Research from The Educational Forum: Common Core and Perceived Teacher Effectiveness

MurphyToday’s bloggers are Dr. Audrey Figueroa Murphy, Associate Professor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, and Dr. Bruce Torff, Professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. They write here to describe research published in an article in the current issue of The Educational

During the 2012–2013 school year, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics and English language arts were implemented in 45 states across our nation, making it one of the most sweeping educational reforms in US history. The shift to CCSS has caused concern among many teachers as they struggle to familiarize themselves with these new standards in order to design appropriate instruction and assessments. These changes are especially challenging for those who teach diverse learners, such as special needs students and English language learners.

Because CCSS has caused consternation among educators, it is reasonable to wonder how the standards are affecting teachers’ perceptions of their capacity to teach effectively. Research shows that individuals who believe they are ineffective almost always are, so a reduction in perceived effectiveness is a reliable indicator of diminished performance. If teachers report reductions in perceived capacity to teach effectively, classroom performance has likely dipped.

Our study was carried out in 2012, the first year CCSS was implemented. A survey was administered to capture teachers’ perceptions of their ability to teach effectively during the time when CCSS was being integrated, and contrast this with their perceptions before CCSS was implemented. The survey also examined teachers’ perceptions of their effectiveness working with three different populations: general education students, special education students, and English language learners, each before and after implementation of CCSS.

The results of these surveys showed that the implementation of CCSS reduced the way teachers perceived their effectiveness for all three student populations. Interestingly, this effect was very strong for those teaching the general education students, and within this group of teachers, those who had the most experience teaching demonstrated the greatest declines in how they viewed their teaching effectiveness.

Our research suggests that the simultaneous implementation of standards-based reform and accountability measures may produce uncomfortable situations for the nation’s educators. When multiple reforms arrive on the scene at the same time, there is an interaction effect. In this case, the eagerness to implement new standards at the same time that accountability is put into full swing (i.e., in order to receive Race to the Top funding) has put teachers in unfair positions. For instance, CCSS and accountability policies were implemented during the same year, but little attention has been paid to the fact that CCSS implementation might be lowering the very scores used for the accountability decisions. These decisions rank teachers on different levels and may lead to possible dismissal, whether or not the educator is tenured.

A more thoughtful way to proceed would have been to delay the accountability policies until teachers had a reasonable period of time to study CCSS and develop instruction to meet the needs of the diverse learners in their schools. Educational reform would be more sensible and justifiable if it were to proceed carefully, with more thought and reflection.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Murphy and Dr. Torff’s article free with the education community through January 31, 2016. Read the full article here.


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