The Coming Storm for Common Standards: Public Knowledge?

By Catherine Gewertz — November 06, 2012 2 min read
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It’s taken more than two years for the Common Core State Standards to trickle down into schools and classrooms in a significant way. So it’s no surprise, then, that a recent poll found that most people know nothing about the standards. But when public knowledge of the new guidelines becomes more widespread, what level of support will they have? That’s where the poll offers some interesting tidbits.

The poll of 600 Pennsylvanians, conducted for the Pennsylvania Business Council Education Foundation, shows that 80 percent of those surveyed had heard, seen, or read nothing about the common standards. Of the 20 percent who knew about them, six in 10 said that what they had heard made them more inclined to support them, and three in 10 said they’d be less inclined to do so.

You can see the topline results of the poll, commissioned by the foundation, here.

The PR Wire spin on the poll, not surprisingly, highlights the respondents’ mediocre ratings of their state’s public school system and their support of “higher standards.” And indeed, these folks aren’t too cheerful about their schools: Though they were kinder to their own local school systems, nearly half said that Pennsylvania’s schools had gotten worse in the last decade. More than seven in 10 said high school graduates were only “somewhat” or “not at all” ready for college or good jobs.

Even though Pennsylvanians were less than glowing about the quality of the state’s schools, they showed strong support for the idea of teaching to one set of standards statewide (83 percent), and for requiring students to pass a common exam (70 percent). They overwhelmingly agree that a “more rigorous curriculum” would make students better citizens and prepare them better for college and good jobs.

Fully two-thirds of those surveyed said they supported—and note the wording here—the Common Core State Standards “defining the curriculum for all students” in Pennsylvania.

But then the pollsters took respondents through a series of more specific questions about the new standards, such as whether they believed they would help prepare students better for college or close achievement gaps. More than two-thirds said they thought the standards would help teachers “focus on the subjects and skills that should be taught,” and would help all students graduate “knowing at least how to read, write, and do basic math.” More than half said they thought the standards would help supply business with skilled workers, prepare students better for college, and improve scores on national tests. Respondents were less optimistic that the standards could help close achievement gaps.

After reflecting on such things, the respondents were asked once again whether they supported or opposed having the common standards “define the curriculum” for students in Pennsylvania. Between the first and second asking, support went from 67 percent to 56 percent, and opposition went from 22 percent to 33 percent.

Whether these views are replicated in other states, as public knowledge of the standards becomes more widespread, could prove pivotal for an initiative that’s been embraced by nearly every state in the country.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.