To the Editor:
Over the past year, the war against the Common Core State Standards has escalated, and as a PDK/Gallup Poll recently confirmed, the opposition is winning the public relations battle.
While 81 percent of respondents said they were aware of the common core (up significantly from 38 percent last year), 60 percent opposed using the standards. Parents, among other stakeholders, are skeptical, and many believe the standards are being pushed on them by the federal government.
Parents are closely connected to classroom teachers and school principals, and they are frequently wary of politicians, so a discussion led by state education chiefs and governors would have little impact on building brand trust, let alone support, for the common core.
The result: The common core has become a negative brand, much like the No Child Left Behind Act. Although most people agree with their underlying goals of providing students with a strong education to ensure future success, the common core and NCLB are blamed for whatever is not working in our public schools. And changing perceptions is difficult.
Public relations and branding are all about creating feelings and inspiring others. More than a decade ago, a Northwest Regional Educational Lab study stated that “public relations is less about transmitting information, and more about listening and responding to the expectations and concerns of all citizens.” Relevant words of wisdom.
The common-core conversation must focus on people, not just policy. It’s important to shine a light on the many faces of those who are affected by the standards and ignite meaningful engagement that will influence change. Until that happens, common-core supporters will continue to cede the branding battle to public-relations-savvy opponents who have learned their lessons well.
A version of this article appeared in the October 08, 2014 edition of Education Week as Why Supporters of Common Core Are Losing Public Relations Fight