Common Core: How Much Do People Know About Its Real Impact?

Earlier this week, my colleagues and I reported, as part of the 2015 Education Next survey of public opinion, that the level of support for the Common Core had slipped over the past two years from about two thirds to about half of the public. Yet opponents still number only about a third of the public, with the rest offering no opinion one way or the other.

Are these opinions about the Common Core driven by the public debate broadcast in the media, or are they rooted in direct knowledge about what is happening in their own school district? More specifically, do those who know that Common Core is being implemented within their school district think it is having a positive impact on their schools?

We tried to get the answer to that question by first asking the following:

As far as you know are the Common Core standards being implemented in your district?

If the respondent said yes, we then asked a second question:

Has implementation of the Common Core standards in your district had a generally positive impact on schools or do you think it has had a generally negative impact?

We then looked at the answers to these questions separately for those living in the 43 states that had adopted the Common Core (according to its website) and for those living in the 7 states that had not adopted the Common Core.

To the first question, only 44% of respondents living in the 43 Common Core states said “yes.” That was a higher percentage than the 24% among those who lived in one of the 7 non-adopting states who also said “yes” but were clearly incorrect in saying so. Still, most people, no matter where they lived, simply didn’t know. Fifty percent of those in the states with Common Core said they were “unsure” and 56% in the non-Common Core states gave that same response. Teachers were more informed. Only 13% of those in the 43 Common Core states were “unsure,” and the rest of the teachers usually answered the question correctly. In the 43 Common Core states, 81% said it was being implemented in their district.

Focusing specifically on those who both lived in one of the 43 adopting states and who said it had been adopted in their community, we asked whether the implementation had a generally positive or negative impact on the schools. Twenty-nine percent said the effect was positive, but 51% said it had been negative.   Among teachers in these same states who said it was being implemented, the results were almost the same: 30% positive, 49% negative. That sounds like the word on the street is solidly against Common Core.

These responses, by teachers and citizens alike, could be just temporary negative responses to the difficulty of adjusting to a new system where some tests are being administered over a computer and, in many states, being used for the purpose of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness.

It is also possible that the reaction is driven more by media coverage than local experience. In those 7 states that had no Common Core at all, 48% of the public said Common Core had a negative effect on their schools, while only 36% perceived a positive impact. Those answers are bogus, because Common Core could not have had any effect at all in these non-adopting states.

Still, one must take note of the fact that in 2013 Common Core was opposed by only 12% of all teachers, but by 2015 that percentage had grown to half the teaching force.

Common Core still commands a majority among the population as a whole. And much of the opposition is coming from uninformed members of the public who are unsure of whether or not it is being implemented in their community. Still, the fact that teachers who say they are familiar with its implementation are decidedly in opposition has to be worrisome to those supporting the move to a common set of national standards.

– Paul E. Peterson

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