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Topic: Most Americans Unaware of Common Core
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Most Americans Unaware of Common Core
Posted: Aug 21, 2013 3:50 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, Volume 33, Issue 2 See
Most Americans Unaware of Common Core, PDK/Gallup Poll Finds

By Lesli A. Maxwell

Nearly two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core
State Standards, and among those who have, fewer than half believe
the new, more rigorous academic goals in English/language arts and
mathematics adopted by all but four states so far will make the
United States more competitive in the world, according to a new poll
from Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup.

Sixty-two percent of respondents in PDK/Gallup's annual national
survey on public education hadn't heard of the common core.

And among public school parents, 55 percent didn't know anything
about the new academic standards, despite the fact that educators
have already begun putting them into practice in classrooms in the
vast majority of states and school districts and have been warning
that initial test scores will drop as a result. Of those who had
heard of the common core, many were confused by, or misunderstood the
standards and their genesis. At the same time, 95 percent of poll
respondents said they think schools should teach critical-thinking
skills, one of the main goals of the common standards.

The poll also found eroding support for standardized testing, with
fewer than 25 percent of respondents saying they believe increased
testing has helped to improve public schools. Connected to that is a
sharp, one-year decline among Americans who favor using student
scores on standardized tests as a measure of teachers' job
performance. In the 2012 poll, 52 percent of poll respondents said
they favored using test scores to evaluate teachers. This year,
support dropped to 41 percent.

Other poll findings also show that there is strong support for
charter schools, opposition to vouchers, broad confidence in the
safety of schools, and mixed opinions on hiring armed guards for

Turbulent Time

Those findings come at a particularly turbulent time in public
education as the new standards and the tests being designed to
measure how well students are mastering them have become the latest
focus of battles over the future direction of American public
schooling. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia are putting
the common standards into practice, and almost as many have signed on
for the common tests being developed to replace their old state
assessments. Nearly 40 states are also working on redesigning teacher
and principal evaluations to include student test scores.

"This underscores the real challenge we are likely going to see,
which is major pushback from the public and parents because they
don't fully understand what the standards are, and they are going to
be very upset about their kids' lower scores on the new tests," said
Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University who
favors the more rigorous academic demands in the common core. "This
is all made worse by very poor implementation."

Deborah A. Gist, the commissioner of education in Rhode Island, said
her biggest worry is the abundance of misinformation about the
standards, not that more parents haven't heard of them. Many of the
respondents in the poll who had heard of the common core
said-erroneously-that the federal government forced states to adopt
the standards, that they would cover all academic content areas, and
that they were an amalgamation of existing state standards.

"That's what we particularly need to address," Ms. Gist said. "There
is so much misinformation out there that it could be problematic for
us to carry this through. I think these results are a message to us
that we need to engage our families much more in this transition,"
she said.

Views on Testing

The PDK/Gallup poll, which is its 45th annual survey on public
attitudes toward public schools, was conducted by telephone in May.
The national survey of 1,001 respondents 18 and older has a margin of
error of 3.8 percent. (Education Week partners with Gallup on a
separate survey project, known as the Gallup-Education Week
Superintendent Panel.)

The findings on standardized testing-that fewer than one in four of
those responding believe that more student testing has led to better
public schools-stand in sharp contrast to the results in another
national poll published this week by the Associated Press and the
NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago.

In its question on testing, the PDK/Gallup poll told respondents that
there had been a significant increase in testing before asking them
to answer whether they thought more testing had helped, hurt, or made
no difference in the performance of public schools.

The AP survey-which polled parents and guardians with children in
grades K-12-posed a different question. In asking parents how
important it is for schools to regularly assess students, 74 percent
said it was either extremely or very important to use tests to gauge
both how their children are doing and how schools are measuring up.
In the same poll, 61 percent of parents said their own children are
given about the right number of standardized tests, while 26 percent
said their children are overtested. Sixty percent also said that
students' scores on state tests should be included in teacher

The PDK/Gallup survey, however, found that 58 percent of respondents
oppose requiring teacher evaluations to include student scores on
standardized tests. That's a reversal of public opinion from just
last year, when 47 percent of PDK/Gallup respondents opposed using
test scores in evaluations.

Terry Holliday, the commissioner of education in Kentucky, said that
the one-year change in the public's view is an important data point
to weigh.

"For Kentucky, where we have been slow and deliberate about how we
are doing our evaluations, this tells me that we need to be even more
cautious," he said.

William J. Bushaw, the executive director of Phi Delta Kappa
International, said the public and parents are likely being
influenced by the teachers and principals in their local schools, for
whom they have high regard.

"I think parents are listening to their children's teachers and are
hearing their concerns about these new evaluation systems that are
untested and deciding that maybe it's not fair," Mr. Bushaw said.

As has been the case for decades, confidence levels in teachers who
work in local schools is high. In the PDK/Gallup survey, 70 percent
of respondents said they have trust and confidence in the men and
women who teach in public schools, while 65 percent said the same of

Basket of Issues

Besides the common core, testing, and teacher and principal quality,
the survey delves into the public's views on school safety, charter
schools and vouchers, home schooling, education funding, and overall
school quality.

The vast majority of public school parents surveyed-88 percent-said
they do not worry about their child's physical safety at school.
Eighty percent said they are more concerned about the actions of
other students, rather than the threat of outside intruders in the
school. And 59 percent of respondents favor increasing mental-health
services as the better approach to promoting school safety; 33
percent of those polled said hiring more security officers would be
the most effective. When it comes to the need to hire armed security
guards, especially in elementary schools, those polled were split,
while the majority rejected the idea of providing teachers and
administrators with guns.

"I think parents have clearly identified that providing mental-health
services is the most productive way to promote safe schools," said
Otha Thornton, the president of the National PTA. "And while public
opinion is more mixed on arming guards in elementary schools, we at
National PTA believe the most effective day-to-day safe school
environment is one that is gun-free."

On school choice issues, respondents to the PDK poll continued to
hold charter schools in high regard, with 68 percent saying they
support charters and 67 percent reporting they would support the
opening of new charter schools in their communities. Fifty-two
percent also said that they think students receive a better education
at public charter schools than at traditional public schools.

There was also a sharp, one-year drop in support for using public
money to pay for private school expenses. Seventy percent said they
oppose allowing families to attend a private school at public
expense, compared with 55 percent last year.

Communications Challenge

The major takeaway from this year's survey, said Mr. Bushaw from PDK,
is that educators have their work cut out for them to mount an
effective communications campaign about the common-core standards.

"The best ambassadors to tell the public about what is happening with
the standards and the new assessments as well are teachers and
principals," he said. "But I think because some of these same people
have very real concerns about how the results will be used, that may
be causing them to hold back."

Sandra Boyd, the chief operating officer and senior vice president at
Achieve, the Washington nonprofit that coordinated the state-led
effort to write the common core, said she was not surprised by the
lack of familiarity with the standards. In 19 states, she said, they
are known by a name other than Common Core State Standards. She also
said she thinks the public awareness of the common core is higher
than its awareness of the academic standards states had been using
prior to switching to the common standards.

"I think 100 percent of the public didn't know what their previous
state standards were," she said. "What's most important for states
and local districts to communicate is that the expectations for
students have been raised and to explain to parents what that will
mean in terms of putting their child on a trajectory to make sure
they are ready for college and career."

In a third national poll also published this week, by the journal
Education Next, 65 percent of respondents said they support to some
degree states' adoption of the common standards, up slightly from the
previous year. But the survey of 1,138 adults in June by the polling
firm Knowledge Networks also found a near doubling of opposition to
the standards' adoption from last year, with 13 percent now saying
they were opposed. Education Next is published by the Hoover
Institution, at Stanford University, and has as additional sponsors
the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University
and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
[ ]
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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