As classrooms across the nation begin the transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the potentially game-changing initiative apparently hasn’t registered with the American public. According to the new PDK/Gallup poll, two out of three Americans have not heard of the Common Core. Among the third who have heard of the standards, a majority said they would not make U.S. students more competitive globally – although the survey also revealed that these reservations might be attributed in part to misunderstanding about the standards. The poll also revealed that most Americans reject using standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK), a global association of education professionals, has conducted the annual Poll of the Public’s Attitude Toward the Public Schools in conjunction with Gallup since 1969. This year’s poll was based on conversations with 1001 respondents.
One of the more enduring myths about the CCSS is that individual states adopted the standards in response to a federal mandate. The PDK/Gallup poll confirms this perception. The majority of those who have heard of the Common Core believe that Washington is insisting that all state adopt the standards. The misinformation around the initiative has been a serious problem as states begin the implementing the standards – a process, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, that has to be done right.
“We need to inform Americans of the impact standards can have, engage parents and families in meaningful ways, and highlight the role we all play — educators, students, parents and community members,” Van Roekel said. “Together, it is our responsibility to ensure that implementation is successful for students.”
2013 Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau agrees that all stakeholders have to play a larger role in educating the public.
“There is a real and significant need to increase awareness and knowledge of the standards among all citizens,” Charbonneau said. “Our society has a vested interest in educational goals that we set for our students.”
NEA, one of many teacher groups that partnered the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers as they developed the standards, is working with its affiliates to ensure that educators are leaders in the transition to Common Core, not only in developing relevant creative resources for the classroom, but also helping shape the new generation of assessments.
Educators across the country can be heartened by the survey’s finding that an increasing number of Americans reject standardized tests. A majority oppose using test scores to evaluate teachers and less than a quarter of respondents say testing has helped student performance. That’s quite the reversal from last year when a majority expressed support for the practice.
“Parents know that children learn in different ways and at different rates. They know that learning can’t be fully measured with a standardized test,” said Van Roekel. “As we begin to introduce the new Common Core State Standards, this becomes even more important. This poll demonstrates that parents and the public have a more sophisticated understanding of what is going on in our schools, and cuts through much of the flawed thinking that has dominated the debate about public education over the past few years.”
Other key findings in the PDK/Gallup poll:
- More than 70% of Americans have “trust and confidence” in public school educators.
- A majority give public schools in their community an ‘A’ or “B’ – the highest rating every recorded by the poll.
- Seventy percent of Americans oppose private school vouchers —another high mark for the Gallup survey.
- Overwhelmingly, Americans do not worry about their child’s safety while attending school. Asked about ways to promote school safety, respondents preferred greater access to mental health services over the hiring more security guards.
- Americans chose critical thinking skills as the most important 21st Century skill, followed closely by communications skills.