California poll shows strong support for Common Core standards

October 10, 2016

The Common Core State Standards have faced strong opposition in many states, but in California, more than three out of five registered voters support them, according to a poll commissioned by the Oakland-based nonprofit advocacy group Children Now.

In the telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters, 63 percent said they either strongly or somewhat favor the standards, while 33 percent said they somewhat or strongly oppose them, with 4 percent expressing no view.

Larger percentages of Hispanic, African-American and Asian voters said they favored the standards than white parents, who comprised 51 percent of those surveyed, according to EMC Research, the polling firm that administered the survey.

“We are not surprised to find that Common Core support remains strong in our state,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, which backs the standards. “California has been a leader in implementing the updated education standards and the test results are doing what they are meant to do—shine a light on achievement gaps, which is crucial to creating a more equitable education system for California’s kids.”

The Children Now poll indicated more support for and knowledge of the Common Core than other recent surveys. However, differences in how questions were phrased and polls were administered may have influenced the answers. The Children Now poll prefaced asking about the Common Core by stating that the standards “established reliable and consistent learning goals in English language arts, literacy and math.”

The Common Core standards appear to have more support in California than they do on the national level.  A national online poll conducted in May and June, 2016 by the journal Education Next found declining support  for the Common Core nationally. Fifty percent of 4,181 adults favored the use of Common Core in their state, down from 58 percent the year before and 83 percent four years earlier. Most of the shift was among Republicans, whose support fell from 82 to 39 percent in four years. The drop among Democrats was from 86 percent to 60 percent.

The Children Now poll did not ask participants their party affiliation, but in California about 45 percent of registered voters are Democrats and only 23 percent are Republicans, with 27 percent unaffiliated.

In California, where Democrats hold all statewide elective offices and control the Legislature, there has been a unified front for the Common Core, including Gov. Jerry Brown, the State Board of Education that he appoints, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, legislative leaders and the state’s two teachers unions.  There has also been very little parent opposition to the standards. Last spring, less than 1 percent of parents chose to opt out of having their students take the Smarter Balanced tests aligned with the standards.

One distinct feature of the Children Now poll is that levels of support changed when respondents were read arguments for or against the standards.

Respondents were read 10 statements made by supporters of the standards. These included arguments that they are designed to promote critical thinking and problem solving, to set a high bar for all students, and to help students learn what they need to succeed in college or the  the workplace.

After hearing these arguments, support for the standards rose to 67 percent and opposition dropped to 31 percent.

Respondents were also read eight statements  by opponents of the standards. These included criticisms that the Common Core is a top-down federal program imposed on states and local districts, that the standards are inappropriate for young children, hurt at-risk children, including English learners, and weren’t needed to replace state standards that had succeeded in raising test scores.

After being read these arguments, support for the standards fell to 55 percent, with 43 percent opposed.

Forty-five states and the Washington, D.C., adopted the Common Core standards, although three states – Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina – have rescinded them. A handful of other states, including New York, where an attempt to link teachers’ evaluations to scores on standardized tests eroded teachers’ support for the standards, are considering significant revisions.

However, most states have either maintained the standards or renamed them, while keeping the core standards intact.

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