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Support Slipping for Common Core, Especially Among Teachers, Poll Finds

Results of a poll released on Tuesday show strong public support for the idea of shared academic standards, but much weaker support for the standards that have been put in place by 43 states and the District of Columbia: the Common Core State Standards.

The poll of 5,000 adults, conducted this past spring by Education Next, a journal published by Stanford University's Hoover Institution, shows that more than two-thirds of adults support the idea of shared academic standards. But when they were asked about the "common core" specifically, support dropped by 15 percentage points.

"The words 'Common Core' elicits greater antagonism than does the concept of common standards itself," the report said.

CC_snip.PNGHere is how the pollsters teased out the effect of the words "common core." Half the respondents were asked the full question, below, including the phrases in brackets. The other half were asked the question without the bracketed text.

"As you may know, in the last few years states have been deciding whether or not to use [the common core, which are] standards for reading and math that are the same across the states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the use of these [the common core] standards in your state?"

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents expressed support for the idea of nameless, shared math and reading standards, but only 53 percent did so when asked about "the common core" standards.

As the study shows, most adults (53 percent) are still in favor of common standards, but that support has declined in the past year. In last year's poll by Education Next, 65 percent were in favor.

The poll is the journal's eighth annual look at public attitudes on a variety of education issues. It includes views on teacher tenure, teacher pay, and school choice.

It'll come as no surprise that the poll shows the common-core issue to be politically polarizing. And most of the disenchantment has occurred in the Republican camp.

In its poll a year ago, Education Next found most Republicans and most Democrats expressing support for the common-core standards. Since then, however, support has fallen from 57 percent to 43 percent among Republicans, while Democrats' views have held steady, with nearly two-thirds in support of the standards.

The poll finds support among teachers declining, as well: Three-quarters backed the common core in 2013, but only 46 percent did so in the most recent poll. Teachers were more supportive of the common core in 2013 than was the general public, but now that pattern has flipped, the poll found.

"Opinion with respect to the Common Core has yet to coalesce," the study concludes. "The idea of a common set of standards across the country has wide appeal, and the Common Core itself still commands the support of a majority of the public. But proponents probably need to clarify their intentions to the public if they are to keep support from slipping within both the nation's teaching force and the public at large."

Among other results, the poll found that:

  • A majority (54 percent) favored the formation of charter schools; 51 percent supported vouchers for those in failing public schools; but only 37 percent backed vouchers aimed at low-income families.
  • The public "on average, gives about half the teachers at local schools a grade of A or B, but it also gives one-fifth of those teachers a D or an F."
  •  Among those who were told current school spending levels, only 43 percent favor spending increases. Among those who were told current teacher salaries in their state, only 38 percent favor salary increases.

The report's authors are Michael B. Henderson, research director for the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University; Paul E. Peterson, editor-in-chief of Education Next, and professor and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Martin R. West, 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. 

The complete results, and the wording of poll questions, are available at educationnext.org/edfacts.

Politics K-12 blogger Lauren Camera contributed to this post.

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