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UFT Survey: Common Core Instructional Supports

Educators get little help in preparing students for tough Common Core Learning Standards

Most teachers have received no Common Core curriculum and more than half have re Miller Photography

Most teachers have received no Common Core curriculum and more than half have received no professional development on how to teach to the new standards, a survey conducted by the union has found.

The UFT recently surveyed members about how prepared they feel to teach to the new standards. The responses came fast and furious, and the results showed that many members see the odds against them in helping students meet the standards this year.

Educators get help preparing students for Core Learning Standards - Chart 1 - crop

“Our survey offers a troubling portrait of a system on overload, with a workforce that fears for the educational well-being of students,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

The survey results show that many teachers are feeling ambushed. Teachers have not received a Common Core curriculum and more than half have received no professional development on how to teach to the new standards. Many said their students are not getting the preparation to make this leap.

“For more than two years the city has known this day was coming,” said Mulgrew. “But little was done and it’s starting to feel like the DOE has given up the fight to help our children learn.”

More than 7,300 teachers, representing every district in the city, and another 3,200 educators in other job titles filled out the surveys. Many reported that they lack the time, support and resources to meet the new demands.

Educators get help preparing students for Core Learning Standards - Chart 2 - crop

“We have 30 students in an ICT [integrated co-teaching] class,” a Bronx elementary teacher wrote. “We have such varied learning styles and levels that it is difficult to give the students the support they need. Having no curriculum to follow makes it incredibly difficult.”

More than 80 percent of the 500 new and untenured teachers who replied to the survey said their principals had instructed them to write Common Core curriculum themselves.

Veterans were equally concerned. Pamela Benning, a longtime math teacher at MS for Art and Philosophy in Brooklyn, said that while there is material available on the Department of Education website, a unit on ratios and proportional reasoning “wasn’t really a curriculum, it was a loose bunch of activities.”

She said other math topics posted on the DOE website had similar shortcomings. Meanwhile, ratios and proportional reasoning will be a major focus of this year’s test, Benning said, but teachers only learned this in August, after they’d prepared for a different curriculum. “I’m just left feeling not very confident about it,” she said.

Educators get help preparing students for Core Learning Standards - Chart 3 - crop

Nearly two-thirds of teachers said they were unsatisfied with the support they had to teach to the new Common Core standards, citing shortages of textbooks, reading materials, software and scientific calculators.

Science teacher James Maguire, who is a dean at Brooklyn Lab School, said there are not enough Common Core curriculum resources available. “The information is hit or miss,” he said. “I haven’t seen a Common Core textbook yet.”

Though Common Core assessments will be computer-based, “there is little access to working computers at school,” said English teacher Paula Ramos from Port Richmond HS on Staten Island.

At the same time, educators told the union that the Common Core initiative has increased the workloads at their schools “tremendously,” at a time when many other demands were placed on them.

Educators get help preparing students for Core Learning Standards - Chart 4 - crop

Lee Nelson, who teaches at PS 5 in Inwood, said the list of responsibilities and expectations that the DOE puts on teachers is “endless.” What is being lost, he said, is time for individual students.

“It is extremely difficult to give individualized differentiated instruction to a class of 32 students in this climate,” he wrote. “Teachers are overwhelmed with the everyday tasks ... and writing curriculum.”

Aside from academics, the UFT survey also asked educators where their schools fell short in ensuring that students have services available so that they are ready to learn. More than 40 percent of social workers, psychologists, teachers and guidance counselors said students lacked sufficient counseling services. More than 35 percent said there were not enough after-school programs, and more than 33 percent said students lacked necessary social services.

In addition, many of those who provide counseling, therapy and social services said their workloads were oversized. Sixty-eight percent of guidance counselors said their caseloads were so large they could not meet their responsibilities and reach all students. Seventy percent of speech teachers said the same.

Students with disabilities shortchanged

The survey asked two related questions about class sizes and the impact of the special education reform. Many teachers reported classes at the contractual maximum and said the large sizes made for a demanding teaching environment. But they also reported large influxes of special-needs students into their classes, often without an additional teacher or paraprofessional.

The DOE’s special education reform encourages schools to move students with Individualized Education Programs into general education classes or less-restrictive settings in their neighborhood school. As a result, many teachers and support staff said their students with IEPs are not getting all the services they require. The DOE has also retooled the special education funding formula to favor part-time services, which has resulted in educators being pressured to change student IEPs, whether or not this is in the best interest of the student. Fully 46 percent of both guidance counselors and teachers who responded to the survey said their students with disabilities were not getting all the services they needed. More than half of social workers and psychologists said they have been pressured to change IEPs.

Special education teacher Christine Wong at PS 1 in Chinatown said that given all the changes, class sizes at her school are too large. “The needs and services each child requires and benefits from are becoming greater and more demanding,” she wrote.

With the implementation of the Common Core on top of the special education reform, Wong said, “the working conditions for teachers have become so intense that teachers cannot possibly meet the social and educational needs of all these children.”

Educators get help preparing students for Core Learning Standards - Chart 5

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