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Poll: Common Core support among teachers plummets, with fewer than half supporting it

Blake Van Ningen, left, Ashton Cushing, center, and Zac Sayler work on an assignment at Freeman Elementary in South Dakota, which this year began implementing the controversial Common Core standards. (AP photo/Jeremy Waltner)
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Anybody watching the escalating battle across the country over the Common Core State Standards and aligned standardized testing will hardly be surprised by a new national poll which reveals a significant loss of support over the last year — especially among teachers, whose approval rating dropped from 76 percent  in 2013 to only  46 percent in 2014. Overall support for the Core dropped from 65 percent last year to 53 percent in 2014, with most of the defection among Republicans.

The annual poll was conducted by the pro-school-reform journal Education Next and asked a nationally representative sample of Americans about a variety of education issues, with the  results on the Common Core being the most dramatic. Here are some of the results:

*Support for the Core dropped from 65 percent in 2013 to 53 percent across the general population. When asked about the notion of common national education standards without mentioning the Common Core, support was at 68 percent.

*Along with the 30-percentage point drop in approval by teachers, there was a huge jump in opposition, from 12 percent to 40 percent.

*Support among Republicans has dropped from 57 percent in 2013 to 43 percent this year, while Democratic support has barely changed, from 64 percent to 63 percent in 2014.

In a sign of the changing school choice landscape, 26 percent of adults living with school-age children have educated at least one of their children in an alternative setting that was not a traditional public school. You can see results on other subjects here.

Education Next is a magazine whose top editors are supporters of modern school reform, including the Core. Its editor-in-chief is Paul E. Peterson, director of Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance in the Graduate School of Education, and a fellow at the Hoover Institute (which is housed at Stanford University) is well-known for his support of school vouchers.

It is interesting to see how the article in Education Next about the poll, co-written by Peterson and titled “No Common Opinion on the Common Core,”  characterizes the drop in Core support. It notes that “opposition has been voiced both by conservative groups who fear expanded federal control and by teachers unions worried about the consequences for teacher evaluation.” While some  conservative groups have opposed it out of fears of a federal takeover of local education, teachers unions aren’t actually worried about “the consequences of teacher evaluation” in a vacuum. They are worried about the consequences of teacher evaluation based on the results of controversial Common Core-aligned standardized tests and a method of evaluation that many experts say is unfair. Furthermore, these are not the only two places from where opposition to the Core has been building.  Core opposition has come from all ends of the political spectrum for a variety of different reasons incluing questions about the funding, the developmental appropriateness of some of the standards, the botched implementation of the standards in many states and the quality of the aligned tests. (You can read about that here.)

The article also says that “opinion with respect to the Common Core has yet to coalesce,” and then kindly suggests to Core supporters that they “probably need to clarify their intentions to the public if they are to keep their support from slipping,” as if the opposition is based on a particular set of misunderstandings. The report does indeed note that a majority of those polls displayed three misunderstandings of the Core, but it is not known if those are the only reasons that the majority opposes the Core.

In a post on the Education Next website on Tuesday, Peterson made clear his thinking on the results:

Political polarization is making it increasingly difficult to sustain support for policy undertakings that a majority of the public supports. Narrow interest groups and small minorities are twisting public opinion through slogans and rhetoric to which sensation-mongering elements in the media are giving excessive attention. Such is my conclusion after reviewing eight years of Education Next (Ednext) polling on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

As for opinion on the Core actually coalescing, don’t hold your breath.