In a piece posted at EducationNext recently, Tom Loveless asks whether the Common Core State Standards have had any influence on instruction in the schools.
Loveless examines test scores and studies which seem to show little change in instructional for good or bad since the standards were adopted, with the exception that there is more nonfiction reading material being used today than pre-CCSS.
I came to the same conclusion via a totally different type of evidence: keyword search terms.
In 2008, before CCSS was unleashed on American schools, I began a website aimed at teaching teachers of grades 8-14 how to teach nonfiction writing. I used keyword search data to determine what kinds of information teachers were looking for. The greater the number of searches for a term, the greater the likelihood that the associated concepts or skills were in high demand in classrooms. The high-demand keywords became pages on you-can-teach-writing.com.
Teachers who visited my site told me about their challenges.
The vast majority of visitors to my site were teachers with at least 10 years’ teaching experience. Few had had any instruction in how to teach writing before they entered the profession. Most said they still felt unprepared to teach writing.
Even English department heads confided that they didn’t know how to teach nonfiction writing to teens and adults and couldn’t help other faculty.
After having the site up five years, I took it down in 2013. (Google was changing its algorithm faster than I could update a fraction of my 400+ page site to comply with the standards of the week.)
This past September while doing keyword analysis for a client, just for kicks I redid the keyword search on teaching writing that I’d done in 2008.
Surprise: The key terms and the number of keyword searches for each term in September 2015 were almost identical to the key terms and search figures in January 2008.
I’ve taken enough professional development workshops to know those PD workshops rarely provide enough help that a teacher can go from to implementing a new practice in her classroom. The teacher usually has to do some more serious study on her own.
The lack of searches related to Common Core emphases such as summarizing, writing in content areas and writing arguments suggests to me that although there may be a great deal of professional development presentations being delivered to support the Common Core, teachers on their own are not attempting to update their skills.
Or, to put it another way, teachers are not taking control of their learning.
And if that isn’t happening, I’d say Common Core State Standards have had very little influence on instruction in the schools.