73 percent of teachers think they are prepared to teach the Common Core, and other facts that should keep CCSS supporters up at night

While the quick adoption of Common Core by 46 states was cheered by those who had been pushing for common standards for decades, the more jaded among us wondered: Do most states really understand what they signed up for?

Do most states really understand what they signed up for?

To find out, we would do better to ignore the philosophic debates among policy wonks and dig into the teacher-driven conversations happening in classrooms, on blogs, and in professional development sessions around the country. These debates will likely have a far greater impact on the success or failure of the new standards than much of the political noise happening inside the Beltway and in state legislatures.

A Gates-funded survey of teachers released last week included some results cheered by supporters of Common Core, including the finding that most teachers (78 percent) had heard of the standards, that nearly two thirds (64 percent) felt that the expectations were going to have a “strong” or “very strong” impact on student achievement, and that 73 percent of teachers felt “somewhat” or “very” prepared to teach to the standards.

In isolation, this sounds like good news. But consider the results from a separate report, released by the Center on Education Policy, which found that barely half of school districts in states that adopted the Common Core standards “are taking essential steps to implement them.”

One might wonder how teachers can feel so prepared to teach to standards that are so different from what they are teaching to now when district- and school-level implementation has barely gotten off the ground? It makes more sense when you consider the messages being sent by several leading curriculum publishers and other organizations committed to bending Common Core to their interests.

Take Lucy Calkins. She is, by all accounts, a Common Core supporter. In a recent speech (and related article), she encouraged teachers to embrace the standards and to become “a co-constructor of the future of instruction and curriculum, and indeed, of public education across America.”

Yet, at least at face value, Calkins advice doesn’t sound like it’s changed much, despite the new standards. For instance, in an article entitled “Explore the Common Core,” Calkins’s first recommendation for “large scale reform” is to “implement a spiraled, cross-curricular, K-12 writing workshop curriculum.”

So, the first piece of Common Core implementation advice from the chief architect behind Teachers College Writers Workshop is to implement…a writers workshop?

Her second piece of advice is perhaps more alarming, though. She advises teachers to “move students up levels of text complexity by providing them with lots of just right, high-interest texts and time for them to read.” That certainly does square with the tenets of her own readers workshop, but seems to run directly counter to the Common Core guidance that all students should be reading grade appropriate texts.

Is Calkins rethinking her program in light of the new standards, or merely co-opting them to promote the same program?

One wonders whether Calkins is rethinking her program in light of the new standards, or merely co-opting them to promote the same program? And, upon hearing this advice, it’s easy to understand how a teacher implementing the readers and writers workshop could be lead to believe that they are ready for what lies ahead—after all, it’s pretty much the same as what they’re doing now.

Calkins certainly isn’t alone. I posted a few weeks ago about another group similarly peddling some “business as usual” tactics and passing them off as Common Core aligned.

The bottom line is this: The appropriate reaction of Common Core supporters to the news that nearly three-fourths of teachers claim to be at least somewhat prepared to teach the new standards should be fear. Because these results suggest that far too many teachers plan to make few, if any, changes to their instructional and curricular programs. Which only reinforces what we’ve said many times before: Adoption of the standards was the easy part. Proper implementation is going to be the real struggle. 

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