May 27, 2013

The Effect of the Common Core Standards on Teachers and the Teaching Profession

Karen R. Effrem, MD

President – Education Liberty Watch

Here are some quotes from teachers on the major problems with the use of and implementation of the Common Core standards and their accompanying high stakes tests:


Over-Emphasis on Testing/Teaching to the Test

 “Rather than creating lifelong learners, our new goal is to create good test takers”[i]

“…scripted cookie-cutter lessons aren’t interested in that; the idea is that they will help students learn enough to raise their standardized test scores. Yet study after study has shown that even intense test preparation does not significantly raise test scores, and often causes stress and boredom in students. Studies have also shown that after a period of time, test scores plateau, and it is useless, even counter-productive educationally, to try to raise test scores beyond that plateau. [ii]

Lack of Flexibility/ Stifling Creativity

 “This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education…”[iii]

 “Another problem we found relates to the pedagogical method used in the Gettysburg Address exemplar that the Common Core calls ‘cold reading.’  This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage. Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science. The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely ‘on individual experience and opinion,’ and answering them ‘will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.’”

Teacher Intimidation

“And I am speaking out because I am retired.  Those teachers in the school system are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out against Common Core and the policies of the District.”[iv]

“The PARCC and SBAC come next fall. I am frightened for the children – the onslaught of common core lock step scripted curriculum will step forward to embrace the PARCC and SBAC; the slow death of public education will speed forward quickly. The attempt to silence teachers next year will be greater, more intimidating and more punishing than we have ever seen…The teachers who understand what is happening – who know common core has not been field tested, is developmentally inappropriate and is the cash cow to seal the deal on the privatization of public schools and destruction of the teaching profession…”[v]


“People’s World, a media outlet of organized labor, has raised concerns about the role played in Common Core adoption by Stand for Children. Although the group began with children’s rights advocacy as its focus, it now pushes a corporate education agenda focused on union-busting, People’s World reports.  Stand for Children’s donors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, New Profit Inc. and the Walton Family Foundation.”[vi]

“When states and districts get the alignment right – moving from standards to curriculum to classrooms, to feedback and improvement—student success will follow. But until then, a moratorium on stakes is the only sensible course.” – Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, in speech calling for moratorium on CCSS implementation of high stakes consequences (4/30/13)[vii].


Problems with Professional Development

“Common Core’s ELA standards will entail drastic costs in order to change academic coursework, professional preparation programs, and professional development for prospective or current English teachers”.English teachers will need a significant amount of professional development to teach reading drawn from other subjects, something which even secondary reading teachers are not prepared to do, given their lack of background in content areas.  This is an enormous waste of time and money that will result in poorer reading and writing by students as well as a widening of the demographic gaps.”[viii]

“William McCallum of the University of Arizona, who co-wrote the Common Core math standards, says, ‘Implementation is everything…  Preparation of teachers…is crucial.’  But what McCallum deems as “crucial” is being treated as “optional” in too many systems and by too many policymakers – including the federal government, which is spending $350 million on new high-stakes tests aligned to the CCSS but nothing specifically targeted to prepare teachers.”[ix]

Data Collection on Teachers

The Data Quality Campaign for teacher data is currently tracking whether a state has a teacher of record definition; whether the state’s teacher-student data link can connect more than one educator to a particular student in a given course, the state has in place a process for teacher roster verification; and whether the state collects data linking teachers and students multiple times per year.  Florida said “yes” to all four questions.[x] This means that teachers are being held accountable for the tests results for individual students on standards they had little or no involvement in developing and must teach them regardless of their professional opinion on whether they are helpful for children and how they should be taught.

Perceived Harmful Effects on Early Childhood Teaching and Learning

More than 500 early childhood professionals opposed the Common Core by signing The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative.[xi]

[i] Stephen Round, resignation letter on video, 


[v] Teacher Implores Other Teachers (and Parents) to Oppose Common Core 

[vi] Andrea Neal – Left, right unite against Common Core – Indianapolis Star 3/19/13

[viii] Professor Sandra Stotsky – Invited Testimony on the Low Quality of the Common Core Standards to the Colorado State Board of Education 12/6/12

[ix] Weingarten, op.cit.

[x]  Analysis of State Promising Practices in Defining Teacher of Record and Linking Teachers & Students based on 2011 data

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