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June 22, 2016

Teachers optimistic about Common Core writing standards, but not tests

Teachers believe the Common Core standards in their states can improve how they teach writing, but they also find plenty of shortcomings with the standards – and with the associated state writing tests in particular.

A new national survey led by Michigan State University education scholar Gary Troia is the first study of teacher perceptions of the writing and language standards portion of Common Core, which has been formally adopted by 44 states and Washington, D.C. With responses from 482 teachers in grades 3 through 8, it’s also one of the largest surveys of teachers focused on writing practices and attitudes.

Surprisingly, a large proportion of teachers reported they are not even familiar with their state’s standards (nearly one in five) and with the tests (close to a third).

“This proves that a great deal of work needs to be accomplished by state and local education agencies to prepare educators for meaningfully and successfully applying these reforms in their classrooms,” said Troia, associate professor of special education.

Writing, Troia argues, deserves more attention from educators and policymakers.

“Writing performance across the nation is generally poor and writing is key to success in multiple areas of the curriculum, as well as postsecondary academic achievement and employment outcomes.”

Reporting in the journal Reading and Writing, Troia and Steve Graham of Arizona State University find that a majority of teachers believe the adopted writing standards:

  • Are more rigorous than prior standards
  • Provide clear expectations for students
  • Push them to teach writing more often.

On the other hand, teachers are concerned that the standards, and associated tests:

  • Take too much time
  • Omit key aspects of writing development and
  • Don’t accommodate the needs of all students.

Generally, teachers believe they have not received sufficient training to implement the standards.

Similarly, they do not feel prepared to understand or make good use of the assessments in their states.

The study was funded by a grant from the Institute for Research in Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at MSU.