Gallup’s 2014 Parent and Teacher Surveys on Common Core
On October 31, 2014, Gallup released the last of five reports on parents and teachers’ opinions on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
What Gallup does not offer is one concise document including the highlighted survey questions in all five reports.
So, I created such a document based upon the contents of the five reports, one of which concerns parent surveys conducted in April and September 2014, and four of which include the results of a teacher survey administered in August/September 2014:
In this post, I examine results from three of five of Gallup’s opinion surveys on CCSS. First, I must note that focusing public attention on opinions related to CCSS is a clever means of distracting attention from the lofty and oft-repeated “CCSS guarantee”:
To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade.
The standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. [Emphasis added.]
No number of high-profile of public opinion surveys is a suitable substitute for the research that has yet to be provided proving that CCSS could possibly deliver on what it declares: Ensuring 100 percent preparedness for entry into one of the three post-high-school avenues noted above.
That noted, let’s consider some of those opinion results.
September 2014 Public School Parents Results
For its September 2014 Parents Survey, Gallup interviewed 1,010 national adults (margin of error 4 %) and compared results to a sample of 532 public school parents (margin of error 6%), also surveyed nationally.
I will focus on the public school parents results.
In September 2014, public school parents were generally evenly distributed among four categories regarding familiarity with CCSS: 24 percent knew “a great deal” about CCSS; 25 percent knew “a fair amount”; 27 percent, “only a little,” and 27 percent, “nothing at all.”
Of the 73 percent (approx. 311 public school parents nationwide) stating familiarity with CCSS, only 6 percent (approx. 32 parents nationwide) indicated a “very positive impression of CCSS,” and 27 percent (approx. 144 parents nationwide) indicated a “somewhat positive impression of CCSS.” Gallup did not distinguish among parents whose children were exposed to full CCSS implementation in 2013-14 versus 2014-15 full implementation, which had only begun perhaps a month prior to the September 2014 survey administration.
Given the margin of error on the sample (+6%), it is possible (in this case, 95 percent likely) that no parents in the population represented by this nationwide sample hold a “very positive impression of CCSS.”
This is not an impressive possibility– and neither is it highlighted in the Gallup report.
In September 2014, the 532 public school parents were also mostly accepting of 1) “having one set of standards across the country for reading, writing, and math” (33 percent, or 176 public school parents nationwide, indicating “very positive,” and 32 percent, or 170 public school parents nationwide, indicating “somewhat positive”); 2) “using standardized computer-based tests to measure all students’ performance and progress” (22 percent, or 118 public school parents nationwide, indicating “very positive”; 37 percent, or 197 public school parents nationwide, indicating “somewhat positive”), and 3) “linking teacher evaluations to their students’ Common Core test scores” (22 percent, or 118 public school parents nationwide, indicating “very positive”; 32 percent, or 170 public school parents nationwide, indicating “somewhat positive”).
A few observations here: First, respondents select “somewhat positive” because they have reservations about choosing “very positive.” Thus, “somewhat positive” involves caution or hesitation to completely agree.
This distinction is lost when researchers collapse the category into one “positive” category, which renders the collapsed category misleading.
Gallup presents the collapsed result for the above question in its publicized report.
Beware of results reported using collapsed categories. Such make for convenient, deceptively generalized information bytes and will be regurgitated in popular media as the entire truth.
Second, given that these parents appear to be primarily fine with grading teachers using student scores on CCSS tests, I wonder about their perceptions of how much influence teachers actually exert on student test scores. Gallup does not investigate public school parents’ perceptions of the influence of teachers upon student test scores relative to other factors, such as family income, parent education, parental expectation, student motivation, and student academic ability.
Third, even though the researchers indicate a statistical margin of error of 6% for their stats involving these 532 public school parents, I am just not impressed with the practical reality here. If the researchers interviewed public school parents in all 50 states plus DC, that is an average of 10 or 11 public school parents surveyed per state/DC on issues (CCSS and CCSS assessments) that may well be nothing more than hypothetical constructs for an unknown number of respondents.
Teacher Survey Report Number One (and Some Two)
Gallup produced four reports based upon a national survey of the following public school teacher sample:
Results are based on Web interviews conducted Aug. 11-Sept. 7, 2014, via the Gallup Panel, with a random sample of 854 public K-12 school teachers, aged 18 and older, with Internet access, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The data are weighted to match national teacher demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region. …
For results based on the sample of 854 public school teachers, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. [Emphasis added.]
All six questions upon which the first teacher report was based involved surveying the entire sample of 854 teachers. However, though Gallup makes percentage distinctions among respondents from states fully implementing CCSS in 2013-14, it does not disclose the exact number of teachers from such states, nor does it disclose the number of states it identified as being full-CCSS-implementation states in 2013-14.
Gallup also does not disclose whether the teachers in full-implementation schools are actually teaching subjects directly impacted by CCSS. Such is a major limitation of the survey results. Given that CCSS primarily impacts English language arts (ELA) and math, it is possible for teachers at full-implementation schools to have either no or only cursory firsthand interaction with CCSS.
Gallup reports that public school teachers’ general impressions of CCSS are evenly divided between the positive categories (15 percent “very positive,” and 26 percent “somewhat positive”), and the negative categories (28 percent “somewhat negative”, and 16 percent “very negative”).
Let’s jump to the second Gallup teacher report for just a moment.
In a summative comment in its second report on the issue, Gallup also offers the condensed categories of “41 percent ‘total positive'” and “44 percent ‘total negative'” and frames the issue as “hardly a rejection” of CCSS”– and then immediately quotes what it terms the “bottom line” of its report– a “policy and advocacy team” member from the Gates Foundation, who redirects the issue to “teachers needing time” with CCSS assessments.
This is propaganda useful in reinforcing the idea that CCSS and its assessments are “a given” and should be accepted as such.
But back to the first Gallup report of teacher results.
My favorite statistic is one that condenses “teacher impressions of CCSS” into two categories: “positive” or “negative.” Teachers are also divided into three groups according to schoolwide implementation of CCSS: “fully implemented,” “partially/not yet implemented,” and “not a CCSS state.”
“Not a CCSS state” could mean a state that was a CCSS state until recently officials pulled the state from CCSS, and it could mean a state that has “rebranded” CCSS.
Keep in mind also that a “fully implemented” school could have any number of teachers not directly involved in ELA or math and therefore only theoretically connected to CCSS. Thus, the survey result is not for individual teachers who have “fully implemented” CCSS into their classrooms.
Yet Gallup offers teacher “impressions” of CCSS, and these “impressions” are reduced to two broad categories of “positive” and “negative.”
What does “positive” and “negative” really mean here? Who knows.
But it sure makes for a nice byte that can be cited in the media.
The first Gallup report on teacher results includes the above table under the misleading heading, “Teachers Most Familiar with Common Core Like It Best,” along with the nebulous commentary, “…within these Common Core states, the majority of teachers who say they work in schools where the Common Core standards were fully implemented in the 2013-2014 school year feel good about it…” [Italics added.].
This question should have been directed to teachers whose classrooms have been impacted by CCSS, and it was not. Still, the Gates report assumes that the teachers “favoring” CCSS could be the ones “using” it:
While these differences in teachers’ attitudes may partially reflect the underlying political climate in each state or school district that led to the adoption or rejection of the Common Core there to begin with, it is also possible that teachers feel more positively about the Common Core once they fully use it. [Emphasis added.]
The Gallup sample for CCSS implementation is not centered on teachers who indicated actually “using” CCSS.
Moreover, in its second teacher report, Gallup offers the stat that “one in four” of its survey participants indicated being at a school that implemented CCSS in 2013-14– which reduces the total individuals responding in the “fully implemented” column above to 214 public school teachers nationwide. How many states do these 214 individuals represent? Unknown. How many schools? Also unknown.
What we do know is that 130 of them “feel good about CCSS.”
For some reason, the headline, 130 Public School Teachers Feel Good About Common Core Implementation lacks PR shine.
When asked about the “most positive thing about CCSS,” the most popular category, with 56 percent of respondents stating it in open-ended fashion, was “unified standards throughout the US.”
Ironically, the next highest category, with only 12 percent of public school teachers mentioning it, was “good critical thinking techniques.” And the third highest, with 10 percent selecting it, was “higher standards/more rigorous.”
Now, that’s just funny: The best “thing” about CCSS in the eyes of 854 public school teachers nationwide is its sameness, not its quality.
This is no compliment to CCSS.
Readers really need to consider the open-ended responses that lost out to “sameness for sameness’ sake”:
Interestingly, public school teachers apparently did not mention the CCSS “guarantee” of “ensuring college and career readiness” for “all” students on its list of “positive things” about CCSS.
As for the list generated when respondents were asked about “the most negative thing about CCSS,” there was no stand-out leader; the list was longer, and the Gallup researchers included more responses as “sets,” with many “sets” not making obvious sense. The chart is long and can be accessed as part of my cumulative Gallup document linked at the opening of this post. However, here is a partial list of those “most negative” CCSS “things”:
Before I leave my discussion about the first Gallup report, let me note that even though the report has many weaknesses and much about it that might be used in place of 1) actual empirical evidence about CCSS and 2) the truth about its top-down development and imposition on the American classroom, the “bottom line” summary from this first report is not entirely soft on CCSS.
Yes, in a number of places it is soft. But not entirely:
Teachers in the 43 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards are going through major shifts in how they teach reading, writing, grammar and math — as well as other subjects in which these skills come into play. Although some states have already worked these changes into their curricula, others started phasing them in last year, and others are just starting now. As the process unfolds, policymakers should pay close attention to how teachers themselves view the program, and whether it is working for both students and educators.
This initial survey on the Common Core reveals teachers’ attitudes are sharply split, giving no clear advantage to the standards’ proponents or opponents. However, regardless of the politics of the issue, the findings suggest some teachers may be experiencing a stressful work environment as they start the 2014-2015 school year — especially if staff members within their own schools are at odds over the Common Core.
On a positive note, the teachers who have the most experience teaching with the new standards are much more positive about it than others. [Note: “teaching with” is misleading. It does not mean actual incorporation of CCSS in a respondent’s classroom. It only means CCSS is in the school.] Also, a solid majority of teachers applaud the fundamental goal of unifying standards across states. However, many express concerns that the program is unwieldy, not being implemented well, or simply bad policy. Further, although the initiative began as a bipartisan effort among the states, it has clearly become politicized among teachers, as it has with the general public. And that could mean attitudes will grow rigid rather than be receptive to change as new information about the Common Core — whether positive or negative — emerges over time. [Emphasis and commentary added.]
Moving on to highlights in Gallup’s second report on its August/September 2014 teacher survey.
Teacher Survey Report Number Two
Gallup opens its second report with a collapsed category item on “teacher favor” of “main elements of CCSS.” It is important to note that Gallup rightly considers the CCSS assessments– which are tied to teacher evaluations– as “main elements” of CCSS.
CCSS was not created to exist separately from the CCSS assessments. In May 2009, governors and state superintendents were already signing the CCSS memorandum of understanding (MOU), which included language about CCSS development (not “teacher led”) and CCSS assessments. In June 2009, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was already tying federally funded CCSS assessments to an as-of-yet nonexistent CCSS. In July 2009, Duncan and President Obama announced Race to the Top (RTTT) and its requirement for “common standards” and “common assessments” and the evaluating of teachers based on student assessments. And in September 2011, Duncan (via President Obama) offered No Child Left Behind (NCLB) “waivers” that required adoption of “college and career ready” standards as well as teach assessment via student test scores.
CCSS, CCSS assessments, and teacher evaluation based upon those assessments is a designed and reinforced package deal, with Obama and Duncan all over it. States will not be easily “state led” out of this CCSS-assessment entanglement.
We can, however, survey teachers on the matter. (A bit tongue-in-cheek of me here, I’ll admit.)
In the closing comments of the first report, Gallup states, “This initial survey on the Common Core reveals teachers’ attitudes are sharply split, giving no clear advantage to the standards’ proponents or opponents.”
Yet it entitled its second report, “Teachers Favor Common Core Standards, Not Testing.”
Nevertheless, this teacher “favor” of CCSS absent its tests is only 60 percent, with 32 percent of that 60 wanting to “delay” CCSS “until 2015 or later”:
So, 28 percent of the 854 public school teachers surveyed–240 respondents– said 2014-15 would be fine for CCSS implementation– despite the fact that “one in four”– 214 respondents– already had CCSS “in their schools” in 2013-14.
This situation could have used some follow-up investigation. So could the “or later” option. How much later?
And the CCSS testing that was never meant to be separated from CCSS and is intended to be used to evaluate teachers, well, the public school teachers in the Gallup sample would like to be separated from it.
Be sure to message this to Team Obama/Duncan, with their RTTT and NCLB “waivers.”
The “one in four” subset of the 214 public school teachers in schools that implemented CCSS in 2013-14 answered this question about CCSS ELA and math:
Now, in the following table that appears to be a breakdown of the above question, a confusing detail concerns respondents in the three categories (elementary, middle, and high school) who are supposed to represent a breakdown of the “one in four” teacher subset of 854/4 = 214 teachers “in schools that used Common Core standards in the 2013-14 school year, and are familiar enough with them to have an opinion.” Consider the footnote of the table: “Based on 119 elementary school, 113 middle school, and 232 high school teachers in schools that used Common Core standards in the 2013-14 school year, and are familiar enough with them to have an opinion.”
How “familiar” must one be to “have an opinion”? This is not the same as teachers having actually applied CCSS to their own classrooms.
But back to the numbers: 119 + 113 + 232 does not equal 214– even via CCSS math. Furthermore, 232 cannot be a subset of 214.
So, what is going on here with these numbers?
The above teachers only have an “opinion.” They are not necessarily utilizing CCSS ELA or math. Also, whereas elementary teachers might teach both ELA and math, it is not common for middle- and high-school teachers to teach both ELA and math.
So, for example, both CCSS middle school math and ELA are more popular in the opinion of the 113 middle school teachers in the sample, with 68 of these middle school teachers (60%) calling CCSS math “more rigorous” and 74 of the middle school teachers (65%) calling CCSS ELA “more rigorous.” But who teaches ELA, and who teaches math? And at what grade levels?
And what states are represented here, exactly?
All of these unknowns beg the question: How useful is the information in the above table?
There are two more tables that I would like to present. Both are based on the full sample of 854 public school teachers. In the first table, respondents were asked about their agreement with four arguments in favor of CCSS. Note that the largest category for all is the “somewhat agree” category.
In my reviews of numerous previous CCSS surveys, all conducted in 2013, the “somewhat agree” category tended to be the most popular for CCSS agreement. (Here are links to my reviews: NAESP (principals) survey; Stand for Children Louisiana survey; Gates Scholastic survey (partial results release); NEA survey; Associated Press (AP) survey; AP and Gallup survey; AFT survey.)
As noted in the outset of this post, “somewhat agree” is agreement with reservation.
On this point, the Gallup explanation is clear:
Teachers See Some Advantages, More Disadvantages to Common Core
The majority of teachers agree with four main arguments in favor of the Common Core that were tested in the survey, as well as four main arguments against it. However, teachers more broadly agree with the four statements describing possible disadvantages of Common Core than with the four statements highlighting its possible advantages.
Contrast the above explanation to the title of the report, “Teachers Favor Common Core Standards, Not the Testing.”
The last table I will present here is “four arguments against CCSS.” The “strongly agree” category is the most popular:
As Gallup notes, the public school teachers in their survey are most opposed to tying their jobs to student test scores. But this is the report in which Gallup closes with the Gates Foundation statement about teachers’ just “need[ing] time to familiarize themselves with the standards and the assessments….”
Teachers will come around to CCSS and its tests. Just give them time.
A sales pitch from the “foundation” whose billionaire leader is bankrolling CCSS. (Read more about Gates and CCSS here.)
What I Didn’t Detail in This Post
The summative document at the outset of this post includes two more Gallup reports on teacher opinions of CCSS. The third report concerns teachers’ “feeling worried and frustrated” with CCSS. The report also indicates that more than half of the teacher sample feels “resigned to” CCSS– whether full sample of 854 teachers or subsample of 214 CCSS-in-2013-14 teachers.
The fourth report concerns CCSS and computer testing. Teachers in elementary schools, low-income schools, and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) states feel that their students are least prepared for CCSS tests by computer given students’ typing and computer skills.
And “as far as they know,” most (61%) believed that CCSS assessment field tests “went very/mostly smoothly.”
Here are five of my favorite “positive” comments (because they are so far from anything I would have ever written):
Gives teachers (who need one) a template in which to teach.
Common standards in theory are fair for all students.
That all students should be on one accord and learning the same curriculum.
We are trying to set a common standard of required material federally.
Emphasis on critical thinking skills.
From the “negative” list, numerous comments concern developmental inappropriateness. But these are my favorites because I readily identify with them:
It will take years before we find out it if is working.
There is NO consideration for the varied abilities of the students.
Not all educational needs are the same throughout the US.
It doesn’t allow for as much teacher creativity. No teacher or student is exactly the same as another.
The myth teachers will collaborate on a national level & that universities will produce better teachers. Common Core is political, driven by state’s governors. It’s a business monopoly on education.
And there we have it: The Schneider Post on 2014 Gallup CCSS.
The sampling issues bother me most.