Poll: Americans Skeptical of Common Core Standards

New Haven Register

May 8, 2014

A University of Connecticut poll found that only 39% of Americans have heard of Common Core State Standards, but those who are aware are generally skeptical of its ability to boost K-12 education.

Just 33% of the 1,007 voters polled believe adopting Common Core will increase the quality of education in their communities, compare to 27% who say it will have no effect and 30% who say it will be detrimental.

The controversial initiative adopted in 44 states was approved in 2010 by Connecticut's Board of Education. Some lawmakers in Connecticut sought a moratorium on implementing the new standards and corresponding testing, but the legislation died in committee after Republican lawmakers used a rare parliamentary rule to get a public hearing on the issue.

The nationwide poll by the University of Connecticut found that overall 38% believe Common Core is a good policy, compared to 44% who believe the opposite. Common Core is an education initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It seeks to establish consistent education standards so that test scores in one state and be compared to test scores in another state. The goal is to better prepare students for college and the workforce.

"In general, Democrats and liberals are more likely than anyone else to regard Common Core positively, while Republicans and conservatives are far more wary," UConn Poll Director Jennifer Necci Dineen said. "That suggests people are seeing this issue at least partly in partisan political terms, rather than evaluating the initiative on its own."

Fifty-four percent of Democrats, for example, say Common Core is good policy, compared to 30% of Republicans and 38% of Americans who've heard of the initiative. The distinction is even greater along ideological lines: 53% of liberals favor the policy, compared to 24% of conservatives.

The debate over Common Core has fueled some misconceptions about what the initiative actually means, according to Casey Cobb, head of the educational leadership department at UConn's Neag School of Education.

"Ironically, the perception of Common Core sometimes is that it's a national curriculum that's being forced onto states, and that's more myth than reality," he said. "Unlike some earlier reforms, like No Child Left Behind, there's actually more flexibility for states when it comes to working with this set of standards."

Dineen points out that Americans aren't opposed to a set of national standards in education that should hold true from state to state. The poll found that 73% say national standards are a good idea, 64% say the expectations of students should be the same in all states, and 68% it's very important to have a consistently quality education regardless of where students live.

"Americans like the idea of national standards to ensure a good education whether you're in Massachusetts or Mississippi," Dineen said. "They just don't think Common Core is the best way to achieve that."

Some of this wariness might be a reflection of the fact that Americans are, in general, positive about their local schools. The UConn poll found that 59% of Americans believe the quality of local education is either good or excellent, compared to 11% who think it's poor.

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