Teachers optimistic about common core writing standards, not tests

June 22, 2016

writing-teachingTeachers believe the Common Core standards in their states can improve how they teach writing, according to research from Michigan State University. However, they also find plenty of shortcomings with the standards—and with the associated state writing tests in particular.

The new national survey, led by Gary Troia, is the first study of teacher perceptions of the writing and language standards portion of Common Core, which have been formally adopted by 44 states and Washington, D.C. With responses from 482 randomly selected 3rd– through 8th-grade teachers, it’s also one of the largest ever 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, an associate professor of special education who has also analyzed the Common Core writing standards and how they compare to previous state-level standards.

He argues writing 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.”

In their paper, published in the journal Reading and Writing, Troia and Steve Graham of Arizona State University report that a majority of teachers believe the adopted writing standards:

  • are more rigorous than prior standards,
  • provide clear expectations for students and
  • 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.

Responses varied based on teachers’ preparation and how they viewed their own ability to teach writing. Read the full article for more details.