Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Three Education Polls Can Tell Us About Support For The Common Core

Lisa Coughanowr, a kindergarten teacher at East Side Elementary in Brazil, reads aloud to her students. She asks questions about the story to check their understanding.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Lisa Coughanowr, a kindergarten teacher at East Side Elementary in Brazil, reads aloud to her students. She asks questions about the story to check their understanding.

If you’ve heard of the Common Core State Standards, you’re in the minority.

The trio of education polls we wrote about last week show only 38 percent of Americans can identify the new, nationally-crafted academic standards adopted by 45 states, including Indiana (we know regular StateImpact readers are among that enlightened third).

Jay Kenworthy is spokesman for Stand For Children, a pro-Common Core advocacy group that’s been active in statehouse conversations about the Common Core.

“This was a national poll,” Kenworthy told WFIU’s Will Bray. “In Indiana, the polling has shown that Hoosiers are more aware generally than their national counterparts because it’s been such a hot-button topic.”

Before last week, the last reliable numbers we had on the Common Core came from a Bellwether Research poll commissioned by Howey Politics Indiana. Those numbers, out in April, showed a slight majority of Hoosiers favored staying the course with Common Core.

Proponents & Opponents Agree: Few People Know Core

The results of the Howey poll didn’t dissuade state lawmakers from agreeing to a thorough review of the new standards. So it’s unclear what, if any, impact the latest polls will have on statehouse conversations about the Common Core.

But the results come at a crucial juncture. The state hasn’t left the Common Core, but the vote this spring essentially “paused” rollout of the new academic standards in Indiana classrooms. It also put off the adoption of new standardized assessments — whatever test will replace the ISTEP+ — until the 2015-16 school year.

State education officials have until next summer to make a final decision, but the process is already underway. The legislative panel tasked with reviewing academic standards has already met once. They’ll meet again Sept. 10 to discuss the cost of implementing the Common Core and Oct. 1 to review options for new assessments. Their report goes next to the State Board of Education, which will make the final decision on Common Core.

Indianapolis parent Heather Crossin is co-founder of Hoosiers Against the Common Core, the group that’s led the statehouse charge opposing the standards. She says the latest poll numbers aren’t surprising.

“I think there was a gross lack of informing the public at the time these standards were adopted,” says Crossin. “There was very little publicity — perhaps by design — so the vast majority of Americans did not know they were being adopted.”

But it’s worth noting that in the weeks after the Common Core pause passed, supporters of the new standards said that lack of information hurt them during the statehouse debate.

“We probably didn’t do a very good job of educating the public about what was happening,” teacher Jennifer Lee told StateImpact in May.

Poll Shows How Socioeconomic Status Splits Support

According to the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, about 45 percent of parents with kids in public school had heard of the Common Core. That’s slightly more than the general public and tracks with numbers released last week by the Joyce Foundation, which showed 48 percent of parents felt they’d heard at least a moderate amount about the new standards.

The Joyce Foundation poll is possibly the most interesting of the three out last week. The poll focused on parents and indicates just under half — 47 percent — feel the Common Core will improve education outcomes for students. Here’s how support breaks down along socioeconomic lines:

  • Parents who make less than $50,000 a year were the least likely to say they knew a great deal about the standards — 18 percent. But 58 percent of parents in this group felt the Common Core would be an improvement.
  • Only about a quarter of parents who made between $50,000 and 100,000 had heard a lot about the Common Core. Forty-six percent thought the standards would improve educational outcomes.
  • Thirty-six percent of parents making more than $100,000 a year said they knew a great deal about the Common Core, making them among the most educated on the new standards. They were also the most likely to be skeptical of the new standards — only 39 percent felt the Common Core would be better.
  • More than 60 percent of black and Hispanic parents surveyed thought the Common Core would improve educational outcomes. Only 40 percent of white parents agreed. About a third of white parents said they think the new standards will have no effect whatsoever.

Another poll, this one from Education Next, estimates more than 60 percent of Americans support the Common Core, a number relatively unchanged from last year. But that number seems high given how little most adults seem to know about the new standards. The PDK/Gallup poll put the number of respondents who feel the Common Core will make U.S. students more competitive at 41 percent.

But it’s important to note that in addition to a lack of information about the Common Core, there’s also a lot of misinformation. More than a third of respondents to the PDK/Gallup poll indicated they agreed the federal government would require states to adopt the Common Core, which isn’t true.

Terry Spradlin researches education policy at Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

“Advocates and proponents for the Common Core standards really just need to do a better job of articulating why these standards are essential and needed and how they’ll be beneficial to students,” he says.


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