By Glynis Kazanjian
Less than a quarter of Maryland teachers said they were "very familiar" with the Common Core State Standards when asked about it last fall, according to a survey conducted for the Maryland State Department of Education.
The new standards-based education curriculum was adopted by Maryland in 2010 and was supposed to be fully implemented by the 2013-2014 school year.
The survey found that roughly half of teachers, 55%, said they were "somewhat familiar" with Common Core, while 24% said they were not familiar with the standards at all.
State officials tried to put a positive spin on the results but were met with criticism and questions by state Board of Education members. The survey results were presented to board members at the monthly state board meeting on Tuesday, but local school districts had already received the survey results.
"This is a very good start," said state education department spokesman William Reinhard. "The CAIRE survey is baseline data, and it showed that 70-80 percent of our teachers were either very or somewhat familiar with the new standards. The researchers will follow up that survey with another this spring, and we expect those numbers to go up."
Survey reached thousands of teachers
Twenty-one of Maryland's 24 school districts participated in the Center for Application and Innovation Research in Education (CAIRE) survey. The electronic survey took place over a four-week period with 9,232 teachers, 582 principals and 295 superintendents and staff members, participating.
Similar responses were found when teachers were asked how prepared they felt to teach Common Core. Twenty-two percent, 22%, said they were "very prepared," while 63% said they were "somewhat prepared" and 15% said they were "not at all prepared."
Discrepancies between teacher preparedness questioned
When board members asked why some teachers felt very prepared while others didn't at all, Towson University College of Education Dean Raymond Lorion, who co-authored the report, said the answer falls on individual school districts.
Some of those districts did not introduce Common Core materials until right before they had to use them in the classrooms. Others introduced the materials well before the fall of 2013, and that accounts for the discrepancy, he said.
Henry Johnson, assistant state superintendent of schools, said he looked at the preparedness results very positively because it was the first year of implementation.
"In total 85% of the respondents indicated a general level of preparation," Johnson said. "Our goal is to help all of our teachers move beyond the basic level of preparation to a very prepared level for the 2014 school year."
Less than one-third of teachers said they had enough professional development
Only 29% of teachers said they received enough professional development support from their school and school districts to have Common Core fully implemented by the 2013-2014 school year. Half, 50%, said they had "some, but not all" the professional development they felt they needed.
Thirty-seven percent of principals said they had received enough professional development from their school districts to meet all the needs to implement Common Core; 56% said they had received "some" professional development, "but not all" that was needed.
"Shouldn't we be concerned about the disconnect," state board member Donna Hill Staton asked.
"Yes," Johnson said, but he also indicated that different school districts carried out state training opportunities different ways. Based on that, Johnson said he felt the aggregate survey responses are good.
"That's the disconnect," Hill Staton said.
State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery said that each district now has its own set of data to examine.
State sends out teams to help teachers
State education officials also said they have been sending out teams to individual school districts to get a closer look at what educators need on the local level. Fifteen out of 24 school districts have already been visited by state Common Core teams.
"We're doing observations within the schools," said Cecilia Roe, Maryland Department of Education director of instructional assessment and professional development. "We're meeting with the teachers we're observing and we're having open forums with any teacher in the county that wants to meet with us."
Roe said their purposes are twofold. The teams will try to find out what the teachers’ comfort level with Common Core is, and what support they need.
As of last fall, only 19% of principals surveyed thought Common Core was supposed to be fully implemented by the beginning of the school year. Twenty seven percent thought they had until the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Thirty two percent of principals didn't answer the question, 12% thought they had until some next year, and 10% didn't know.