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 Forum.Torff.photo

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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Standardized Testing: A Disruption To Quality Learning

On October 24th, President Obama released a statement calling for changes in standardized testing in America’s schools. Although the details have yet been released, it is encouraging the Obama Administration acknowledges that standardized testing has overextended its purpose.

As a veteran of public education, such news is profoundly welcomed.  Over the past 20 years, going back to the Clinton Administration and Goals 2000, through the Bush Administration and No Child Left Behind, to the Obama Administration and Race to the Top, public education has increasingly become burdened by the increase of testing. With it came increased scrutiny and accountability on states, local school districts, and individual teachers. Although the results of these initiatives have been mixed, all now agree there is no correlation between increased standardized tests and increased student achievement.

I firmly believe the first step is to eliminate the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balance Assessment. Being an educator in a state that mandated that all districts implement the PARCC test, I can speak directly to the negative impact it created. PARCC is a computer-based assessment. The drain on school district technology resources both in the setting-up phase, which began in January, through the implementation phase, the months of March and May, were profound. The length of the tests, both in March and May were extremely disruptive to school schedules and classroom routines.

Many educators across the state questioned the developmental appropriateness of PARCC, in terms of format, length and difficulty. Although PARCC has announced there will only be one test instead of two in 2016, overall test time has not been decreased significantly. In addition, if the purpose of standardized testing is to inform and improve teaching and learning, PARCC is not the answer.

First round of tests were completed by April 1st and the second round by the end of May.  It is mid November, and my school district just now received the results for our high school students; hardly timely if we are to use the information to improve instruction. We have no idea when elementary will receive the results. Given states can’t agree nationwide what curricular content is worth knowing, and given a growing number of states have opted out of Common Core standards and/or PARCC or Smarter Balance Assessment, more and more educators question the validity or purpose of a “one size fits all” test.

Let’s band together and work with our state legislators and create assessments that reflect what we as states have committed to in terms of standards-based teaching and learning. In addition, at the local level, let’s support individual school districts to develop and utilize assessment practices that align with instruction, provide timely feedback, and create partnerships of learning with teachers and students.

Dr. Vicky Tuskenvicky tusken is the Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for the DeKalb Community Unit School District in Illinois. She also teaches at Northern Illinois University as an Adjunct for the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations.

What’s Trending: Most-Read Articles

Kathie-Jo Arnoff is Director of Publications at Kappa Delta Pi and Managing Editor of the KDP Record.

The RecordKappa Delta Pi publishes its two peer-reviewed journals with partner Routledge/Taylor & Francis, which publishes a total of 263 journals just about education. And, yet, among all the articles published last year, one from each of the KDP journals was in the Class of 2015—a list of the most-read journal articles. If you missed reading those popular pieces, you still can. They are available free of charge through the end of the year. Check them out:

If you’re a KDP member, you may be receiving the quarterly KDP Record as part of your membership. (Only undergrads receive the New Teacher Advocate instead during their first year in KDP.) The KDP Record promotes professional growth in the field of education by providing articles on evidence-based teaching strategies, reviews of current policy initiatives, examples of applied theories, and reports of original research in language that is accessible and practical.

The ForumThe Educational Forum is available by subscription. KDP members get a whopping 75% off the normal price, and that includes access to all 79 years of archived articles. The Forum provides thought-provoking, challenging essays, research reports, and featured works designed to stimulate dialogue in education on a worldwide scale.

Both journals are perfect for helping you keep up with the field, as well as for your research projects. Subscribe today and find out what you’ve been missing!

You’ve deconstructed the Common Core State Standards. Now what?

Dr. Vicky Tusken is a 26-year veteran of the classroom. She is Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for the Dekalb Community Unit School District, in DeKalb, Illinois, and serves as the Professional Representative on Executive Council for Kappa Delta Pi.

Vicky TuskenFor the past two or three years, states and school districts around the country have wrestled with the process of adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.  To make the process “simpler,” many have opted to begin with deconstructing or breaking down the standards into smaller pieces in order to develop learning targets and measurable objectives.  However, after that process is completed, many classroom teachers and district administrators are left asking the question, “now what?” The next steps are not always that clear.

From both a classroom teacher and district administrator’s perspective, I have found the following four steps extremely helpful in navigating the course from deconstruction to implementation.

Have a Road Map. This may seem a bit obvious to most, but it would surprise you to know how many teachers and school districts are moving forward with little vision as to how to move forward. In my own district, groups of teachers did a phenomenal job of deconstructing the standards and developing “I can” statements and templates from which future units could be developed. However, once the templates were completed, we had to face the “now what” questions. There were so many different directions we could take, and none of them guaranteed that the instructional practices and instructional shifts, the life blood of the Common Core, would be realized.  So as a district, we hit the pause button and developed a two-four game plan that describes steps towards the big picture vision. We all acknowledge the road map is not written in stone, but at least everyone has the same understanding in terms of direction, with the same big picture in mind.

Provide Teacher Collaboration Time…and Protect IT! It is well-documented how powerful instruction becomes when teachers are given time to collaborate. The rapid growth of professional learning communities (PLCs) and data-driven instruction speak to this fact. In our district, we have committed to seven early-release days throughout the school year for the sole purpose of teacher collaboration. At the beginning, the teacher groups were given structure from the district, however as the year has progressed, the teacher groups have caught the vision, becoming very focused and teacher-driven. From an administrator’s end, we keep the time sacred and do not force building and district initiatives into the mix.

Focus on one shift/practice at a time. So you have your learning targets, measurable objectives, and even materials aligned with the Common Core, but how do you actually change how you teach? As a grade level team or department, begin with committing to one, and only one, instructional shift or practice at a time. What does that look like? When working with the 8th grade English/Language Arts teachers this past fall, I had them identify which reading standard that appeared to be integrated in many of their reading assignments and recent novel unit. They agreed RL1, which focuses on citing and analyzing textual evidence, was pervasive throughout many of their instructional materials. As a group, they committed to utilizing and sharing a variety of strategies to help their students identify and analyze textual evidence, and creating common written responses and common rubrics to track their students’ progress. As they move into second semester, they plan to focus on close reading strategies to enhance reading comprehension.

KDP Global. I realize I should have put this first, but truly, we are each other’s best resource. All of us are struggling to find our way as we attempt to implement the common core with integrity. I especially encourage members to put out there resources that have been beneficial to their practices. We all know the market is flooded with materials, blogs, and webinars, all claiming to be the magic bullets of implementation. To wade through the mountain of offerings, many of which are not helpful, is daunting. I can’t encourage you all enough to post what IS working for you.

The common core here to stay. However with focus and collaboration, the steps from deconstruction to implementation can transform both teacher practice and student learning.

Brooklyn College Chapter Hosts Boro-wide Professional Conference

Francine Canin is a Reading Teacher at I.S. 238: The Susan B. Anthony Academy in Hollis, Queens. A former Chapter President and Literacy Alive Coordinator, Francine is currently serving as Membership Vice President at Brooklyn College.

On November 7, Eta Theta/Brooklyn College, along with the Brooklyn Reading Council, co-hosted the 34th annual Brooklyn Boro-wide Professional Conference. Educators, a day of workshops and professional networking. The event opened with remarks from Brooklyn College School of Education Dean April Bedford, whose message of “Bring the joy back to reading” resonated with educators.

Jason Leinwand explains the relationship between Stop-Motion Animation and Literacy to a group of educators at the conference while Dr. Tova Ackerman, Director of Puppetry in Practice at Brooklyn College

Jason Leinwand explains the relationship between Stop-Motion Animation and Literacy while Dr. Tova Ackerman, Director of Puppetry in Practice at Brooklyn College

Topics included Bullying, Reading in the Content Areas, Encouraging Creativity and Thinking Skills, Understanding the Data, Drama in Reading Instruction, Forging Relationships with Parents, an introduction to ELL topics, and more. Presenters included principals, teachers, and BC faculty members, several of whom are KDP members. Dr. Tova Ackerman and Jason Leinwand amazed teachers with their Stop-Motion Animation, a vehicle for activating literacy in children. The cartoon created by students using this technique was amazing!

I presented a workshop on Teaching the Reluctant Learner, where I shared some of the strategies I use to motivate and support students. I am hoping to bring this workshop to Convo 2015 in Orlando!

Dean April Bedford

Dean April Bedford

Author Stephanie Calmenson gave a presentation about her career path as Kindergarten teacher and children’s author. Scholastic, Inc. donated free copies of Ready, Set, Dogs! No Dogs Allowed, which Ms. Calmenson co-wrote with Joanna Cole. I particularly enjoyed seeing slides which were motivations for her writing. One was a photo of her first manuscript, or what was left of it after her dog ate it! Afterwards, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Stephanie Calmenson as she signed copies of Dinner at the Panda Palace. You can hear her read this delightful PBS StoryTIme book.

Chapter President Barbara Buchholz presents Chancellor Carmen Farina with a gift membership and gold clad pin.

Chapter President Barbara Buchholz with Chancellor Carmen Farina.

The highlight of the day was the keynote speech given by New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina, a dynamic educator who has not forgotten her own years in the classroom. Ms. Farina began by discussing Common Core, and emphasized that if the texts are not developmentally appropriate, then the students aren’t learning. “Literacy is joy” was a simple yet strong quote that reminded us that we need to find ways to not only meet the standards, but to teach students to love reading. Chancellor Farina supports picture books for all ages, students reading to each other, including older students reading to younger ones, independent reading to build fluency and stamina, and helping parents understand how to set the appropriate environment for doing homework. And who can argue with her philosophy on testing: More testing? No. More sensible testing? Yes! On behalf of Eta Theta Chapter, President Barbara Buchholz presented Chancellor Farina with a gift membership to Kappa Delta Pi.

Kudos to the dedicated professionals of Kappa Delta Pi – Eta Theta Chapter and the Brooklyn Reading Council who worked hard to make this event a huge success. Many thanks especially to our Chapter President, Barbara Buchholz and our Chapter Counselor and Conference Co-Chairperson, Sharon Kohn. Thanks also go to Dr. Victor Ramsey, Co-Chairperson of the Conference and Jennifer Hamilton-McKinnon, President of the Brooklyn Reading Council.

The Eta Theta Executive Board is poised to assist any other chapter needing advice or support in order to create a similar event.

It’s the first day of summer!

Sally Rushmore edits the New Teacher Advocate. She formerly taught secondary science and computer applications at a community college.

Summer cupcakesIt’s the first day of summer and what do you do?
Ride your bike to the farmer’s market,  
Fresh vegetables and fruit to get.
Then put on your suit and jump in the pool – yahoo!

It’s the first day of summer and what do you do?
Plant a fruit tree and water a flower,
Take a hike or use the lawn mower.
Don’t forget the sunscreen and a fun hat – whoo-hoo!

 It’s the first day of summer, so a party you’ll throw.
Check Pinterest for ideas you’ll love.
Have celebrations a cut above –  
The most fun food and games you’ll always know! You go!

 It’s the first day of summer, but the summer goes fast,
So create a plan to implement
Some professional development
Or at the end of summer you’ll be saying, “Alas!”

 It’s summer and you don’t want to spend all your day
Slaving at lesson plans, common core,
Or backwards design ʼtil your brain is sore.
Use your KDP membership so you don’t pay. 

It’s summer and everyone’s on the go –
Now you can get PD on an app
Listen to a webcast and you’ll clap
Because KDP has what you need to know. Whoa!

Since it’s summer and the days are so nice, you can
Download articles and webcasts,
Learn new strategies, get tips or facts.
The Resources Catalog will gain you as a fan! 

Yes, as my silly poem tells you, the summer goes fast and then you’ll be moaning, “But I was going to work on flipping my class for one unit this fall and I never even learned what it is, let alone how to do it!” If flipped learning is on your list, you can view the first webinar in the Resources Catalog under the Curriculum Ideas category. The second one (Flipping the ELA classroom) will be June 24 and the third on (Flipping the Elementary Classroom) will be July 8. Sign up for one of these or view them later in the Resources Catalog. (Allow 75 minutes to watch a webinar or webcast all the way through.)

Do all the crises in schools—tornadoes, shootings, students dying accidents—make you wonder what you can do? Go to the Students in Crisis category in the Resources Catalog and view the webcast “Disaster Primer for Educators” to see what you can do to be better prepared and “Supporting the Grieving Student” to help students cope with grief afterwards. These are also great to use with your Professional Learning Community or grade level teachers this fall. Follow up by reading “Responding to Grief in Students” and “Bibliotherapy: Helping Children Cope with Life’s Challenges.” Anti-bullying resources can be found in this same category—and watch for our new webinar on bullying in October.

Learn new ways to do Differentiated Instruction or get up to speed on Common Core. There are some terrific webcasts in the Common Core category, including “Using Data to Inform Instruction.” Articles vary in length and you can print them to take with you while sunbathing or waiting on children.

Are you a newer teacher seeking to add to your repertoire of strategies? Bravo! And you’re in luck. Check out the categories of Curriculum Ideas or New Teachers or Classroom Management.

And one more thing!

It’s the first day of summer and what do you know?
You feel rested and ready to go
But come school time your energy flow
Will feel like a balloon losing its air. Oh, no!

So this summer, while you have the time to do it
Learn about stress and health and pacing
In Wellness, so then you’ll be facing
A year of health and energy—you can do it!

The Common Core State Standards: What is Happening?

Sally Rushmore edits the New Teacher Advocate. She formerly taught secondary science and computer applications at a community college.

I live in Indiana, the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and then formally reverse that adoption. And Indiana is the first state to replace those standards with their own. However, they are not alone in reversing their thinking. The New York Assembly approved a measure that requires a two-year delay in using assessments aligned with the CCSS for teacher and principal evaluations. In fact, lawmakers in 15 states have introduced legislation to repeal the standards or replace them with state-specific standards, with Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma on their way to making major changes.

So what are the facts? What are the myths? What is really happening?

The idea behind common core is laudable and becoming increasingly necessary. The idea for common core standards did not come from the government in Washington, D.C., but came from a collaboration of those most important to running education in each state—the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). They simply wanted the increasingly mobile and global society to be able to move from state to state and have their children pick up where they left off with no huge repeats of what they had learned and no gaping holes in their knowledge that would later cause them to fail in coursework.

At the time, most states had some form of standards, but some states had very sketchy standards and some had very rigorous, detailed standards with very specific outcomes. The content for math in third grade in one state did not necessarily match the content for third grade math even in a neighboring state, so the child that moved across state lines could have gotten A’s in math in the first state and be frustrated and failing in the new state. The leaders of the states’ departments of education and the governors of the states were very excited to have a plan to make education more “normalized” among the states and did not intend for the Common Core State Standards to be viewed as a national curriculum.

Indiana was a state with rigorous and detailed state standards. Some groups in Indiana felt that these new standards were not as rigorous and had not been proven to help students be more successful in college or careers than what Indiana had been using. Textbooks have not been written or aligned with the CCSS. Teachers need many resources to teach in the ways described by the CCSS, so without reliable sources for resources and without ready-make units or textbooks (along with student books and auxiliary materials like CDs and DVDs), teachers are having to spend many, many hours preparing for each class. Two consortia are writing assessments to be used with CCSS, but they have not been used enough to know if they are assessing what is being taught.

In essence, those states taking another look at the CCSS are working to delay their full implementation of CCSS. In Indiana, for example, a group of educators and parents worked feverishly to write a new set of state standards (officially adopted April 28) which use Indiana’s former standards but add in the 21st century learning pieces—more emphasis on academic vocabulary, complex text, close reading, and informational text—and rearrange them to be taught in the same grade levels as the CCSS. Teachers can use the same resources and add new ones, or teachers can work with other teachers in their buildings who have been teaching the concept to build units and lessons. This allows time for teachers to prepare and students to learn to make the shifts in thinking that are necessary. It also gives time to re-think the assessments. And it allows teachers to figure out how to coordinate the increased emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), how to bring English Learners up to speed, and how to differentiate these standards so that all students are engaged and learning. It also gives the states time to provide funding for needed professional development and development of resources for teachers.

Common core opponents in Indiana reacted angrily, producing their own report and stating that the state’s effort was a farce since there are elements of common core included in the new standards. Because of No Child Left Behind and other high-stakes testing initiatives, such as Race to the Top, in recent years, teachers and parents are very skeptical of new initiatives and new assessments. It doesn’t help that the national government has offered financial incentives to states that adopt the CCSS and that it has provided $360 million to the two state consortia developing the assessments for CCSS.

Florida has taken a different tactic. They took suggestions from the public and added things like cursive handwriting and calculus to the CCSS. And they dropped out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two consortia developing assessments. Meanwhile, South Carolina withdrew from the other consortium, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

See which states belong to which consortium and also which states are in what stage of implementing the Common Core State Standards. Then, if you have not had the opportunity, take a look at the English Language Arts standards (which cover other “reading” subjects like science and social studies) or the Math standards.

Post your comments. We want to hear from teachers from every state! Are you using them? Will you be using them this fall? What do you think?