Blog: The Educated Reporter

Opinions on the Common Core: Parents, Teachers and Administrators

A research group that surveyed the moods of teachers, parents and administrators on education topics related to the Common Core Assessments released its findings today.

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), together with Grunwald Associates, hosted a gathering on Capitol Hill highlighting results from the survey; key discoveries include parents’ preference for formative assessments over summative assessments (84 percent to 44 percent, based on selections of “extremely” or “very” useful) and the belief of 73 percent of educators that too much money is being spent on testing.

The survey, which queried a demographically representative sample of over 1000 parents and teachers each along  with 200 district administrators, also pointed to many shared interests by all three groups: understanding individual student learning, progress and growth over time, and providing extra support to students who need it were top priorities for teachers, parents and district officials.

There was some disagreement, too. Administrators were more likely than teachers to feel new common core assessments will matter to their work. Parents and teachers (40 percent and 50 percent, respectively) believed teachers should be making the majority of decisions on what students should be learning; district administrators agreed 20 percent of the time. In fact, 34 percent of district officials felt they should be making the biggest calls in child learning; 17 percent of parents and teachers believed that to be true.

No group gave much credence to the federal government: Parents valued Washington the highest at just 9 percent.

Peter Grunwald, who helped lead the 20-minute long surveys, told a pool of education stakeholders and advocates the level of thoughtfulness exhibited by parents was most striking to him.

Matt Chapman, president and CEO of NWEA, a non-profit group that stresses accurate data to shape education policy decisions, alluded to the era of No Child Left Behind leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth on the assessment front: “assessments [have been] used for punishment, not information” for too long, he said.

The survey results paint a complicated picture on that front, however. 36 percent of parents felt teachers spend too much time teaching to the test, while 58 percent of teachers felt the same way. There was disagreement on time spent preparing for and taking assessments: Moms and dads feel it’s being overdone 23 percent of time while 59 percent of teachers agreed with that sentiment.

Since some of the data indicate a disconnect between teacher and parental expectations and the role of testing, the issue of communication between two groups was raised. Kristin Vega, a reading and special education middle school teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools, said the prevalence of technology is a boon and a distraction. “The technology and the email gets away from the personal,” she said, especially when parents possess limited English skills. Her school system has a translator line she can access when calling parents who could benefit from the service.

The NWEA survey also evaluated all three groups on curriculum preferences based on which subjects should be assessed. After ELA and math, science was the third most valued subject among parents (86 percent), teachers (83 percent), and district officials (92 percent). The biggest gap in subject priority appeared between teachers and parents on the Arts: 60 percent of teachers felt art classes should be assessed versus 48 percent among parents.