This past week, we watched teachers and principals from all across the state step up and take care of their students who could not get home due to the ice and snow. It was a shining example of what people can do when challenged AND supported.
Alabama teachers are also being asked to step up their instruction as they work to implement Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards. These standards were designed to set a high bar students have to meet in math and English so that when they graduate from high school they are prepared for real life and the next step, whether that’s going straight into a career or on to college.
“These rigorous standards focus on engaging students in ways that develop their critical thinking and problem- solving skills, while applying what they’ve learned to real-world situations,” said Elizabeth Hammonds, a middle-school math teacher in Mobile who began her career as an electrical engineer. “Coming from a technical profession, I appreciate the practicality of the standards and their emphasis on reasoning, research, and decision making as these are vital skills in all careers, especially those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs.”
There’s been some talk lately about whether teachers support Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards based on the Common Core State States. While there are some naysayers on any topic, the overwhelming number of teachers that A+ works with has embraced Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards, because of their quality. And, nationally, the sentiment is similar.
A recent story on Edutopia listed the recent polls of teachers nationally regarding the Common Core State Standards:
- A May 2013 American of Federation (AFT) poll of 800 teachers found that 75 percent support the Common Core
- A September 2013 National Education Association (NEA) poll of its members found that more than 75 percent support the standards either wholeheartedly or with some reservations [Ed. Note: While the NEA conducted this poll and found its teachers supportive, its Alabama affiliate, the Alabama Education Association, has not taken a position on the College and Career Ready Standards.]
- The 2013 Education Next Survey found that 76 percent of teachers strongly or somewhat support adoption of the Common Core
- The 2013 Primary Sources survey of 20,000 teachers conducted by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation found that 73 percent of teachers who teach math, English language arts (ELA), science and/or social studies in Common Core states agree they are enthusiastic about the implementation of the standards in their classrooms
In addition, a recent survey of principals conducted by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) found that of the 1,100 principals from 14 Common Core states who responded, more than 80 percent agree that the Common Core has the potential to improve conceptual understanding, increase student skill mastery and create more meaningful assessments of students.
The majority of superintendents, too, support the Common Core. A June 2013 Gallup/Education Week poll of superintendents showed that 58 percent say that the Common Core standards will improve the quality of education in their community, and 75 percent believe that having these standards will provide more consistency in the quality of education between school districts and states.
The Edutopia post also points out the need to support teachers in order to implement the standards. In Alabama, the State Department of Education and local districts have been working for the past three years to provide teachers with ongoing professional development as they improve their craft to teach the critical thinking skills called for in the College and Career Ready Standards. Our Alabama Best Practices Center, which facilitates networks of educators, has focused its efforts on helping administrators and teachers both understand and effectively use the standards. Grade-level teachers are working with colleagues across districts to create high-quality lessons. They are sharing strategies, successes, and challenges with each other.
As with any new initiative, the success or failure depends on how it is implemented. We are asking our teachers to work harder than ever before so that students can be well-prepared for the next grade or the next step in their lives. They need our support and our thanks. If you have not looked at Alabama’s new standards, you can access them here. Please take the time to scan them. You’ll see that the standards are solid and will encourage students to do their best. And, when you next see a teacher or principal, thank them for all they are doing – from keeping our children safe and to making sure they are well-prepared.