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No Time to Waste: CEA Urges Action to Address Botched CCSS Rollout

Saying time is of the essence, CEA today urged the new Connecticut Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Working Group* to convene immediately with teachers playing a central role in addressing the botched implementation of the CCSS in Connecticut classrooms.

“Our students can’t afford to wait. There’s no redo for them when precious teaching and learning time is lost to problems connected with CCSS implementation,” said CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg.

At a news conference today in Hartford, Waxenberg shared with reporters CEA’s specific recommendations about the group’s charge.

Those recommendations to the working group include:

  • assure the examination of standards is done collaboratively;
  • place teachers at the center of efforts to develop aligned curriculum, assessments, and professional development that are relevant to their students and local communities;
  • engage educators actively in examining new tests and the process for improving them; and
  • acknowledge that testing should be only one way to inform effective teaching and learning.

Waxenberg said the composition of the working group should include representatives from each of the following: teachers, parents, administrators, superintendents, and local school board members.

The current situation in public school classrooms demands urgency, and CEA has evidence to prove it, according to Waxenberg. “We have surveyed and talked directly to Connecticut teachers across the state and they have given us clear feedback on what’s needed.”

According to the new survey released today, more than half (55 percent) of all CEA members give their schools and districts failing grades on implementation (a score of 5 or lower on a 10-point scale).

Waxenberg continued, “With nearly 1,500 teachers participating in our survey, it provides policymakers with what they never had before—specificity from the frontlines of public education and teachers’ clear ideas about what is necessary for student success.”

According to Waxenberg, Connecticut teachers have very serious concerns about the ability of particularly young students to meet the standards. They also believe that CCSS siphon time and money for assessments that schools could use for other things, while limiting their ability to innovate in how they teach. Teachers added they felt that states rushed into CCSS implementation without field testing or time to review.

In the survey:

  • Teachers want to be consulted and involved in their school’s implementation plans.  However, two-thirds (65 percent) have not been given the opportunity to weigh in on their district’s plan to implement Common Core in their classrooms.
  • Strong majorities say they need more time to get it right for their students. Almost all (96 percent) believe implementation has been rushed; just a third have been given time to properly prepare the new curriculum; 80 percent say they and their students need more time for training and learning.
  • Schools are ill-equipped and under-resourced to implement. Just 16 percent of teachers say they have the materials and textbooks students need to learn the Common Core, and less than a quarter have the technology required to administer the computer-based assessments to their students.
  • Teachers are concerned about assessments, exacerbated by CCSS.  More than two-thirds (68 percent) say there is too much testing, and 62 percent worry that CCSS will exacerbate this.  Almost all say schools should prioritize learning over testing, and 97 percent want a moratorium on accountability provisions tied to the Smarter Balanced test.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “This survey should be a wake-up call for anyone who tries to sugarcoat the reality in our classrooms. For students to reap the benefits of Common Core and for it to be successful in Connecticut, policymakers must listen to feedback from teachers about what is going well and not well; give teachers the time to plan, train, and collaborate; appropriately equip classrooms; and give students more time to succeed at the new, more rigorous standards before they are tested.”

In the survey, teachers were clear about what it will take to get education reform right for kids:

  1. The opportunity for teachers to be involved in their schools’ planning for Common Core, as well as the chance to give feedback in order to improve implementation.
  2. More time for teachers to plan and practice good lessons, receive high-quality training, and observe and collaborate with colleagues.
  3. More time for students to learn and succeed at more rigorous standards.
  4. More financial resources to make sure classrooms are equipped with the required technology and that students have access to updated Common Core-aligned textbooks.
  5. A moratorium on accountability provisions tied to the Smarter Balanced test so that students and teachers can have time to prepare.

While a majority of members support the central goal of CCSS, very few do so without having serious concerns and reservations. Mishandled CCSS implementation has eroded confidence in the ability of the education system to get this right, resulting in 56 percent of CEA members supporting the Common Core but with reservations.

Waxenberg explained, “Teachers always have and will continue to support high standards, but the enormity of the botched CCSS rollout has caused wide-spread frustration. Teachers are demanding that Connecticut get this right. That’s why—this time around—teachers need to be at the center, not the distant periphery, of standard setting and implementation.”

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research during February 4-20, 2014. The margin of error on the survey data is +/2.57 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The CEA research was done in conjunction with nationwide research by the National Education Association.

* On January 28, 2014, top policymakers announced, in the next two weeks, they would establish a Common Core State Standards working group that will include teachers and other educators from across the state to make recommendations on Common Core implementation. The policymakers included Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Senate President Donald Williams, and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey.

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