Most California teachers, policymakers and district leaders believe the Common Core State Standards will help create more college- and career-ready high school graduates, but educators also want more clarity on how to better implement the reform, according to a new report.
“Leveraging the Common Core to Support College and Career Readiness in California,” a report released Tuesday by the Sacramento-based research and policy analysis group EdInsights, also found that most educators surveyed support Common Core concepts that promote critical thinking and problem-solving, which they say were largely lacking under the previous standards.
Still, the lack of clear guidance about how to implement the Common Core, and confusion about how to integrate the many college and career readiness-focused reform efforts underway in California, have created “initiative fatigue” among many educators, the report found.
“This research outlines policymakers’ and educators’ hopes for how the (Common Core) can support improvements in students’ college and career readiness, and it provides early evidence about both similarities and disconnects between those expectations and implementation activities in high schools and districts,” according to the report.
Researchers conducted extensive interviews with 91 teachers, policymakers, leaders from county offices of education, principals and other administrators as part of the report. Researchers asked participants about their expectations for the Common Core standards and their experiences so far implementing the curriculum. Researchers also asked during the face-to-face interviews about schools’ current college and career readiness initiatives, professional development opportunities, their use of technology as a tool to measure student learning and engagement, and other similar topics.
Here are the respondents’ key expectations for the Common Core:
- The curriculum will help students prepare for college and careers by offering a strong foundation in core subject areas.
- New approaches to teaching and learning will enhance critical thinking and other skills that improve learning.
- Teachers will better integrate academic content into technical education courses.
- The senior year of high school will become more focused on college and career readiness for a larger proportion of students.
- K-12 and postsecondary systems will collaborate more.
- Teachers will use new technologies to better engage students in learning.
“This research outlines policymakers’ and educators’ hopes for how the (Common Core) can support improvements in students’ college and career readiness,” according to the EdInsights study.
The study also provided recommendations to help improve the Common Core’s implementation based on participants’ concerns about the general lack of clarity in areas including professional development, technology and partnerships with existing career readiness programs.
Here are some of the recommendations for state education leaders and lawmakers:
- Clarify what graduating seniors need to know in order to be prepared for a variety of education options after high school.
- Provide a clearer vision for career readiness, including: What is the definition of career readiness? Does it mean different things for different students?
- Clarify how existing state- and system-level college and career readiness initiatives connect with the Common Core, including Career Pathways Trust, the Linked Learning pilot, and the CTE Model Curriculum Standards.
- Provide districts with information or technical assistance about how to assess their teachers’ specific professional development needs.
- Consider providing competitive seed money for projects that use technology to address equity gaps.
Andrea Venezia, the report’s co-author, said the goal of the report was to highlight and learn from some of the successes of the Common Core following its initial years of implementation.
“We also wanted to show how we can improve Common Core going forward,” she said.
Venezia said the report is also aimed at helping the public better understand how the Common Core is working and changing how students learn in California’s schools.
A national poll released Sunday showed that the majority of respondents oppose teachers using the Common Core to guide teaching. Statewide polls earlier this year by Children Now and the Public Policy Institute of California have found stronger support for the new curriculum.
Venezia said that much of the opposition to the Common Core often comes from a lack of understanding of the initiative. She hopes the study will contribute to the conversation of what the Common Core is and why it’s important in education.