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Research Questions

  1. What percentages of teachers reported supporting their state standards and aligned assessments?
  2. What factors were related to teachers' support for their state standards and assessments?
  3. Have teachers' concerns about their state assessment changed over time?

Amid questions about the future of state standards and assessments, this report provides a critical perspective for district and state policymakers to consider: U.S. teachers' perceptions of and support for current standards and assessment. Our nationally representative data suggest that nearly all U.S. mathematics and English language arts teachers support use of state standards in instruction. However, the majority of teachers do not support use of current state tests to measure mastery of standards. This report explores key factors that may be related to teachers' support — or lack of support — for their current standards and assessments. Among the concerns voiced by majorities of teachers are the difficulty of current state standards and tests and their appropriateness for students with special learning needs. These findings are drawn from a February 2016 survey of the American Teacher Panel, a nationally representative sample of K–12 teachers across the United States. The findings presented in this report have implications for how states and districts can support implementation of state standards and assessments to ensure that U.S. students have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Key Findings

Teacher Support for State Standards and Assessments

  • Nearly all teachers supported use of state standards for instruction, while only a little more than one-third supported use of current statewide tests to measure student mastery of standards.
  • Secondary teachers and those with more low-income students were more likely to support the state English language arts (ELA) and mathematics standards.
  • Some of the same subgroups of teachers who were more supportive of state standards — including secondary teachers and teachers who did not think their standards were Common Core — were also more supportive of using statewide assessments to measure mastery of standards.

Factors Related to Teacher Support for State Standards and Assessments

  • Most teachers felt that mathematics and ELA standards provided postsecondary preparation for students and supported alignment from grade to grade, although majorities felt standards excluded important concepts and were not appropriate for special needs students.
  • Those who did not support standards were less likely than supporters to think that their standards provide a manageable number of topics to teach in a year.
  • Those who did not support their state tests were two to three times as likely as supporters to be concerned about test difficulty and the accuracy of test scores for students with special learning needs.

Changes in Teacher Support for State Standards and Assessments over Time

  • There was no significant change in teachers' overall concerns about their state-mandated mathematics assessments from 2015 to 2016, although concerns about the state-mandated ELA assessments decreased significantly for teachers in several subgroups.

Recommendations

  • States should strive to ensure that state assessments are closely aligned with their standards, and communicate the linkages between standards and assessments — and the specific content of tests — as clearly as possible to teachers, schools, and families. Teachers may feel less frustration with accountability requirements if they know what to expect regarding their assessments and have clear evidence that their assessments are tied closely to the standards that they are expected to teach.
  • States and districts should reflect on how to address the challenge of test difficulty that teachers have identified in our survey, particularly with regard to students with special needs.
  • States could also consider how to develop their own instructional materials to support teachers' work to address standards.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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