The debate surrounding the introduction of Common Core Standards into school systems across America has been fierce and has become a political hot potato destined to work its way into next year’s presidential contest. After two years of theorizing Common Core’s impact on education, the first empirical evidence of its effectiveness and popularity is beginning to come to light. Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have released results from the comprehensive survey Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change. More than 20,000 teachers in all 50 states participated in this research, revealing teachers’ views on the rewards and challenges of teaching, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, how teacher evaluation systems are working and how parents can best support their children’s success in school and more.
“Primary Sources is a reflection of the most pressing issues we are facing as teachers today,”
Naima Lilly, a math educator in New York City said. “We need to include teachers in the ongoing conversations surrounding education, particularly on the tough topics, to determine what is actually happening, how it is working and how we can focus on solutions. The teacher’s voice is imperative, and I hope this report provides insight to leaders at all levels.”
The Primary Sources study seeks to raise awareness of teachers’ views on current issues affecting PreK–12 education. Reflecting this goal, Primary Sources data show that teachers are most satisfied in their jobs when their voices are heard in their school, district, state and nationally.
“Throughout Primary Sources, we see that many of the anxieties teachers have today come from a place of concern for the diverse students who populate their classrooms and how best to provide a quality education for each one,” noted Margery Mayer, President, Scholastic Education. “We must listen to our teachers and provide them with the quality resources and professional development they need to raise the bar for their students and, at the same time, raise the floor for their students who are struggling.”
This survey comes at a critical time for educators across the country. “Teachers are leading this work, but they feel their voices are absent in national and state-level discussions about
changes in American education,” Vicki Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said. “This came through very clearly. Teachers’ thoughts provide critical insights for policymakers and administrators, and their voices must guide action on the implementation of new state standards, teacher evaluations and the use of technology for collaborating with other teachers.”
The views and opinions offered in Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change include:
THE REWARDS AND CHALLENGES OF TEACHING
Overwhelmingly passionate and committed to their profession as a means to make a real difference, teachers nearly unanimously see their roles as extending beyond academic instruction to include reinforcing good citizenship, resilience and social skills.
Still, 82 percent of teachers report that constantly changing demands is a significant challenge
facing them. Additionally, 73 percent of teachers say they teach students whose reading levels span four or more grade levels, increasing the need for differentiated instruction. But nine out of 10 teachers (88%) agree that the rewards of teaching outweigh its challenges, and 89 percent say they are satisfied (51%) or very satisfied (38%) in their jobs.
COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS IMPLEMENTATION
While the percentage of teachers in Common Core State Standards adoption states who feel prepared to teach to the standards has grown by 16 points since 2011 to 75 percent, nearly the same percentage (76%) of teachers surveyed say they need more time to find materials and prepare lessons to implement the Common Core successfully. Additionally, 71 percent of teachers desire more quality professional development.
To help the students in their classrooms meet the Common Core, teachers feel that instructional materials that are age-appropriate, leveled and high-interest are the most important resources. After materials, teachers point to their colleagues— both teachers and administrators.
During an era where most states will implement or have already implemented new systems of evaluation and accountability, most teachers (78%) say they find their professional evaluations somewhat, very or extremely helpful. Eight in 10 (79%) say they receive a formal evaluation at least once a year, and a majority (59%) of teachers are satisfied with the frequency of their evaluations.
Of the teachers who don’t find evaluations very or extremely helpful, 42 percent say they want more feedback, 30 percent want increased fairness in the evaluation process and 23 percent want better-qualified evaluators and observers.
COLLABORATION WITH PEERS AND STUDENTS' FAMILIES
Teachers are enthusiastic users of technology to collaborate and find resources with 91 percent saying they use websites to find or share lesson plans or other classroom content.
Regarding collaboration with parents, almost all teachers (98%) believe the best thing parents can do to help their child succeed in school is to avoid absences followed closely by setting high expectations for their child (97%) and working in partnership with teachers when their child has challenges (97%).
METHODOLOGY, IN BRIEF
The findings of the third wave of Primary Sources are based on a national online survey conducted by Harrison Group, a YouGov company, among 20,157 PreK–12th grade public school classroom teachers. The survey was conducted between July 1 and July 22, 2013. The data were weighted to ensure alignment with their actual proportions in the population according to grade(s) taught, teacher gender, years of teaching experience and geography. •
Source: Charts and story courtesy of Scholastic Education and The Gates Foundation.