Vanderbilt study: Support for Common Core on the decline among Tennessee teachers

Significantly fewer Tennessee teachers support the Common Core standards this year, possibly because of the lack of training and support they receive and concerns about the way it’s impacted their evaluations, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by the  Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development at Vanderbilt, compared survey responses about the standards from 2013 and 2014. The researchers sought not only to give a snapshot of teachers’ feelings about the standards, but also to offer explanations for the source of their feelings. About thirty percent of the state’s teachers –about 27,000  overall–replied to the survey both years.

The Common Core State Standards, which determine what Tennessee skills students learn in math and language arts, are poised to be at the center of the education debate during the legislative session that begins in January. In the media and among politicians, the debate around the standards has been centered on local control of education, and not on how the standards have played out in the classroom.

Teachers were asked several questions about the standards on both the 2013 and 2014 surveys, although the questions were somewhat differently worded. In 2013, the standards had not yet been fully implemented.

Here are some takeaways from the study:

  • The majority of teachers who responded to the survey oppose the implementation of the standards. An additional 13 percent of respondents do not oppose implementation of the standards, but would like implementation to be delayed.
  • Significantly fewer teachers agreed with the statement “teaching to the Common Core State Standards will improve student learning” in 2014 than in 2013. Sixty percent of teachers thought the standards would boost learning last year; this year, only 39 percent did. Researchers hypothesized that the drop in support was related to negative classroom experiences, as 2013-14 was the first year the standards were fully implemented. Their hypothesis was not supported, though. The first year of common core implementation for most teachers was 2013-14, but math teachers in grades 3-8 began teaching the standards in 2012-13. “This phase-in gives us an opportunity to see whether opposition to the CCSS is largely the result of negative classroom experiences—the ‘we’ve tried it and it doesn’t work’ hypothesis,” the authors of the studies wrote. They found math teachers in grades 3-8 were not more likely than other teachers to oppose implementation in 2014, and that in both 2013 and 2014, they were slightly more likely than teachers of other subjects to agree that teaching to the new standards would improve student learning.
  • Teachers unhappy with the state’s teacher evaluation overhaul, which resulted in student growth on test scores being a factor in a teacher’s score, were more likely to oppose the Common Core State Standards. The authors of the study say this might be because those teachers were concerned that the standards would negatively impact their evaluation scores. Teachers with the lowest scores on teacher evaluations actually opposed the new standards at lower rates.
  • Teachers dissatisfied with their jobs and careers were more likely to oppose the standards. But researchers noted that it was hard to tell if the teachers were dissatisfied with their jobs because of the standards, or vice versa.
  • The more hours of training a teacher had on the standards, the more likely he or she was to support them. Researchers noted that this might be attributed at least in part to the fact that teachers who oppose the standards might be less likely to engage in trainings.

You can find the complete study here. Do the findings reflect your experiences? How do you think they should influence state policy? Let us know in the comments.

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