Common Core educational standards are losing support nationwide, poll shows

A year ago, the term Common Core meant little to the American public. But today, a vast majority of people in the country are familiar with the nationwide educational standards, and most of them oppose the initiative touted by the Obama administration, a new survey shows.

The results of an annual poll by Gallup and the Phi Delta Kappa educators’ organization provide more evidence that support for the Common Core State Standards, originally adopted by 46 states and the District, has faded in recent years. The survey showed that those who opposed the standards thought that the Common Core will hurt teachers’ ability to craft lessons that they think will be best for students. The latest survey results echo findings from other polls on Common Core support.

“It’s pretty apparent that the Common Core has become a polarizing term,” said Terry Holliday, the education commissioner of Kentucky, which was among the first states to adopt the standards in 2010.

The wide-ranging survey also showed that trust in the nation’s public school system has evaporated, as a consistent majority of Americans approve of charter schools that operate independently of state regulations. Overall, more than 70 percent of Americans give President Obama a C, D or F grade in his support to public schools, the lowest rating he has received on the poll since he took office in 2009.

Survey participants said that the top issue facing public schools is a lack of financial support, while concern about discipline issues or crime in schools is dropping.

Respondents also said that they placed more trust in their local school boards when it comes to educational policy issues than in the federal government. The survey showed the Obama administration influence waning as many Americans believe that the federal government should play a smaller role in public education.

On average, respondents said they thought highly of their neighborhood schools. But the poll showed that close to 80 percent of Americans disapprove of the nation’s public schools at large.

The poll also showed that 68 percent of public school parents believed that standardized tests are not helpful for teachers measuring student achievement.

It’s a sentiment reflected among school administrators across the Washington area, including in Fairfax, where the school board has vowed to reduce the frequency and importance of standardized exams on gauging student performance. The poll also showed overwhelming support for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams and college entrance tests such as the SAT and ACT.

The findings also showed that more than 63 percent of Americans said they favored charter schools. But respondents described widespread confusion of what exactly charter schools are. Slightly less than half of the survey participants described the publicly funded institutions as “private schools,” and 57 percent of respondents believed that charter schools charge tuition. Neither is true of charter schools, which are public schools funded by local tax dollars.

Michael J. Feuer, dean of the George Washington University graduate school of education and human development, said that the poll’s results were “stimulating and provocative” but not all that surprising.

Of the eroding American support for the Common Core, Feuer noted that some states have since dropped the Common Core standards.

“As people get more aware of the details and as implementation begins, there are more problems that arise,” Feuer said.

Last year, more than two-thirds of respondents in the poll had never heard of the Common Core. This year, more than 80 percent of Americans had heard of the standards, mostly from prominent coverage by newspapers, television and radio. A total of 60 percent of respondents said they opposed the Common Core.

“We have supported the Common Core standards because of their potential to help kids, whether from Bed-Stuy or Beverly Hills, to think critically, solve problems and work with others — skills needed to be successful in today’s economy,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.6 million education professionals, said in a statement. “But these standards must be guides, not straightjackets . . . Support will continue to drop as people no longer see standards or standardized tests as helping children.”

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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