The AstroTurf Lament: Common Core in Two 2014 Public Opinion Polls
EdNext polled approximately 5,000 individuals, and PDK/Gallup, 1,000 individuals. (Some of EdNext‘s questions were asked in two versions, and the sample was split into two halves, or approximately 2,500 respondents.)
In the EdNext poll, 57 percent of the public stated that they had not ever heard of CCSS “before today.”
In the PDK/Gallup poll, respondents were asked how much they had heard about “the new national standards for teaching reading, writing, and math in grades K through 12, known as the Common Core State Standards.” Fifty-three percent reported hearing “only a little” (34 percent) or “nothing at all” (19 percent).
I read a comment in regard to these and other CCSS survey results by Michael Feuer of George Washington University in which Feuer states that “we are a nation that tends to prefer a slower approach to large change….”
What Feuer neglects to note is that CCSS “large change” came to the American schoolhouse (and then, to the American public) as a “top-down reform.”
Four years following CCSS’s official completion, the American public is still notably unaware and/or unfamiliar with CCSS because top-down-promoted change takes years to “trickle down” from the “controllers” to the “controlled.” (Indeed, all of this “top down” is supposed to “streamline” the messiness of democracy. If only we would just shut up and do as we are told….)
Cory Turner of NPR comments that CCSS has “an image problem” as noted in the PDK/Gallup finding that almost half of respondents indicated hearing of CCSS via TV, newspapers, and radio.
Such only serves to emphasize the “top down” direction of CCSS.
The public did not “think up” CCSS.
CCSS did not “emerge” from the classroom.
It is not the spontaneous creation of teachers in most states nationwide.
Here’s the reality: CCSS was conceived, organized, produced, monitored, and promoted by “the few,” the most obvious CCSS “top downers” being the two organizations that drafted the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) and that hold the CCSS license: The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). And these two groups were clear in their positioning an NGA-corporate-run nonprofit, Achieve, at the center of CCSS development, as well as two testing companies (ACT and College Board)– and in tapping the federal government for undeniable involvement in funding all but CCSS creation– with the feds forking over $350 million for the steering wheel of the CCSS venture– the CCSS consortium assessments. Moreover, even though it was drafted and signed by governors of 45 states, DC, and three territories prior to the formal launching of Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top (RTTT), RTTT is mentioned in the CCSS MOU.
So, for the public to have the perception that the federal government “initiated” CCSS (PDK/Gallup wording) or “requires all states to use CCSS” (EdNext wording) reflects not only the federal government’s notable role in the CCSS “venture,” but also the very public efforts of US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to 1) instruct the press on how to report on CCSS, 2) blame “white suburban moms” for CCSS resistance, and 3) threaten to revoke No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers when states choose to be “state led” away from CCSS.
Paul Peterson of EdNext states that the term “Common Core” is “toxic.”
However, Peterson is quick to blame the CCSS name as the problem. The “toxic” nature of the “term” CCSS might not just be about the term. Peterson concludes that since the EdNext survey asked about CCSS by name in one version of a question on “states deciding to use standards” and then dropping the term, “Common Core” from the same question yields higher approval, the problem is the name, “Common Core”:
In the just-released 2014 Ednext survey of a nationally representative sample of the general public, no less than 68% of the public registers support for the following (if the material in brackets is deleted):
[Common Core] standards for reading and math that are the same across the states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance.
Only 16% express opposition, the remainder saying they “neither support nor oppose the standards.” The level of public support remains essentially unchanged from its level in 2012.
Yet the simple addition of the bracketed phrase “Common Core” induces a drop in the level of public support from 68% to 53% and opposition rises from 16% to 26%. The Common Core label now has a toxic impact on public thinking.
What Peterson fails to note is the possibility that it is the public’s experience with CCSS specifically that is the problem– not just the term. Some might still be amenable to the idea of “standards… the same across the states”– but not to CCSS.
There is also the difference between asking about a reality (CCSS) and a nonspecific, hypothetical, non-reality (“standards… the same across states”). In short, an idea might sound fine hypothetically but fail to work in reality.
Regarding the EdNext survey and CCSS “toxicity,” Peterson continues:
Even so, support exceeds opposition by a 2:1 ratio, and when the phrase [“Common Core”] is eliminated [from the question about states’ deciding to use standards… the same across states”], it leaps to 3:1.
And here, we have that dastardly category collapsing that makes CCSS “approval” appear more solid than it is.
The supposed “2:1 ratio” for CCSS “support” is actually only 16 percent “strongly support” and 38 percent “somewhat support.”
“Somewhat support” is not sold-out-on-CCSS support. “Somewhat support” indicates support with reservation.
As for the “3:1 leap” when the term “Common Core” was omitted from the question of “standards… the same across states,” only 22 percent “strongly support” the standards-across-states idea, and 46 percent “somewhat support” the idea.
Not a sellout on the “common standards” concept.
Almost half of the 2,500 EdNext respondents to this question support what amounts to a theoretical “standards the same across states” idea– but they do so with reservation.
We have here an issue that is more than just “rebranding” CCSS (yet another idea that was in the media as an effort to Save the Core). The issue is also not what Peterson promotes as “political polarization”:
Political polarization is making it increasingly difficult to sustain support for policy undertakings that a majority of the public supports. Narrow interest groups and small minorities are twisting public opinion through slogans and rhetoric to which sensation-mongering elements in the media are giving excessive attention. Such is my conclusion after reviewing eight years of Education Next (Ednext) polling on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
“A majority of the public” does not “support” CCSS. Half of the public surveyed by both EdNext and PDK/Gallup had not heard of or had little knowledge of CCSS prior to the surveys. Of the approximately half who had heard of CCSS, only roughly one-fifth indicated “strongly supporting” CCSS on the EdNext survey no matter if CCSS was named or not.
And that “twisting of public opinion”– be sure to include Duncan’s obvious and highly-publicized federal involvements in CCSS promotion and enforcement as among the “rhetoric” that indeed caused quite a “sensation.”
Let us not forget “sensation” brought about by former CCSSO President Gene Wilhoit’s admission of asking billionaire Bill Gates in 2008 to fund CCSS development. And we should remember edupreneur David Coleman’s public admission of “convincing governors and others… to adopt these standards.”
Peterson also believes that NCLB suffered from “sensationalized” public opinion.
Never mind the foolish idea of “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014.”
CCSS will fall, and it will not be because a grass roots, ground-up education reform died from “political polarization.”
CCSS will fail because no matter how much one fertilizes and waters AstroTurf, it cannot change it into real grass– with roots.
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