In California, Common-Core Opposition Rooted in Disapproval of Obama

By Liana Loewus — May 25, 2016 2 min read
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Republicans are 90 percent more likely than Democrats to oppose the Common Core State Standards, according to an analysis of California poll data. And most of that opposition is explained by disapproval of President Obama’s performance.

The study, led by Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, looked at poll data from 2,350 California voters about a range of education issues.

Overall, 29 percent of the respondents expressed opposition to the common core, and another 30 percent were neutral or unsure.

Neither age nor parental status affected how likely a respondent was to oppose the common core, the study showed. Race did, though—black voters were significantly less likely to oppose the common standards than white voters. (Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander voters were also less likely to express opposition, though that result was not statistically significant.)

Voters who disapprove of President Obama are 92 percent more likely to oppose the common core, the study finds. That explains why Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to be against the standards. “Given that disapproval of President Obama appears to be a stronger factor than party affiliation in predicting opposition, the results of the upcoming presidential election may decrease opposition somewhat,” the report says.

Several other factors are strongly associated with objection to the standards. And when these factors are controlled for, some of the demographic differences are no longer significant.

Those who oppose testing and those who think there is too much testing are more likely to oppose common core than those who do not. The belief that current school-funding levels are adequate is also positively associated with common-core opposition.

Knowing About the Common Core

Further, those who report knowing more about the standards are more likely to be against them. People who say they have “a lot” of knowledge about the common core are 150 percent more likely to oppose it.

But the report says that some of what people claim to know is based on misconceptions or negative construal.

“In particular, the misconception that states were not allowed to add content to the [common core] is associated with a 64 percent increase in the odds of opposition, and the negative conception that the [common-core standards] limit teachers’ ability to be creative in the classroom is associated with a 150 percent increase in the odds of opposition,” the report states.

In fact, to allow for customization, states were given latitude to increase the standards by 15 percent—and many did make additions. Polikoff points to studies showing that most teachers are making and selecting their own common-core materials to show that creativity has not been lost.

“My main takeaway about this is it really illustrates starkly that people’s attitudes about the common core are really driven to a large extent by their attitudes about other education policies and other things like their beliefs about President Obama’s performance,” said Polikoff in an interview.

It’s worth noting that these results could very well differ in another state—for instance, in New York, many teachers and parents have cited problems with implementation, developmental inappropriateness, and links to teacher evaluations as reasons for opposing the standards.

Image: President Barack Obama pats student Blake Diego on the head during his visit to a 1st grade class at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., in 2014. —Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP-File

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