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WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Public Support Slips for “Common Core” While Support for Common Standards Remains Strong, According to New Education Poll

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“You can slap an unflattering name on apple pie and some people are going to say that they don’t like it, even if what’s in the pan hasn’t changed,” writes Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, in reaction to the poll.

Public support for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is declining, according to results released last month from the 2014 Education Next poll. At the same time, however, the poll revealed that the declining support is more attributable to the name of the reform effort (Common Core) than the idea behind it of a state-developed set of common academic standards that describe what students need to know and be able to do in English and math to graduate from high school ready for college and a career.

When asked their opinion on the use of the CCSS in their states, 54 percent of the public express support—down from 65 percent last year. Among teachers, support fell even more drastically, from 76 percent in 2013 to 46 percent this year. However, a new question in this year’s poll strips out the word “Common Core” and asks respondents whether they support “standards for reading and math that are the same across states.” In response to that question, 68 percent say yes.

“You can slap an unflattering name on apple pie and some people are going to say that they don’t like it, even if what’s in the pan hasn’t changed,” writes Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, in reaction to the poll.

Notably, support among African Americans for the CCSS remains steadfast and actually increased from 62 percent in 2013 to 69 percent in 2014. Additionally, even though fewer teachers express support for the CCSS, nearly three-quarters of teachers (73 percent) continue to believe that the CCSS set higher expectations for student performance than the standards most states used before the CCSS were introduced.

The Education Next poll also makes clear that a majority of the American public (57 percent) still have not heard of the CCSS, and of those who have, many are misinformed about what they represents. For example, 51 percent of the public mistakenly believe that the federal government requires all states to use the CCSS even though several states, including Texas and Virginia, never adopted them.

“Today, the words ‘Common Core’ have become a punching bag for much that’s wrong in education and, in some instances, society as a whole,” writes Wise. “Given the hugely negative—and often misleading or downright incorrect—statements that appear about the Common Core in the media daily, it’s no surprise to see support for ‘Common Core’ slipping.”

Indeed, the influence of the media on the CCSS debate is evident in results from the forty-sixth annual “PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools” that were also released last month. In that poll, nearly half of all respondents say they first heard about the CCSS from “television, newspapers, and the radio.” Only 17 percent first heard about the CCSS from teachers or other education professionals while school communications were the first source for 9 percent. That means that only 26 percent of the public first heard about the standards from the people who know them best and are working to implement them in their classrooms.

“In spite of what national polls say, there are teachers, principals, district leaders, and others who are actively implementing and teaching to the Common Core State Standards in more than thirty-five states nationwide,” Wise writes. “We never hear about how smoothly the transition to the Common Core is going in those states. Instead, we’re constantly bombarded by the media and opponents on Twitter about the handful of states that have withdrawn from the Common Core. That’s why I prefer to think of the Common Core glass as thirty-five to forty states full rather than three to four empty.”

More information on the 2014 Education Next poll is available at http://educationnext.org/files/2014ednextpoll.pdf.

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Polling

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