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Bruno: Teacher Survey Shows Reform Middle Ground

SurpriseJune's survey on teacher attitudes toward the Common Core provides a nice illustration of why reform critics shouldn't blithely dismiss the opinions of the professional peers with whom they disagree. The survey found large numbers of teachers admitting to scandalously reformy thoughts:

  • 68% have at least a somewhat favorable view of the CCSS.
  • The more teachers say the know about the CCSS, the more they support them.
  • 64% of teachers support implementing common assessments (!) based on the CCSS.

Personally, I'm a bit of a skeptic about the CCSS and think educators are overestimating the rigor and clarity of their content. Nevertheless, not only is it not credible that all of these teachers are suffering from some sort of psychological disorder, it's also unlikely that ad hominem dismissals of their opinions are a good persuasive tactic. Moreoever, survey results like these strongly suggest that reform critics are often greatly underestimating the extent to which other educators may disagree with them. So while it's true that teacher respondents were fairly opposed to using CCSS assessments for accountability purposes, they were still supportive of implementation to a degree I don't think I've ever seen a reform critic acknowledge. This omission is especially striking among reform critics who claim to be speaking "for teachers".

Consider this evidence that the distinction between "reformers" and "reform critics" is overstated and not really all that clear in practice. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

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From the Achieve report Mr. Bruno linked to: "Survey respondents were read a brief description of the CCSS: '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.'”

With that description, the only surprise is that 100% of voters didn't support them! Instead, it's only 77% of voters.

More from the report: "Almost three-quarters of voters (74%) and nearly two-thirds of teachers (64%) support implementing the CCSS assessments – as described to survey respondents as new tests that are 'being designed to help determine what students know and can do, and whether they are on track to graduate from high school ready for college and career. Over time, these new tests would replace the current end of the year state tests being given here in (INSERT STATE).'”

Who wouldn't support tests that could actually do the things described by this poll? What's wrong with 36% of those teachers surveyed? Do you think they caught a whiff of snake oil from this survey?

I think the proper term here is "push poll."

I've read the CCSS for 8th grade Language Arts, since I'll be teaching them next year. How should I describe the feeling? Imagine an amateur interior decorator barging into your home, imperiously ordering you to rearrange your furniture, declaring the enterprise "transformative change," and demanding you pay him $500 for your labor. Why, it's enough to give education consultants a bad name!

I can't speak for all of educators - just the ones I know. I haven't heard a lot of backlash against the idea of common core, probably because most teachers (that I know) aren't all that attached to the constantly-changing, state level standards that are being replaced.

There have just a lot of fingers crossed that these standards make sense once they get here. But again... the state standards... we're used to this.

I’ve never actually read the CC guidelines to see how they pitched them, but they must have been pitched well.

Mark - I agree completely about this being a self-interested push poll. I tried to avoid the "pushiest" questions - although the report doesn't make that easy - and at some level even if it's pushy and teachers are being snookered by the whole enterprise, that doesn't really change the fact that there's some real diversity of opinion out there.

Roxanna - The standards I use have been around for over a decade - and they're certainly all I've ever known - so I find the shift (upcoming in science) pretty daunting. As far as my anecdotal experience with coworkers goes, of the teachers I know personally, zero have complained about the new standards (except for me) and many are plainly excited or optimistic about them.

Sarah - I've mostly seen the CCSS pitched as promoting "higher order" thinking and things like that that smell to me distinctly snake-oil-ish. But I haven't followed the discussions all that closely because they're mostly about math/english.

Mark and Paul,

There are only 2 questions where a description of the standards and assessments were read to the respondents. The others appear to be straight up questions -- have you heard, read or seen the standards and if you have, what do you think. It looks like teachers favor them based on their own opinions more than they do after hearing the description read to them (slide 11).

Why is it so remarkable that teachers want new tests based on the standards? Find me a teacher that wants to keep their current state test. That would be shocking.

Chris,

I saw a definition given, followed by questions that begin with "Knowing this,..." I thought slide 11 was a breakdown of the 72% in favor of implementation on slide 9. I assumed the respondents were asked how much they'd heard about CCSS and then the pollsters cross-referenced the answer to that question with the answer to the question on 9, but perhaps I've misunderstood the slides / pdf.

Anyway, Roxanna Elden explicitly said what I meant to say with my clumsy metaphor when I suggested this is all just rearranging the furniture. Except that unlike her and her friends, I'm not used to it. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of wasting time on this stuff.

I'm already doing 95% of what CCSS wants me to do. The units I'm going to add and the units I'm going to have to give up to make my school year "fit" CCSS don't amount to much. But, I will have to go back through my units and relabel everything. I will have to sit through pointless PD sessions, given by some consultant who gets paid good money to spout feel-good gibberish. The district will be forced, I bet, by the state to purchase materials that are aligned to CCSS.

Nationwide, we're going to spend billions switching to CCSS. In classrooms like mine, all across the country, we'll wonder where the **** that money went. What a waste of resources.

I think Mark's skepticism is understandable. I was an early supporter of the CCSS, since I think we currently waste considerable resources employing 50 bureaucracies on supporting how to teach the multiplication tables. But having read through the standards and a bit about how they were developed, and crucially, the current plans for their assessment, I am deeply worried that this may prove to be an unprecedented fiasco in its waste of money on an unworkable testing system. I'd like to be wrong -- the descriptions and promise of adaptive testing are intriguing -- but (1) we don't have the money for all of the equipment that's going to have to be bought (and that will rapidly become broken and outdated), and (2) the mathematics standards are demonstrably NOT world-class; they'll leave our students two years behind their foreign competition, just like they are at present.

I don't read the guidelines to fully understand the purpose of the new testing, but my own opinion on all this is why one test determines a child's knowledge. If that's the case then why have children go to school? Why not just have them go test and keep it moving. Maybe i'm just illiterate to the fact, but the whole testing thing should be regulated to in school test that are given at the end of the week on the curriculum learned during the week and final exams. All those other testing standards should be thrown out period.

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