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Teachers on the Common Core: Familiarity Breeds Approval

Public school teachers are divided on the merits of the Common Core State Standards, with 44 percent having a negative opinion of the shared academic goals and another 40 percent of teachers favoring it, according to a new poll released by Gallup this morning. 

Even more enlightening are the reasons undergirding those reactions: The more implementation experience teachers had with the standards, the better they appeared to like them. Fully 61 percent of teachers who reported working in schools where the standards were fully implemented have a positive opinion of them. That number was far lower in states where the standards were only partly implemented and dropped to just 26 percent for teachers in non-common core states. 

Here are few other interesting findings: 

  • Elementary teachers were more likely than middle- or high-school teachers to have a positive reaction to the standards, a finding that mirrors that of a separate Gates Foundation/Scholastic poll. (Here, I am reminded of Emily Richmond's analysis for the Education Writers' Association: "Many high school teachers are, in theory, being asked to build a house without a foundation, since their students were presumably not taught a curriculum aligned with the common core for most of their prior academic career," she wrote.)
  • More than half of teachers said that having unified standards was the best thing about the common core; the second most-cited response, that the core encourages good critical thinking techniques, was named by only 12 percent of teachers. 
  • The top three cited reasons for not liking the standards were that they were not practical/applied too much pressure (15 percent), that they were poorly implemented (14 percent), and that the teacher didn't believe in standardized testing (12 percent). (To be fair, testing is not formally a part of the standards, but new assessments being designed by federally funded consortia are certainly a touchy topic these days.)

The survey is based on a random sample of 854 public school teachers, with the data weighted to match the national demographics of the workforce. The margin of error is plus or minus  5 percentage points. 

I do want to underscore that this is a different survey from Gallup's recent poll with Phi Delta Kappa, which contained information on adults' perceptions of the common standards; from its polls with the Education Week Research Center on the common core; and from other teacher-related common-core polls such as the one conducted by the Gates Foundation/Scholastic. Each poll surveyed different audiences and phrased its questions differently, and there are resulting differences in the findings, so please take a look at all of them for the full picture.

UPDATED, Oct. 29: A previous version of this post misstated the Gallup/PDK polling audience; it was U.S. adults, not public school teachers.

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