The primary question Americans have about the Common Core State Standards isn’t whether they are a good or bad thing for U.S. schools, it’s what are they?
The well-respected Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll finds that 62 percent of respondents have never heard of the new academic standards. Of the 38 percent who have, many wrongly believe they cover all school subjects and have been forced on the states by the federal government.
The poll’s directors attribute the Common Core results to confusion, but survey results regarding standardized testing – the linchpin in the standards’ program – suggest Americans might not be as confused as they are displeased with the direction of so-called education reform measures. The results, interestingly, indicate U.S. views on public education stand in direct contrast to measures approved by the Indiana General Assembly and State Board of Education:
70 percent of survey respondents oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school at public expense, up from 55 percent in the 2012 poll. Indiana has the largest school voucher program in the nation.
Only 22 percent believe increased testing helps school performance. Indiana’s four-year ISTEP+ contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill has grown to $95 million.
58 percent oppose using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Indiana law requires test scores to be used in the performance evaluations.
Lack of funding was cited as the biggest problem faced by public schools, identified by 35 percent of respondents. The next cited was lack of discipline, at 9 percent. Indiana public schools continue to feel the effects of a permanent $300 million reduction in spending, combined with property tax caps that have reduced support for transportation, technology and more.
The showdown over Common Core playing out in Indiana and elsewhere is a clue that changes in education have gotten ahead of public support. It’s time for policymakers to back off and allow a sound debate over the direction schools should take – not just with standards, but with testing, charter expansion, vouchers and more. Elected officials at both the federal and state level might be surprised at what they learn.