Two years after city schools adopted new curriculum materials as part of their transition to the Common Core, a small-scale survey found that principals are happy with their choices.
Seventy-two percent of the principals said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their math curriculum, and 65 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their reading curriculum, according to a survey conducted by the Manhattan Institute.
The think tank, which supported the new standards’ introduction, reached out to all 1,100 elementary- and middle-school principals in the city but heard back from just 65.
Charles Sahm, the report’s author, acknowledged that schools with particularly good or bad experiences might have been more motivated to respond. But the schools that did respond included a fairly even distribution of those with high and low state test scores, and are located across all five boroughs, he said. And researchers with the institute heard a similar story during a focus group with principals, he said.
The takeaway, Sahm said, is that the Common Core materials are mostly working, despite ongoing criticism about the standards’ rollout and about the use of Common Core-aligned state test scores in evaluating teachers.
“Teachers and principals are upset about evaluations, about state tests, but actually, regarding the quality of the content and curriculum, our finding is they think it’s pretty good and a step up,” he said.
The initial rollout of Common Core materials in the city in fall 2013 was rocky at best, with some schools receiving materials piecemeal as they were being completed. The city had recommended a number of curriculums for elementary and middle schools in February 2013 and subsidized their cost, but didn’t require schools to buy or use them. Still, the city said in 2014 that 90 percent had purchased new materials.
Teachers have voiced plenty of concerns about the materials, though. Last year, many teachers described their curriculum materials as fundamentally flawed or told Chalkbeat that their increased complexity threatened to leave some students behind. (The city teachers union and the Manhattan Institute report agree that ReadyGen, which was developed by the publisher Pearson, was the most complained-about curriculum.)
Even so, Sahm suggests that results indicate that the city’s approach to encouraging the curriculum changes could be a national model. By leaving decisions up to principals, who faced more pressure but were not required to switch if their schools were low-performing, officials avoided the backlash that has accompanied other parts of the Common Core rollout.
Read the full report here: