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Report: Rural Northeast Teachers Unprepared for Common Core

Rural teachers in the northeastern United States are not fully prepared to teach the new, common-core math standards, and they need more planning time, resources, and professional development, according to a recently released report.

Researchers from the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands at the federal Institute of Education Sciences interviewed and surveyed teachers and administrators from rural districts in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont for "Gearing Up to Teach the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in Rural Northeast Region Schools." The report found that while districts have offered resources and opportunities for professional development, efforts to support teachers have not been "specifically designed with the needs of rural educators in mind."

As a result, only about one-third of teachers in Maine, New York, and New Hampshire, and 20 percent of teachers in Vermont, reported feeling "well prepared" to roll out the new standards. Only 23 percent of teachers said that they have access to assessment resources to monitor student progress as they roll out the new standards. Only 20 percent of rural teachers surveyed said they had access to state-based professional development.

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The authors of the study noted that "insufficient time" was frequently mentioned as an obstacle in implementing the new standards. "State and district administrators indicated that teachers and curriculum coordinators need time to review the standards and to individually and collaboratively plan instruction that meets the new standards," the report said. "Administrators reported that other initiatives, including new science standards and state teacher-evaluation systems will likely further restrict teachers' time."

Nationwide, teachers report that despite trainings on common-core, they do not feel prepared to teach the standards. A survey administered last year found that that teachers feel especially unprepared to teach common-core to students from low-income families or students who are low-performing. 

In rural districts nationwide, implementing the new standards has been a challenge with few resources and tight budgets. In some rural districts, which often have fewer teachers to work on new units and lesson plans, schools have adopted resources from states like New York to ease the burden.  Rural districts have also struggled to upgrade technology and bandwidth for new online common-core assessments.

Nearly half of the teachers surveyed by the regional lab said that they need more time to discuss and plan lessons with colleagues, and also need access to quality resources and textbooks to better teach the new standards. The authors of the report recommended that rural administrators and educators develop a system to evaluate common-core resources, and suggested that districts offer professional development that moves beyond helping educators understand the standards, and instead helps educators teach the standards.

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