More than half (55.3 percent) of superintendents and administrators are at least two years into implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other college- and career-ready standards while 7.1 percent will begin implementing them in the 2014–15 school year, according to a new survey released on June 3 by AASA, the School Superintendents Association. More than 90 percent (92.5 percent) believe the new standards are more rigorous than previous standards while only 2.1 percent see them as less rigorous. When asked about implementation, superintendents report several obstacles, including assessments (73.3 percent), teacher training and professional development (65.2 percent), instructional materials (58.2 percent), and state support (52.3 percent).
“The findings in this survey clearly back the position of AASA—slow down and get it right,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA. “This report shows that superintendents across the country agree that the new standards present an opportunity to improve student outcomes but only given enough time and resources.”
Even as some state lawmakers are distancing themselves from the assessments, most superintendents do not think that their state will pull out of the CCSS, the report finds. Of superintendents in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oklahoma, 74.8 percent say their state would “probably” or “definitely not” withdraw from the CCSS; only 3.9 percent say their state will probably pull out of the standards.
When asked about new teaching materials and textbooks, 79.8 percent of respondents say that materials have been difficult to find. “Our members have reported that they are not finding curricula are actually aligned to the new standards,” the report notes. “Companies have been marketing ‘Common Core–aligned’ materials that researchers find are also largely not aligned with the standards. The texts the researchers reviewed were found to not differ greatly from previous, pre-CCSS, texts; they lacked the higher-level thinking required by CCSS, and failed to cover 10 to 15 percent of the material stipulated in the CCSS.”
With proper texts and funding for new materials difficult to come by, teachers frequently must “produce and piece together their own materials and texts, while developing a new curriculum and implementing the new standards,” the report notes. “This reiterates the need for more time to properly implement the standards and iron out issues before adding the high-stakes testing.”
Regarding the new online assessments, only 9.7 percent of respondents say it is going “very smoothly,” while 60.3 percent say it is going with “some” or “great difficulty.” However, the report adds that a major problem with the new assessments is the lack of necessary technology and bandwidth, rather than the test themselves. It cites a recent Education Week article on the trial run of tests designed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, finding that students believe the tests were harder than previous tests, but they enjoyed the style of the tests more than previous standardized tests.
Specifically, 41.9 percent of respondents say schools in their state are not ready to implement the online assessment while 35.9 percent say their state lacks the infrastructure to support online assessments. Only 10.2 percent of respondents say their state is “fully prepared in both funding and bandwidth capacity to implement online assessments” and only 35.7 percent say the same about their school district. The report notes that increasing the amount of money for the E-rate program, which provides discounted internet access to schools and libraries, “could help these technology issues.”
When asked about the politics surrounding the standards, 73.3 percent of respondents believe the political debate has “gotten in the way of successful implementation,” according to the report. “The political backlash mostly stems from misunderstanding and misinformation, especially of the relationship between the standards and testing,” the report notes. “By serving as a scapegoat for all of the problems in education throughout the country, the new standards are attacked daily, and parents and other members of the community are damaging the chances of a smooth transition to the new standards.”
When responses were broken out between districts implementing the CCSS and those implementing other new college- and career-ready standards, the report finds that CCSS respondents “see the new standards as more rigorous than non-CCSS respondents, and respondents in high-poverty districts see them as a more significant change than respondents in low-poverty districts.” Specifically, 94 percent of CCSS respondents say that the new standards are “significantly” more rigorous, compared to only 78.3 percent of those working with new standards other than the CCSS.
When broken out by income, 55.8 percent of high-poverty districts say the move to the new standards is “significantly” more rigorous than the previous standards, compared only 23.2 percent of low-poverty districts,1 as shown in the table below taken from the report. (Click on the image for a larger version).
The report, Common Core and Other State Standards: Superintendents Feel Optimism, Concern and Lack of Support, is based on a survey of 525 superintendents and administrators representing forty-eight states in April 2014.
Common Core and Other State Standards is available for download at http://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/AASA_CCSS_Report.pdf.
1 The report defines high-poverty school districts as those where at least 60 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL). In low-poverty districts, 0 to 19 percent of students are eligible for FRPL.