The new school year is underway and as teachers look to align their lessons with the Common Core, many find themselves struggling with the implementation. In most cases this is not due to a lack of expertise, but rather inadequate training and resources.
In September, the results of a recent poll conducted by the National Education Association (NEA) were published by U.S. News and World Report; they showed that a majority of the educators surveyed support the standards, but remain concerned about the lack of quality training available to help them implement them. Of those who reported participating in Common Core training, only 26% said it was helpful. Additionally, the study noted, less than a quarter of NEA members in high-poverty school districts said they felt their districts were well prepared to implement the standards.
In a new educational era when teacher evaluations are linked to student success on assessments, this lack of adequate training is troubling. Administrators, too, are under pressure, as they must take the lead in setting the course for Common Core implementation without having the proper time to consider the best methods or budget allocations.
As teachers work to make the standards part of their classroom environments, frustrations are mounting. And, sadly, with the troubled introduction of the Common Core in some districts, we are already receiving reports that some librarians are being directed to abandon library programs, and instead teach lessons from Common Core workbooks.
In addition, we are hearing complaints that some libraries are actually being shuttered so that schools can use the space to administer assessment tests, and even the subsequent grading of exams. One librarian laments that “there is no place for me in my school district with the Common Core, they only care about testing.”
Ironically, as libraries are closed due to testing and budget cuts, recent statistics from the Library Research Service show that students at schools with functioning, fully staffed libraries tend to have higher standardized test scores.
These problems are compounded in high-poverty districts, where socioeconomic factors affect learning, and where budget cuts lead to less staff, more work, and fewer training opportunities. The intent of the Common Core is to develop critical thinking, but in these districts, the rough rollout of the standards is hampering that development. Surely the adoption of the Common Core standards was not intended to close libraries and limit access to librarians, when research, increased reading, and use of media are referenced repeatedly throughout the standards?
Yet, as pressure on administrators and teachers increases, the inclination—especially in high-poverty districts—will be to shift resources to things that can be measured: in other words, the “test” to the exclusion of the Common Core’s true intent, which is critical thinking.
Not All Bad
On a more encouraging note, there are some librarians in high-poverty districts who are experiencing positive effects from the Common Core implementation, especially as more teachers ask for assistance with teaching research and lesson prep. This means conducting professional development sessions to demonstrate how to use citation tools and online databases for research assignments within various curriculum departments.
In addition, as teachers and administrators struggle to make Common Core–related shifts, more and more publishing companies are also asking how they can help educators implement the Common Core standards. So far, we can see that the solution will involve publishing accessible, high-quality pieces of literature and other materials for teachers that are not old basal readers or textbooks repackaged as Common Core compliant.
Educators need professional books to help them learn, and quality resources to guide them as they teach. They need easily attainable excerpts from stellar nonfiction texts to be paired with innovative lesson plans created and vetted by experts.
With Common Core, gone are the days of books that simply list “10 quick facts” on a subject. Teachers today need materials that go in-depth and examine all aspects of informational texts. Of course, in order to make these specialized resources available, a host of copyright issues will need to be navigated.
Roy Kaufman, the managing director of new ventures at the Copyright Clearance Center, recently reported that “educators and assessment developers will require copyrighted material, particularly content accessible through digital tools and applications, more than ever before.” We agree.
As the implementation of the Common Core moves forward, we will continue to examine the state of training options and resources for educators. In the meantime, those looking to further their own understanding of the standards can check out our Common Core Toolkit online, which includes a wide range of links to resources to better understand the new standards.