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Schools coping with Common Core turbulence

Fordham Institute offers lessons to district leaders as they continue to implement standards

The rollout of the Common Core State Standards in classrooms nationwide this school year has been “bumpy” as states struggle to provide professional development for teachers, align curricular materials and create assessments that adequately measure the standards, according to the February report “Common Core in the Districts: An Early Look at Early Implementers” from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

In late February, the Indiana House became the first to void the standards. Similar bills were introduced in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and South Carolina.

Two-thirds of Common Core math teachers are using textbooks that were in place prior to the adoption of the standards and are not sufficiently rigorous, the report states. Most elementary educators are still assigning books based on students’ current reading level, though the new standards call for texts that provide language complexity appropriate to grade level.

“It’s frustrating because there is an expectation that we put these standards in and students will immediately reach the higher benchmarks,” says David Griffith, director of public policy at ASCD. “But there is hard work that goes with that. It’s a long-term effort.”

In late January, the New York State United Teachers Board of Directors withdrew its support for the Common Core as currently implemented. The union said the rush to test students before teachers had time to fully align their curriculum to the standards undermined the Common Core’s potential to increase student achievement.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, once a fervent supporter of the standards, also spoke out against them in a February letter to union members, stating that “in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched.”

Several states have decided to delay Common Core testing, including New York, Massachusetts and Louisiana. “There may be some tweaks, which you would expect from any initiative of this size, but [the standards] are here to stay,” Griffith says.

The Fordham Institute report offers lessons to district leaders as they continue to implement the standards after a turbulent year:

  • Be open with the public about the merits and drawbacks of the Common Core as they relate to academic content, instruction and assessment. This will help parents understand the standards and prepare them for the potentially lower test results to come.
  • Allow teachers to help develop and improve the materials they’ll use in classrooms.
  • Do not recycle old curriculum materials that don’t fit the Common Core. Teachers are now required to teach math concepts in greater detail and more complex readings, and district leaders need to provide them with vetted, high-quality materials.