Superintendents on Common Core: ‘Slow down to get it right’


Stacey Jacobson-Francis works on math homework with her 6 -year old daughter Luci  last month at their home in Berkeley, Calif. As schools around the U.S. implement national Common Core learning standards, parents trying to help their kids with math homework say that adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing has become as complicated as calculus.  Jacobson-Francis, said her daughter’s homework requires her to know four different ways to add. “That is way too much to ask of a first grader. She can’t remember them all, and I don’t know them all, so we just do the best that we can,” she said. (AP)

The American Association of School Administrators just released a new report calling for policymakers to slow down the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and aligned standardized tests because educators need more time to “get it right.”

Last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it now supports a two-year delay in using student standardized test scores in high-stakes decisions on teacher evaluation and student promotion while schools are learning how to implement the Common Core State Standards and new Core-aligned standardized tests. Momentum is clearly building for a moratorium.

The title of the AASA report sums up the findings of a national survey of school superintendents and administrators that the association conducted in April: “Common Core and Other State Standards: Superintendents Feel Optimism, Concern and Lack of Support.” The survey, which received 525 responses representing 48 states, “provides a glimpse into the planning and implementation of the new standards and assessments as well as the support superintendents are receiving from the state and community,” according to the report.

The findings include:

* Most of the superintendents who responded — 92.5 percent — said the new standards are more rigorous than previous standards. Only 2.1 percent see them as less rigorous.

* Most – 78.3 percent — said they believe the education community supports the standards — but only 51.4 percent of the public does. Why? The report blames “overwhelming confusion regarding the standards and assessments.”

* Most — 73.3 percent — say the angry political debate has impeded implementation.

*Nearly half — 47 percent —  say they were never asked for input into the decision by policymakers to adopt or implement new standards.

* Testing poses the largest problems. Most respondents — 60.3 percent who had begun testing students with new assessments — say they are facing problems.

The report calls for a delay in linking student scores on the new Common Core tests to teacher evaluation, reiterating a position that the association has taken in the past. It quotes a Connecticut superintendent as saying:

“Students shouldn’t be stressed about testing on something they have never been taught. Teachers shouldn’t be evaluated on the success of students on the tests when they have not been teaching the breadth of the (Common Core State Standards).”

It concludes:

When given the space to write what would be most useful for their implementation of the new standards, the respondents overwhelmingly say they need more time and money. This clearly backs up the position AASA and other major education groups have taken on the Common Core; slow down to get it right. While the standards and assessments are overwhelmingly seen to be more rigorous and better geared for college and career readiness than previous standards, major changes cannot happen overnight. Before requiring states to attach high stakes to the assessments, districts and schools should be given the time to properly implement the standards and ensure sufficient bandwidth and proper equipment for the assessments.

The new standards present an opportunity to address education inequities, as seen in the different responses from high – poverty districts, but they also present increased challenges for poor districts. These districts must be given the necessary state and federal funds to properly train teachers, identify and obtain necessary materials, and implement the online assessments.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | June 14