Report: Has Common Core Changed What Teachers Know and Do?

How has Common Core changed what teachers know and do? The Rand Corporation released a report that examined data from surveys of the American Teacher Panel in 2015, 2016, and 2017 to see if there was a change in the use of instructional materials and knowledge of state standards and standards-aligned practices.

Some of their key findings are interesting:

  • While teachers’ use of published textbooks changed very little, their use of standards-aligned and content-focused online materials appeared to rise.
  • ELA teachers were less likely to regard the use of complex, grade-level texts as aligned with their standards in 2017 than in 2016, although most aspects of teachers’ knowledge about their standards did not change.
  • Mathematics teachers of low-vulnerability students reported that their students engaged less in some standards-aligned student practices in 2017 than in 2016, whereas the authors did not observe any changes in reports of teachers serving more vulnerable students; mathematics teachers’ overall reports of practice did not appear to change.
  • ELA teachers reported that their students engaged less in several standards-aligned practices in 2017 than in 2016.

It’s no surprise that teachers have gone online more for resources and curriculum as we’ve seen that trend over the years.

Less engagement? I wonder why? 

They note the lack of change in student achievement, and, of course, make excuses for it. Here’s an example:

A second reason why the Common Core may not yet be driving student achievement gains is that it may be far too early to measure change. While the Common Core and similar state standards were adopted in some states in 2011–2012, those standards were not implemented in other states until 2014– 2015, including in California, the most-populous U.S. state. Furthermore, even if state standards that aligned with the Common Core were supposed to be “fully implemented” by 2014–2015 in most states, other aspects of the education system also need to change for student achievement and learning to rise. At least some leaders and teachers will have to make changes to how they view and evaluate good instruction in order to be more aligned with what the standards demand. Such change is not about making simple fixes, and it depends on educators’ knowledge about content, standards, and pedagogy, as well as their willingness to do things differently, even if they have been teaching the same way for decades. In addition, to make the major instructional shifts required by the Common Core, teachers need access to such resources as high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials to guide and support their teaching (Steiner, 2017). Textbook publishers have been very slow to make the changes demanded by new standards, and districts have been slow to adopt those materials (Herold and Molnar, 2014; Heitin, 2015; Polikoff, 2015), which likely has had repercussions on forward progress of standards-based reforms.

This is nonsense of course because at the very least we should see some changes with 4th graders, but that is not the case.

They highlight where teachers are going for online resources:

More than one-half of all mathematics and ELA teachers reported using, and between one-third and one-half of mathematics and ELA teachers indicated using


They note they have seen no clear changes in teachers’ knowledge and a decrease in ELA knowledge.

Given that the Common Core and similar standards are being implemented in most states across the United States, one might expect to see changes in teachers’ knowledge. However, we saw
no clear changes in teachers’ knowledge about their mathematics standards when comparing teachers’ survey responses in 2016 and 2017. For ELA, we found a decrease in teachers’ perceptions that “assigning complex texts that all students in a class are required to read” was aligned with their state standards, despite the fact that the use of complex texts is emphasized in most state standards. 

What’s really going on here? Is it that teachers don’t know or are they rejecting aspects to the standards? 

I doubt we’ll get a straight answer.

Download and read the report here.

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