ACT Survey Findings Being Twisted by Common Core Opponents


Columnist Allyne Caan argues in the Patriot Post that the results from the latest ACT National Curriculum Survey are an indicator Common Core State Standards “are disconnected from the reality of college and career expectations.” Caan continues, “It’s little wonder states are rejecting the standards…The federal government doesn’t know what’s best for your child and clearly doesn’t understand what private employers value.”

Noting that large percentages of teachers report teaching material not aligned to the Common Core, Jennifer Kabbany writes in the College Fix, “Teachers are giving the feds the middle finger and doing what’s best for the children.”

However, those interpretations misconstrue the ACT data entirely, and miss the real takeaway: K-12 teachers continue to lack the professional development support to effectively teach to the Common Core.

According to the 2012 ACT survey, more than a quarter of teachers were unfamiliar with the Common Core State Standards. Of those who were familiar with them, two-thirds did not anticipate changing their instruction significantly, which, as the survey notes, was a good sign many were unaware of the changes necessary to help students with the higher standards.

The latest findings show many teachers are still struggling to make those adjustments. Eighty-five percent of elementary school teachers report teaching math topics not aligned to the Common Core, and nearly 40 percent of all K-12 teachers say they have changed their instruction only slightly, if at all.

That should be a clear sign to state leaders that they need to improve their supports to help educators acclimate and teach to these more rigorous learning goals. In a RAND study this spring, only 28 percent of math teachers and 31 percent of English language arts teachers thought professional development opportunities reflect their needs.

According to a 2014 Center for Education Policy report, only two-thirds of districts nationwide provided professional development training to 90 percent or more of their teachers. Another poll of urban Georgia schools found only two out of 10 teachers were very familiar with the Common Core, and one in four received no training on how to teach to the standards.

The latest ACT survey indicates many educators continue to hold a “relatively positive and realistic sense” of the Common Core’s ability to prepare students for college and careers. In a Harvard study this year, nearly three-quarters of teachers reported they have embraced the Common Core “quite a bit” or “fully,” and more than two-thirds of principals believe the standards will improve student learning.

Polling also indicates that parents and teachers strongly support rigorous, consistent education standards, regardless of what label is attached. But, “misunderstandings and misconceptions continue to color opinions about the [Common Core].”

Opponents are seeking to spin the ACT survey findings as fodder to compel state leaders to abandon implementation of the Common Core. But the real message indicates something much different: Officials should step up their support for teachers to unlock the full potential of the Common Core.