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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Examining Attitudes Toward Standards Over Time

Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Virtual Room


The 2010s marked the announcement and steady decline in popularity of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (Cheng et al., 2018). In response to shifting political winds, state education agencies (SEAs) and school districts have had to adapt their own versions of these standards. Despite these changes, Texas and Ohio teachers, principals, and superintendents experienced strikingly similar policy environments in 2016 (Authors, 2018; Authors, 2019a). We examine the extent to which these attitudes have changed since 2016, and the implications for those seeking to implement and revise K-12 standards.

We surveyed teachers, principals, and superintendents during the 2015-2016 school year and during the 2018-2019 school year. To quantify policy environments, we use a policy attributes theory (Porter, 1994), which suggests that the specificity, consistency, authority, power, and stability of a policy all determine fidelity to implementation and relate to outcomes of interest. Our outcomes of interest are student proficiency on state tests and teachers’ coverage of standards-emphasized content, as well as the descriptive data explaining shifts over time. Prior work using only the 2016 data finds no significant relationships between student proficiency and principal attitudes towards standards after controlling for poverty (Authors, 2018, 2019b). We will soon be able to examine whether new relationships have emerged several years after state standards have been thoroughly implemented.

In addition to policy environments, we also examine whether the resources and challenges that these groups experience have significantly changed over time. All three groups report on similar wordings of these items. Taken together, the items comprising each attribute form multi-item composites with acceptable internal reliability (Authors, 2018). We perform t tests to determine significance from year-to-year, and we use survey jackknife resampling procedures within each state and each year of data to obtain averages with robust standard errors. We use weighted ordinary least squares regression to examine our outcomes of interest.

We found relative sameness of attitudes across states in our study, as well as teachers persistently experiencing significantly more accountability than principals and superintendents despite a rhetoric of “local control” (Authors, 2019c).

While we await the results of our 2018-2019 survey, we expect to find relatively few significant changes over time, as these two states have mostly stayed the course according to our review of their standards-based policies under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (Authors, 2019d). The results of this work will have implications for other states hoping to strengthen their own standards implementation and demonstrate whether attitudes towards standards continue to shift since the passage of ESSA, particularly as controversies over the CCSS fade into the background. Finding no change over time would speak to the ways in which national controversies continue to shape practitioner policy perceptions.

Authors 2018, 2019a, 2019b, 2019c, 2019d

Cheng, A., Henderson, M. B., Peterson, P. E., & West, M. R. (2018). Public support climbs for teacher pay, school expenditures, charter schools, and universal vouchers. Education Next, 19(1), 1-26.

Porter, A. C. (1994). National standards and school improvement in the 1990s: Issues and promise. American Journal of Education, 102(4), 421–449.