SALT LAKE CITY — Amid lingering political opposition to the Common Core State Standards, a national survey by a Utah-based company shows support for the standards from both parents and educators.
In the survey, conducted by phone and released Thursday by the School Improvement Network, a majority of respondents indicated their approval of the Common Core and their belief that the national standards will better prepare students for college and careers.
The survey comes on the heels of a poll released by PDK/Gallup that showed a broad misunderstanding of the Common Core. While the School Improvement Network's survey results support those of the Gallup poll, the new survey focused on the public's attitudes toward adoption of national benchmarks and filtered out parents who had never heard of the Common Core.
Chet Linton, CEO and president of the School Improvement Network, said the goal behind the survey was to cut through the charged rhetoric that has surrounded the Common Core debate to gauge the perspective of Americans with children in schools and the educators who teach them.
"We love to hear the voice of educators because we want to elevate their perception in the minds of the public," he said. "They are the practitioners. They’re the professionals that implement this and teach our kids."
Out of 4,180 parents contacted, 500 qualified to complete the survey due to being aware of the Common Core State Standards and having school-age children. Of those 500 parents, 62 percent were supportive of the Common Core, compared to 22 percent who oppose the new standards.
Additionally, 50 percent responded that the Common Core will have a positive impact on their student's college and career preparation and 61 percent believe the Common Core standards are more rigorous than the state standards they replace.
The School Improvement Network also contacted 3,077 educators representing all 50 states in rural, urban and suburban areas. Support of the Common Core from educators was more significant than that of parents, with 73 percent indicating support for the Core and 81 percent saying the standards will have a positive impact on college- and career-readiness.
The Common Core State Standards are a series of academic benchmarks that define the minimum skills a student should learn in each grade as they progress toward higher education. Examples include the requirement that third graders be able to multiply and divide, or that seventh graders be able to identify two or more central ideas in a text.
Curriculum decisions, including what reading materials and coursework is required in a classroom, continue to be made at the local level. The standards have been voluntarily adopted by all but four states, though political groups in several states are working to postpone, defund, or halt implementation.
On the controversy the Common Core has generated, 70 percent of educators surveyed by School Improvement Network responded that they do not support political efforts to withdraw from the standards and 58 percent believe that common standards between states are necessary.
Linton said he was pleased but surprised by the results of the survey. He said the high volume of Common Core opposition in the country gives an impression that isn't necessarily a reality.
"We’ve been hearing so much for the last few months about Common Core, it’s been all over the place," Linton said. "There’s just so much misinformation that it sounds like there’s not a lot of support for something that can be so good and have a great impact."
In Utah, the Common Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts have been adopted into the Utah Core, which lays out benchmarks for effectively all academic subjects in the state's public schools.
Utah's adoption of the Common Core, a decision made under the constitutional authority of the elected State School Board, has come under repeated fire, including a recent resolution by the Utah Republican Party that calls on the Legislature to defund programs associated with the Common Core.
"Common Core was financed with private foundation funds, replacing the influence of our votes with wealth and influence to bypass our state Legislature and impose control over Utah's education standards," the resolution states.
That resolution passed with the support of 65 percent of Republican delegates, despite receiving an unfavorable recommendation from the party's review committee due to its "inaccurate or misleading data that is inflammatory in nature."
The Republican National Committee also passed a resolution in opposition to the Common Core in April.
But the survey by School Improvement Network also found that many parents, both opponents and supporters of the Common Core, misunderstand the new standards. Only a small percentage were able to correctly identify the group primarily responsible for the core's creation — a coalition of education experts, business community leaders and state governors — and many falsely believed the standards required collection of personal student information such as blood type, eye color and religious affiliation.
Those results are in line with the poll by PDK/Gallup, which found that despite the near-ubiquitous adoption of the Common Core, most Americans have never heard of the standards and of those who had, many incorrectly believe the federal government was forcing states to adopt them and that the standards cover all academic subjects.
"We hear these crazy things but it seemed that, generally speaking, parents don’t feel that everybody is going to have their teeth impressions and their fingertips recorded," Linton said.
Some of the confusion over Common Core appears to stem from the standard's name, he said, in that parents mistakenly infer that the goal is to make students common or uniform, rather than establishing a common baseline standard to work and measure from.
Linton was encouraged by the survey results, which show that 68 percent of parents believe children in different states do not receive the same quality of education, an inequity the Common Core was designed to address.
"Clearly parents feel that this is really important and they’re aware that there’s inequities currently," he said. "(Common Core) pushes the bar up and it pushes all students to be performing at those higher levels. It has set a new high bar, which is really the minimum we should be expecting."
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