Support for Common Core Slips, But Majority of Public Still In Favor

Michael Henderson:, Louisiana State University
Paul E. Peterson:, (617) 495-8312/(617) 495-7976, Harvard University
Martin R. West:, (617) 285-9389, Harvard University
Ashley Inman:, (707) 332-1184, Education Next Communications Office

Support for Common Core Slips, But Majority of Public Still In Favor

2014 EdNext poll finds while the public, on average, gives 50% of teachers in their local schools an A or a B grade, 22% are given a D or an F

The eighth annual Education Next (EdNext) poll on public opinion about education policy has been released today. The 2014 poll surveys nationally representative samples of the U.S. adult population and of public school teachers.

Key Findings

• Support for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) dropped from 65% in 2013 to 53% in 2014, with support among Republicans falling from 57% to 43%.

• The public’s support for common standards is stronger when the words “Common Core” are not mentioned, with 68% in support.

• The public, on average, gives 50% of teachers an A or a B, but it gives a D or an F to 22% of them.

• One-quarter of those living with school-age children have educated at least one of their children in a setting other than a traditional public school.

• Support for increasing local school spending has not returned to its pre-recession level among those told current spending levels. As compared to 50% in 2008, only 43% favor spending increases in 2014.

• The same is true for teacher salaries. Among those told current salaries in their state, only 38% favor salary increases in 2014, compared to 54% in 2008.

• Only 35% of the public favors class-size reduction when told its cost relative to raising teacher salaries or purchasing more books and technologies, compared to 46% not informed of relative costs.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Opponents of CCSS seem to have gained ground over the past year. A majority (53%) remains favorable in 2014, considerably less than the 65% who were favorable in 2013. Meanwhile, opposition has doubled from 13% to 26%, with the remainder having no opinion.

• The debate has had a politically polarizing effect. In 2013, the CCSS was supported by majorities of both Republicans and Democrats, but since then, support among Republicans has fallen from 57% to 43%. Support among Democrats has remained nearly unchanged (64% in 2013 to 63% in 2014).

• Teachers, too, have changed their minds about CCSS. Just a year ago, 76% backed the Common Core, but the percentage in favor has now fallen to 46%, and opposition has tripled from 12% to 40%.

• The words “Common Core” elicit greater opposition than does the concept of common standards by itself. When the Common Core label is not mentioned, support for common standards jumps from 53% to 68% and becomes virtually the same among Democrats and Republicans. In other words, a broad consensus remains about national standards, despite the drop in support elicited by the words “Common Core.”

Teacher Policy.  What do Americans think about the quality of the teachers in their local public schools? What are their views on teacher tenure, merit pay, and teachers unions?

• Americans, on average, give half of the teachers in their local schools a grade of A or B, but they also think that 22% deserve a D or an F grade. Teachers, on average, give 13% of their colleagues one of these two low grades, though they find 69% worthy of an A or B.

• Pluralities favor major changes in teacher policy:

• 50% of the public opposes giving tenure to teachers, while just 32% favors the idea.

• 57% of the public supports basing teacher salaries in part “on how much their students learn,” while just 31% opposes performance pay.

• 41% say that teachers unions have a negative effect upon the local schools, and just 34% say that they have a positive effect, both numbers essentially unchanged from 2013.

• Teachers have become less critical of their unions. Some 59% now think unions have a positive effect on schools (as compared to 56% in 2013), while those saying the unions have a negative effect fell from 31% to 23%.

School Choice.  One-quarter (26%) of those living with school-age children have educated at least one of their children in a setting other than a traditional public school. While 87% have used a public school, 14% have used private schools, 9% have placed a child in a charter school, and 8% have home schooled a child.

Do Americans support the expansion of school choice?  The answer seems to depend on how the program is structured.  Support for various forms of choice is as follows:

• Tax credits to fund scholarships for low-income students:  60% favor, 26% oppose.

• Charter schools:  54% favor, 28% oppose.

• Vouchers for students attending failing schools:  51% favor, 35% oppose.

• Universal vouchers “to give families with children in public schools a wider choice”: 50% favor, 39% oppose.

• Vouchers “to pay the tuition of low-income students who choose to attend private schools”:  37% favor, 51% oppose.

Discussion of the design and administration of the poll, along with an interpretation of the key results, is available in “No Common Opinion on the Common Core: Also teacher grades, school choices, and other findings from the 2014 EdNext poll,” by Henderson, Peterson and West. Complete results of the 2014 EdNext poll are available on the Education Next website at All question responses do not add to 100% because some respondents did not express an opinion on some questions.

About the Authors

Michael B. Henderson is research director for the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University. Paul E. Peterson is director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Martin R. West is associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and deputy director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School.

About Education Next

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. For more information about Education Next, please visit:

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