Opt-Out Movement Draws ‘Little Public Sympathy’ in New Poll

By Corey Mitchell — August 18, 2015 3 min read
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A new poll released today shows slipping public support for the Common Core State Standards, the shared academic standards that have been put in place by more than 40 states, but backers of the approach continue to outnumber its opponents.

The nationally representative poll of 4,083 adults, conducted in May and June by Education Next, a journal published by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, also reveals “little public sympathy” for the opt-out movement—the push among parents to refuse to allow their children to take Common Core-aligned standardized tests.

Public backing of the common standards fell to 49 percent in Ed Next’s 2015 survey, down from 53 percent last year, though a less dramatic drop in support than what the survey showed between 2013 and 2014, the authors note.

“The broader public’s opposition to the Common Core appears to rest on a shallow factual foundation,” wrote the authors of a report accompanying the poll. “When asked whether or not the Common Core is being used in their local school district, fully 58 percent admit that they do not know.”

Only a quarter of the public supports the opt-out movement, the survey found. Among parents, 52 percent dislike the idea of letting parents decide whether their children are tested, while 57 percent of teachers are opposed.

The poll also found that a majority of parents and the public support a federal requirement for annual testing, while teachers remain split on that issue.

Full poll results and analysis are available here.

When compared to the 2014 results, the poll reveals a slight decline in support for charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and vouchers and tax-credits for scholarships for low-income students. Public opposition to tenure for teachers also witnessed a modest drop.

“One hesitates to read too much into shifts in opinion that are only modestly larger than what a statistical aberration might account for ...,” the report’s authors wrote. “But school reformers might take the 2015 findings as a ... warning that efforts to alter the public’s thinking on education policy may be faltering.”

However, the authors do note that support for school vouchers depends heavily on how questions are phrased.

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • A majority of teachers and the public are opposed to the Obama administration’s proposal to require similar student suspension and expulsion rates across racial and ethnic groups. Roughly 20 percent of the public backs the idea.
  • Americans greatly underestimate the amount of money spent on schools and are poorly informed about the sources of funding.
  • A plurality of teachers and the public object to the union practice of charging fees to nonmembers to pay collective bargaining costs.
  • Parents, and the public as a whole, “think much more attention should be given to reading and math, while teachers would especially increase emphasis on arts and history. All three groups would like to see more character education ... and all agree that sports should receive less emphasis.”
  • Respondents think their local schools better meet the needs of girls than of boys, with black respondents perceiving the largest differences in the way students are treated based on gender.

The polling firm Knowledge Networks conducted the survey.

The report’s authors are Paul E. Peterson, a professor of government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; 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; and Michael B. Henderson, research director for the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.