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Who Likes the Core?

14,000 teachers raise their hands for the Common Core.

While politicians, experts, and parents squabble about the Common Core State Standards' impact and its effect on local rule, the people responsible for putting these plans into action have been mostly silent-until now. In a preview of the new Primary Sources poll, more than three in four teachers say the CCSS will have a positive impact on students' ability to think critically and use reasoning skills. And more than 7 in 10 teachers who teach major subjects are "enthusiastic" about implementing the new standards, according to the survey, which was conducted by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, Primary Sources: America's Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, includes answers from 20,000 PreK-12 teachers. Visit scholastic.com/primarysources to sign up to receive the full report.

"As a former classroom teacher, I know how important it is to listen when teachers tell us what they need," says Vicki Phillips, an education director at the Gates Foundation. "The Primary Sources data show us that teachers are enthusiastic about tackling the real challenges of implementing the standards. They need support, but they also believe the standards will improve student achievement by preparing students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers."

"At Scholastic, we see how Amer­ica's students and teachers are ready and willing in their ability to adapt to and surpass the challenges presented to them," says Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education. "As we raise the bar for learning with the Common Core State Standards, we need to ensure that we are providing our educators with the quality resources, training, and time needed to help students of all ranges of ability to achieve."

"I see teachers' real experiences in the Primary Sources findings," says Naima Lilly, a math educator in New York City. "I believe the standards are holding students and teachers to higher expectations and providing consistency in a positive way. While implementation can be daunting, I'm confident that in the long run it will all be worth it."

Meeting Melinda

Common Core backer Melinda Gates has been talking with teachers across the country about their frustrations, and satisfaction, as they implement the new Core standards.

Gates knows that transitioning to the Common Core State Standards is difficult work for teachers, administrators, and students. And she knows that making this switch is exactly what needs to be done to improve schools across the United States.

On a whirlwind two-day trip to schools in New York and Connecticut in October, Gates got to see and hear firsthand how the work was going. It's "fundamental" to talk with teachers, she says, "because then you really hear not only their opinion but also what's working and not working. What they say is it's difficult in implementation, and they need to learn how to teach it, to learn from other teachers." But when the implementation goes well, "they're seeing learning gains from their students."

Gates recognizes that 35 percent of the teachers in the Primary Sources survey said they were hesitant to embrace the Common Core. "They're reluctant for good reasons," she says. "Either their school has been doing it too fast or they haven't gotten the professional development tools they need." She advises these teachers to "be patient and work through that anxiety," and in six months they'll see the progress they seek.

She summed up teachers' feelings by recounting what a veteran teacher told her last year in Denver: "Even though I'm considered a master teacher, I have to rethink the way I'm teaching The Scarlet Letter. That's a good thing." 

 

 —Late Fall 2013—

 

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