Most states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math and English language arts (ELA) are already teaching to the standards, according to a new report by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) at The George Washington University.
The report also finds that these states are preparing teachers and principals to implement these standards. State education agencies, however, are struggling to secure adequate state staffing and resources to implement the standards and to ensure all math and ELA teachers receive training in the Common Core.
The report is based on a survey of state deputy superintendents or their designees in 40 of the 46 states that have adopted the CCSS in one or both subjects. The survey was conducted in February through May of this year.
In 30 of the responding states, curricula aligned to the Common Core in math and ELA are being taught in at least some grades and school districts, according to the first report, which gives an overview of state implementation of the CCSS. Some of these states are phasing in CCSS-aligned curriculum by grade span or school district or both. Several states (nine in math and 10 in ELA) will begin implementing aligned curriculum in school year 2013-14 or later.
All 40 survey states are providing some type of professional development in the CCSS to teachers, and 39 are doing the same for principals, according to the second report, which focuses on professional development. In 22 of the survey states, more than half of the math and ELA teachers had received professional development in the Common Core as of school year 2012-13. But only 10 states estimate that more than three-fourths of their teachers of these two subjects have received CCSS-related training.
All of the responding states agree that the CCSS are more rigorous than their previous standards and will improve student skills in these subjects. “It is pretty clear that most state leaders believe the Common Core represents a significant shift toward more rigorous academic standards in math and English language arts and that students will benefit from that increased rigor,” said CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson. “It is equally clear that states are facing significant challenges in preparing and supporting teachers and school leaders as they implement the standards across grades.”
States are taking various actions to help teachers master the new standards and use them to guide instruction. For example, 37 survey states have begun to produce and disseminate professional development materials and guides aligned to the CCSS, while 34 states have conducted briefings for faculty in postsecondary schools of education.
States are also working with districts and schools on CCSS implementation. All 40 survey states have conducted informal meetings with district officials about the CCSS, while 39 states are providing technical assistance. And 30 states have mounted initiatives to help low-performing schools make the transition to the Common Core.
In addition, state-level activities related to the Common Core are underway. Specifically, 39 states have developed and disseminated state CCSS implementation plans, 38 states have analyzed similarities and differences between the state’s previous standards and the CCSS, and 29 have revised or created curriculum or materials aligned to the CCSS.
Despite these many activities, states face challenges in transitioning to the Common Core. Thirty-four states find it challenging to secure adequate resources to support all of the necessary CCSS implementation activities. Additionally, 32 states report challenges in developing educator evaluation systems that hold teachers and principals accountable for students’ mastery of the standards. In the area of professional development, 37 states consider it a challenge to provide enough high-quality professional development to help teachers implement the CCSS, and 31 states said that providing all math and ELA teachers with state-sponsored professional development was proving challenging.
State education agencies are also struggling with capacity issues related to the Common Core. While most states report having adequate staff expertise to implement CCSS-related activities, fewer say they have enough staff and/or resources.
“Finding adequate resources is the main challenge looming over states’ efforts to prepare districts, schools, principals and teachers for the Common Core,” said Diane Stark Rentner, deputy director of national programs for CEP and author of the study. “Assessments aligned to the new standards will be ready to administer in 2014-15, but funding problems will likely hamper states’ efforts to make sure that principals and teachers are prepared to help students master the standards.”