A survey answered by 975 Arkansas teachers in grades 3-12 found that 61% would keep the Common Core State Standards while 39% would eliminate them. However, 87% said they “don’t like the testing involved.”
The survey was conducted by the University of Arkansas’ Office for Education Policy, which sampled 2,795 teachers in grades three through high school starting on Feb. 26.
The survey found that 66% were satisfied with the Common Core, while 92% said the standards are more rigorous than the previous standards. Another 69% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that the Common Core would lead to improved student learning, 71% said it would help students be better prepared for college, 79% said it would help students think more critically, and 63% agreed that it would better prepare students to compete in the workforce. Sixty-two percent said the standards are “more helpful,” than the previous standards in preparing students academically, while 38% said “less helpful.”
Respondents were asked to complete the sentence, “Overall, my students will be ___ after the introduction of the Common Core Standards.” Forty-six percent said “better off,” 28% said “the same,” and 26% said “worse off.”
The survey was presented Thursday during an all-day session of the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review, the group appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to study the standards. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who chairs the group, said the poll was “interesting” and “helpful” but found some of the results to be “counterintuitive and in conflict.”
Teachers had some good things to say about the Common Core, but “You’ve got over a majority saying Common Core is not going to help their students,” he said, referring to the 54% who did not answer that students would be “better off.”
“I had a lot of questions about it,” he said.
Seventy-three percent of teachers said that certain student populations will not benefit from the standards. Ninety percent of those teachers indicated concern for students working below grade level, while 85% of those teachers expressed concern for special education students and 73% for English language learners.
The most common complaint associated with the Common Core was student assessment. Eighty-seven percent agreed (61% strongly, 26% agreed) with the statement, “I don’t like the testing involved in implementing the Common Core Standards.”
With those high numbers, a question was added to the survey after March 9 where teachers were given the opportunity to complete the sentence, “If I were in charge of assessment, I would ___.” Only 11% said they would continue the current assessment known as PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Among other suggestions, 24% said they would give no assessment, 23% said they would return to the Arkansas tests, 22% said they would purchase another assessment, and 20% would develop another state assessment.
The PARCC assessment, which is meant to compare Arkansas students with those from other states, has become a lightning rod for criticism from conservatives. The number of states participating in the consortium has dropped from 24 to nine plus the District of Columbia. Arkansas legislators this past session considered a bill by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, that would have resulted in Arkansas leaving the consortium. The bill passed the House but was amended in the Senate Education Committee so that Arkansas would remain in PARCC, but only one year at a time.
“I’m not surprised,” Lowery said when informed of the poll results. “The whole time I was carrying the legislation on PARCC, I made the distinction that I see Common Core and PARCC as separate issues. … I think that as long as local school districts believe that they can develop curricula locally to meet the standards, then they’ll be satisfied, but the problem has been with the testing.”
Griffin said that two separate days of hearings by the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review have made it clear that “there’s a lot of discontent among parents, educators and pretty much most folks I talk with about the state of testing generally.”
Teachers indicated personal dissatisfaction with how the standards have affected their jobs. Fifty-three percent said the Common Core limits their flexibility to teach what students need. Sixty-two percent said the standards are less clear than the previous standards describing what should be taught in their subject area. Sixty-four percent disagreed with the statement, “I like teaching more now than before the Common Core Standards were introduced.” Seventy-four percent said that teaching has become more stressful.
However, 63% of teachers said the Common Core has made them better at their job. Seventy-two percent said the Common Core was implemented well at their schools.
Sixty-two percent of English language arts teachers disagreed that the Common Core had reduced the time they have to spend on literature. Sixty-four percent of math teachers disagreed the Common Core had decreased students’ understanding of key math concepts.
Teachers were less likely to support the Common Core if they have been teaching more than 15 years and if they teach in districts that are small or low performing. Fifty-five percent of teachers in districts with fewer than 650 students and 51% of those in low-achieving districts would eliminate the Common Core if given the chance.
Forty-three percent of teacher respondents described themselves as Republican, 22% as Democrat, and 34% as independent.