Kentucky’s TELL Surveys and Common Core

The Kentucky Board of Education will meet on June 8, 2016, and their online agenda already includes a discussion item for the final report of the 2015 Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) survey of teachers.

According to the TELL Web site for Kentucky, the survey provides educators with data, tools and direct support to facilitate school improvement. The web site says stakeholder groups representing teachers, superintendents, community and business (known as the TELL Kentucky Partners) collaboratively work with the New Teacher Center (NTSC) to conduct the TELL survey.

Participation rates in the past two TELL Surveys (for 2013 and 2015) have been very high, so there is essentially no sampling error in the responses.

That could make TELL a great place to find out what teachers really think about the Common Core State Standards, which were renamed several years ago – without any changes being made to the actual standards – as Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

However, TELL never has asked Kentucky teachers important questions such as “what do you like/dislike about Common Core” and “do you have changes to recommend.” As such, while TELL remains useful, it also fails to survey some of the most important teacher opinions of all – namely, are these the best standards for Kentucky or do they need work?

Surprisingly, while TELL fails to ask the key questions mentioned above, it is not entirely silent about Common Core. In both 2013 and 2015, there were a few questions regarding the standards, and the teachers’ responses are interesting.

Table 1 shows how teachers responded to three Common Core questions in the 2013 survey.

Table 1 TELL 2013 on CCSS

Note that, despite some claims recently made about how teachers accepted Common Core, fully half of Kentucky’s teachers told TELL in 2013 that they needed more professional development (PD – basically, on the job training in Eduspeak) on how to teach the standards. Those comments came in about a year AFTER Kentucky already had started to test with its new, Common Core aligned Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (KPREP) tests.

Also note that more than one out of three Kentucky teachers reported getting fewer than 10 hours of PD on Common Core in the preceding two years.

So, teachers clearly said, in very large numbers, that they were not getting enough Common Core related PD.

Never the less, despite the inadequate preparation to teach them, virtually every school in Kentucky was using Common Core for curriculum development by 2013.

Flash forward to the new TELL findings from 2015, and Table 2 shows things have not improved, although the term now used for Common Core in Kentucky is “Kentucky Core Academic Standards,” a change of name only because Kentucky has not modified any of the Common Core State Standards to date.

Table 2 TELL 2015 on CCSS

Now, more than 60 percent of the state’s teachers are complaining that they have not received enough PD to teach Common Core/KY Core Academic Standards.

The percentage of teachers getting less than 10 hours of Common Core/KY Core Academic Standards PD in the past two years has also increased sharply. Now, nearly one in two of the state’s teachers say they are getting less than this amount of training.

Not surprisingly, since nothing in Kentucky’s working standards changed other than a name in the past two years, the vast majority of teachers report that Common Core/KY Core Academic Standards remain the driver in their school.

So, here is a closing thought. Even though the TELL does not tell us directly about teacher opinions of Common Core in Kentucky, how much real admiration are teachers likely to have for standards that, more than five years after adoption, remain so challenging to teach that an increasing proportion of those teachers say they need more help on how to teach the standards?

For sure, we have not heard many teachers in Kentucky publicly speak out against Common Core. Given the pressure to support the standards (further evidenced by the obvious lack of questions in this area in the TELL surveys), it seems clear that anecdotes I am hearing about teachers being afraid to speak out are probably true.

But, teacher frustration is mounting. One Kentucky teacher who is publicly speaking out against common core and high-stakes tests is Tiffany Dunn. She recently shared these thoughts with me:

“I think it’s RIDICULOUS to say these are higher standards – by whose measure?

Teachers should be the ones to determine what their students need. There’s NO evidence anywhere to prove standards improve achievement much less Common Core!”

Tiffany added:

“I have a friend who’s an elementary teacher with 25+ years’ experience and teaches at (a school in Louisville) and hates common core.”

Tiffany thought that teacher would be willing to talk to me, as well. If so, or if another teacher reading this blog wants to speak, I will eagerly listen. And, if those teachers are brave enough to go public, we’ll share that with BIPPS readers, too.


  1. Matt Bunch says:

    Kentucky needs to rescind its requirement to teach Common Core math to its children. The below link has the ten dumbest CC problems that will open your eyes. If the Board of Education would just read this short National Review article with an open mind (as opposed to listening to so-called experts that are trying to make a buck), they would be just as confused about simple addition and subtraction as our kids. Then they would vote to terminate this ridiculous requirement like several other states have done.