Superintendents Speak Out About the Common Core

Annie TeichEven though state pullbacks from the Common Core Standards have been dominating the news, the reality is that more than forty of the states that approved the shift to Common Core are in the middle of that transition. In fact, many of the states are in their second full year of implementation.

During April 2014, The School Superintendent’s Association (AASA) conducted a national survey of superintendents. The survey found wide support (78.3%) among the education community for the new, more rigorous standards, but less support (51.4%) among the broader community. Also, there is less support for the assessments than the standards themselves in both groups that stems, in part, from the concern about high-stakes outcomes for both students and teachers.

Following is one of the report recommendations:

Delaying the assessments, especially the high-stakes actions tied to the assessments, would give superintendents more opportunity to implement the standards and prepare their schools for the assessments themselves. A delay in implementing new assessments would also improve community and teacher support for the standards.

Although the majority of superintendents were not included in the development or adoption of the new standards, they are responsible for the implementation. They cite as their greatest obstacles:
• The assessments – 73.3%
• Professional development – 65.2%
• Appropriate instructional materials – 58.2%
• State support – 52.3%

Researchers found that the public’s confusion about the Common Core is that it will lead to more high-stakes testing. For those districts that have begun testing, more than 60% report that it is not going smoothly. The report notes that despite significant challenges with the assessments, almost 50% of the districts have made the results part of their teacher evaluation process even where the standards have not been fully implemented.

This hardly seems fair to either students or teachers, and the AASA opposes the idea that one test can measure both student learning and teacher effectiveness.

Echoing the findings of the SIIA 2014 Vision K-20 Survey Report, only 35.7% of superintendents report their district is fully prepared in both funding and bandwidth capacity to implement online assessments.

More than 70% of the superintendents surveyed believe that the political debate has interfered with the implementation and caused misinformation about the connection between the standards and the assessments:

By serving as a scapegoat for all of the problems in education throughout the country, the new standards are attacked daily, and parents and other members of the community are damaging the chances of a smooth transition to the new standards.

When asked what would be most useful to them in implementing the new standards, the consensus was that superintendents need more time and money.

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.

Although the transition to the Common Core has been anything but smooth, overall superintendents seem optimistic about the standards and their eventual impact on student learning as well as their abilities to gather support from their broader communities.