” of the standards. The Republican governor said he plans to have more public discussions about them.
“We very much intend to … let people have a chance to talk very specifically about what they like and don’t like,” he said.
Supporters of the standards say they’re necessary to help high school students graduate with critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills that advocates say they’ll need for college and a global workforce.
“We’re competing with … businesses around the world,” said Johnson City business owner Ken Gough, who attended the summit. “And in many places around the world, much higher standards are expected of their students.”

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