Common sense tells us that the Common Core State Standards are good for students. Higher standards for all are a good thing. What American would not get that?
Apparently a lot. The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll of the public’s attitudes toward public schools indicates that two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core. Some in the media believe this is the result of poor communication.
That may be partly true, but the PDK/Gallup poll offers clues to deeper reasons. Twenty-two percent of Americans believe increased testing has not helped the performance of local public schools. Fifty-eight percent of those polled reject using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Among those who had heard of the Common Core, a majority said standards will make the U.S. less competitive or have no effect.
In other words, the standards movement is alive and well inside the Washington beltway, but in the rest of the country, it is running into resistance.
There are a number of reasons for this, but to my mind the biggest reason is that parents want more from their children’s schools than test scores; they want schools to be communities of trust that teach the human and social skills needed for success.
According to PDK/Gallup, 80 percent of those polled think schools should teach critical thinking skills, and 78 percent think schools should teach students communication skills. More than 90 percent believe activities such as band, drama, sports, and the school newspaper are very (63 percent) or somewhat (31 percent) important.
The criticisms of teachers we hear from the policy world are not being heard by the families who send their children to public schools: According to the PDK/Gallup poll, more than 70 percent of Americans have trust and confidence in the men and women who teach in public schools; this percentage is even higher for Americans under 40.
What do these findings mean for the implementation of the Common Core? Frankly, I think a change in tone would be helpful. So many reformers position themselves as harsh critics of public education and too often propose silver bullet solutions that most Americans know are partial solutions at best. Americans are a practical people who favor common sense when thinking about education. Grandstanding about standards and testing only serves to turn off most parents.
Another strategy for gaining acceptance of the Common Core might be a new marketing approach based on results. After all, if we look at the NAEP scores over the last 30 years, it’s clear that more regulation and testing have led to significantly better overall learning outcomes. There is no better way to convince the public of the value of common standards than to show they work—without turning schools into test centers.
The next few years will determine the fate of the Common Core. Let’s hope common sense shapes their implementation and that they are integrated into schools in a way that is learner- and community-centered.
Photo Credit: The Center for Constitutional Law