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Poll Finds Most California Parents Know Little About Common-Core Tests

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Online testing is underway in most California schools, but apparently most parents don't know anything about the new assessments.

A Public Policy Institute of California survey released April 22 found that 55 percent of parents say they have heard nothing about the state's new Smarter Balanced Assessment System. The computer-based test, which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, replaced California's standardized paper-and-pencil tests. Only 8 percent of parents surveyed reported that they heard a lot about the new assessments, according to a news release.

The San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California surveyed 1,706 California residents, including 355 public school parents, in early April by phone. The margin of error for all adult respondents is 3.7 percent. The survey also found that Californians aren't informed about the state's new school funding formula.

California parents' common-core competency is weak as well, with almost a third saying they've heard anything at all about the standards, while 43 percent have heard "a little."

"Local schools need to do a better job of keeping parents informed as the state implements the new English and math standards," Mark Baldassare, the president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California, said in a release.

While it may be somewhat predictable that parents have been left in the dark about the state assessments, their optimism about what the tests and the common-core standards can achieve and how prepared school districts are to implement these changes is worth noting.

The survey found that despite growing criticism about the technological capacity of school districts to handle administering the computer-based tests, a majority of public school parents (71 percent) were either very confident or somewhat confident that their schools were up to the challenge. 

Despite reports from other states to the contrary, most California public school parents also are pretty confident that their children will do well on the new assessments with 71 percent predicting that the scores will either be higher or about the same.

(Maybe that confidence in California students' testing abilities explains why so few respondents believe that there is excessive amounts of testing in their local schools—24 percent in elementary and middle schools and 22 percent in high schools.)

More than half of those surveyed believe that implementing the common core will fulfill at least two promises: to make students more college- and career-ready and help students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Most public school parents (71 percent) believe those goals are achievable.

That doesn't mean Californians are worry-free when it comes to the common core. The survey found that most Californians, including public school parents, are very or somewhat concerned about teachers' readiness to instruct children using the standards.

Meanwhile, California's new school funding system—the Local Control Funding Formula—remains a mystery to most in the state. The survey found that 75 percent of adults had no knowledge about the funding system.

And although the new school financing system requires parents' input to develop a Local Control Accountability Plan to identify funding priorities, more than half of the parents surveyed say they received no information requesting their involvement. Interestingly, low-income parents (51 percent) were more likely than those parents with higher incomes (37 percent) to indicate that their school or district gave them information about the plan.

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