Public Dislikes Common Core Standards, Says New Gallup Poll
LA School Report | August 21, 2013
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The new Common Core State Standards, now being phased in by California and 44 other states, are getting low grades from the American public, according to the 45th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the longest-running survey of American attitudes on education.
“Americans’ mistrust of standardized tests and their lack of confidence and understanding around new education standards is one the most surprising developments we’ve found in years,” William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll, said in a press release announcing the poll results. “The 2013 poll shows deep confusion around the nation’s most significant education policies and poses serious communication challenges for education leaders.”
The poll is based on a national survey of 1,001 Americans 18 years and older, according to PDK International/Gallup.
The Common Core standards are a state-led effort to establish learning standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and math. They were designed to prepare more students for college and careers. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, they are being phased in through instruction on iPads and Common Core-specific content loaded onto them.
Despite the widespread adoption of new standards, nearly two-thirds of poll respondents, or 62 percent, said they had never heard of them. Of the 38 percent who said they had, many thought – incorrectly – that the federal government was forcing states to adopt them, the pollsters said.
Only 41 percent of those surveyed said they thought Common Core would make American schools more competitive globally – a key goal of the initiative. Yet nearly all respondents, 95 percent, said they want schools to teach critical thinking skills, another Common Core goal.
While the new standards will be accompanied by new student assessments, the public now says that increased testing is hurting American education more than helping. Only 22 percent of those polled said increased testing had helped the performance of their local schools, compared with 28 percent in 2007. This year, 36 percent of those questioned said the testing was hurting school performance; 41 percent said it had made no difference.
“Americans support certain key ideals or goals, but don’t understand the programs or initiatives being pursued to improve student achievement,” Bushaw said in the release. “Our local and national leaders must do a better job of explaining what they’re doing and why.”
In a finding sure to bolster positions of teacher unions, the poll found increasing public concern about using standardized testing for teacher evaluation. This year, 58 percent of the respondents said they oppose using standardized test results for teacher evaluations, compared with 47 percent last year.
More than half of respondents, 52 percent, said teachers should have the right to strike, up from 40 percent in 1980.
Respondents expressed greater interest in seeing performance reviews released publicly for doctors (76 percent) and police officers (70 percent) than they did for teachers (60 percent). More than six in 10 respondents, 63 percent, also opposed the idea of releasing information to the media on how the students of individual teachers perform on standardized tests.
The poll posed several questions on school security and even in the aftermath of recent school shootings, it found that 88 percent of parents feel their child is safe in school – the highest percentage ever on the PDK/Gallup poll.
In contrast, 66 percent say they feel their child is safe playing outside in their neighborhood. When asked to choose between more security guards or more mental health services to promote school safety, 59 percent of respondents said they prefer expanding mental health services while only 33 percent would opt for hiring more security guards.
The public also prefers using screening procedures in schools over armed guards. At the elementary school level, the poll found, 57 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that screening procedures similar to those used in government buildings should be implemented. The figure was 62 percent for middle and high schools.
The pollsters said some of the highest “strongly disagree” percentages of the survey came in response to questions about arming teachers and administrators. Nearly half, 47 percent, strongly opposed to arming elementary teachers and administrators and 43 percent opposed to arming middle and high school teachers and administrators. In both instances, adding in those who merely “disagree” created clear majorities in opposition.
Predictably, respondents broke along political lines when asked about free education for children of people who entered the country illegally. Of those identifying themselves as Democrats, 66 percent were in favor compared with 19 percent among self-identified Republicans.
Click here to see the entire poll.