Common Core Standards Still Relatively Unknown

A new poll from Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup today finds that an alarming number of parents with kids in public school have never heard of the new Common Core standards that are changing student testing throughout the country. This is a big deal. The standards have been implemented by 45 states plus the District of Columbia, though a growing political backlash could reduce that number in the near future. And yet, less than half of parents know about it:

Almost two of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, arguably one of the most important education initiatives in decades, and most of those who say they know about the Common Core neither understand it nor embrace it.

That’s not good. A majority of parents believe that the Common Core Standards will make the U.S. less globally competitive. But it’s tough to evaluate those beliefs when “many said — erroneously — that the standards are based on a blending of state standards, that the federal government is insisting that all states adopt the standards, and that there is a plan to create standards in all academic areas.” This is a revolutionary change in American school testing and just about no one knows about it.

And it’s not like these standards were just passed yesterday. The proposal was agreed upon by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in June 2009. Four years later, parents are still unaware of it, even though new testing has been implemented. New York’s sharp drop in test scores this years was a result of them. As I noted at the time, Mayor Bloomberg should be praised for accepting the standards while knowing that he would take blame for the reduced scores. As this poll proves, parents are going to see those scores and blame the Mayor, not realizing that they are the result of a tougher, better test.

But Bloomberg is a special case. He’s no longer up for reelection and isn’t seeking higher office so the political consequences of accepting the blame is limited. Other mayors will find themselves in different situations. They will see steeper political consequences and may react by blaming the test or worse, pulling out of it. The best way to combat this is to educate the public about Common Core. At the very least, parents need to be aware of the new standards. If not, mayors are going to feel increased political pressure to withdraw from the program so that test scores rise back to their previous levels with the easier tests. That may be good politics, but it’s not good policy. Ultimately, students pay the price.


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