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Poll: CA voters confused, easily manipulated over Common Core

Craig Clough | September 8, 2015

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With tomorrow’s expected release of the California’s Common Core-aligned standardized tests, which 3.2 million students took in the spring, a new poll shows the majority of the state’s voters know little or nothing about the new standards, and their views depend heavily on the way questions are posed.

The test results from California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress are monumental for anyone involved with the state’s education system. As the first statewide test results to be released since 2013, they are the first to be taken almost entirely online and the first to be aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. They will eventually be used to craft a statewide accountability system for schools and districts,

Yet for all that, voters remain confused about them, according to a new PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Nearly 6 in 10 voters (59 percent) said they knew “a little” or “nothing” about the Common Core state standards, compared with 41 percent of voters who said they knew “some” or “a lot” about them.
  • When asked simply to what extent they approve or disapprove of the Common Core, 26 percent of California voters said they approve, while 31 percent said they disapprove and 17 percent had no opinion. Opposition among parents was higher: 38 percent said they disapprove of Common Core, while 31 percent said they approve and 16 percent had no opinion.
  • When the poll asked voters whether they support or oppose “having the teachers in your community use the Common Core State Standards to guide what they teach,” as the recent PDK/Gallup Poll posed the question, the percentage who support Common Core fell to 24 percent. The percentage that opposed the new standards also fell, to 27 percent.
  • When the question presented more information about the Common Core, however, support for the new standards was much higher. Support for the new standards rose to 52 percent.

“Even after four years of implementation and a great deal of political controversy, most Californians simply don’t know or don’t care much about Common Core,” Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of education at the USC Rossier School and an expert on Common Core standards, said in a statement. “Their views depend to a surprising extent on the questions they are asked about the new standards.”

The results get more stupefying as voters who claim to have more knowledge of Common Core are often considerably more likely to hold misconceptions about the standards.

For instance, according the poll, “52 percent of voters who report knowing a lot about the standards think Common Core applies in subjects other than math and English, and 57 percent believe Common Core requires more testing, both of which are incorrect.”

Respondents also knew little of where the Common Core standards came from. Nineteen percent thought they were devised by the Obama Administration (wrong), and 56 percent did not know. More than a quarter of respondents, 26 percent, believed the federal government requires California to adopt the standards, which is not true, and 54 percent said they did not know.

The poll also found voters were greatly misinformed about how long students spend taking the tests and that Republicans and Democrats have different misconceptions about Common Core.

“There remains a great deal of misinformation about the standards, and this is almost certainly driving some portion of the opposition here in California,” Polikoff said.

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