Common Core: Are We Supporting Those on the Front Lines?

February 22, 2013

The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher should give us pause. It reminds us yet again that common academic standards could hit real speedbumps if teachers and principals don't get the support they need to put them in place.

One big challenge may be overconfidence. More than nine in ten teachers were "confident" or "very confident" that teachers in their school have the "academic skills and abilities to teach to the Common Core State Standards." Some studies, by contrast, paint a different picture. As Catherine Gewertz notes, they find that teachers often don't excel at teaching the kinds of higher-order skills Common Standards emphasize.

Part of the problem might be the way MetLife worded the question. Teachers may feel they have the academic muscle to teach to Common Core, but their pedagogical muscle may have atrophied from years spent on lower-order skills. For many teachers, the reality of Common Core may come as a shock.

That poses big problems for principals and teachers alike. Principals in the MetLife survey seem to be suffering something akin to shell shock. Three quarters of principals say their jobs asre too complex, seven out of ten say their job responsibilities are not very similar to what they were just five years ago, and half say they great stress at least several several times a week.

Teachers are in a similar boat. They are about as likely as principals to report suffering great stress, and their job satisfaction numbers have plummeted since 2008. These numbers needn't surprise us. Teachers and principals alike have experienced a perfect storm of new reforms and budget distress in the past five years.

But the answer is not to dial back on reforms like Common Core. Despite media reports that teachers don't like common standards, the MetLife survey joins previous surveys in finding solid teacher support for Common Core. The bigger issue is support. School veterans have gotten used to seeing wave after wave of reform surge and then recede. THey're weary of reforms that come with little coherent support to ensure their success. Our state Vital Signs reports found that many math and science teachers, particularly those who teach low income students, lack the resources they need.

Teachers in the MetLife Survey made it very clear that they would welcome such resources, which include coaching, teaching materials, and tools to track their students' process. Yet it's still devilishly difficult to figure out whether states are actually on track to providing such resources. If Common Core supporters don't want this reform to recede like so many others before it, they had better be vigilant.

Tags: Common Core