STEM Beats - Common Core

New Poll: Teachers Like Common Core Standards!

October 8, 2014

A frequent talking point for critics of the Common Core State Standards is that teachers don’t like the standards. Until very recently, the critics had some teacher polling data to back them up, but a new poll from Scholastic has turned the tables. By and large, teachers like the Common Core.

Sixty-eight percent of teachers in the Scholastic poll say they are enthusiastic about the implementation of Common Core in their classrooms. In fact, the longer they work with the standards, it seems, the better they like them. Among teachers who have taught the standards for at least a year, 86 percent say they are enthusiastic.

So why the dueling polls? It all comes down to how you ask the question. The critics’ favorite poll, published by Education Next, phrased the question like this:

As you may know, in the last few years, states have been deciding whether or not to use the Common Core, which are standards for reading and math that are the same across states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the use of the Common Core standards in your state?

Is it any wonder that only 46 percent of teachers voiced their support?  Education Next’s poll question implies that the new standards exist solely to hold schools (and, by extension, teachers) accountable. That’s hardly a selling point for teachers these days, who commonly object that they are being held accountable for student test results long before they have had the time or support to prepare for the new standards. Even in the Scholastic survey, almost six in ten teachers saw efforts to evaluate teachers on test results as a barrier to implementing the Common Core.

Still, the Scholastic poll shows that teachers’ support for the standards themselves is surviving largely intact.  Why? They are seeing results. Among teachers who have worked with the standards for more than a year, for example, 68 percent say they are already seeing a positive change in their students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.

This doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods just yet. Teachers could still sour on the standards if they don’t get the support they need, or they could object to the new accountability systems states are struggling to create in the wake of Common Core. As with any meaningful change, there is still a lot of work to do.

But for now, some vehement Common Core critics will have to look for a new talking point.

Tags: Common Core

Common Core Foes Should Be Careful What They Wish For

September 3, 2014

Regardless of where you stand on the Common Core State Standards, the antics of some state lawmakers who are trying to overturn them should scare you. Do you really want politicians dictating what gets taught in American classrooms?

No one should feel safe when lawmakers make momentous decisions on the basis of unfounded rumors. A new effort in the Ohio legislature offers a case in point. Not only would House Bill 597 scrap Common Core standards in math and English, it would also scrap the state’s science and social studies standards, adopt Massachusetts standards for two years, and then mandate the creation of new Ohio standards by 2017. That’s right, Ohio’s teachers and children would have to cope with three different sets of standards in just four years. That’s an awful lot of chaos to endure in the name of trumped-up charges against Common Core.

Much of HB 597 is simply unmoored to reality. Why, for example, does the bill undo the science and social studies standards the state adopted only three years ago? It seems one of the bill’s sponsors was told that those standards are simply the Common Core in sheep’s clothing: “Someone said they are Common Core but they just aren’t calling them that.”

Golly, someone said that? Well then, let’s drop those standards, too, upend years’ worth of work, and squander many millions of dollars. Apparently, hearsay is justification enough for policies that affect millions of children.

Of course, anyone with an internet connection and ten minutes to spare would learn that there is no such thing as Common Core science or social studies standards, but that hardly matters.

Yet this isn’t merely a case of some feckless leaders basing big decisions on little or no evidence. The Common Core fight is giving some ideologues an opportunity to reignite battles that have little or nothing to do with Common Core. The new Ohio science standards proposed in HB 597 could, for example, open the door to creationism in science class. Efforts to overturn Common Core can become a Trojan horse for a much broader set of agendas.

I recognize that reasonable people can have principled objections to Common Core—even if I disagree with some of those objections. Yet if reasonable Common Core opponents simply stand back and let the standards succumb to baseless rumors or political witch hunts, their own cherished ideals might become the next target of zealots with an ax to grind.

The passage of HB 597 would surely embolden more activists from across the political spectrum to take on science and social studies standards, curriculum, teaching tools, and who knows what else. We already have too many examples of what happens when schools become battlegrounds in the culture wars.

So even if you don’t like Common Core, don’t root for HB 597 or similarly misguided efforts in other states. You might regret it.

Tags: Common Core, STEM & the states, standards

Featured STEMtistic - measuring up to CCSS

September 3, 2014

We all know that the state of math in the U.S. is not strong.  In fact, thirty-nine states' math standards were deemed "clearly inferior" to those laid out in Common Core.  What's more, zero states' math standards were found to be "clearly superior" to Common Core math standards.  With achievement standards being so varied across states, only some American students are getting the foundational math knowledge that they deserve.


For more facts and figures on Common Core standards (and a whole lot more), browse our growing catalog of STEMtistics and use them in your next presentation to help make the case for STEM education.

Tags: STEMtistics, Common Core, STEM & the states, standards, math

New Poll Reveals More Bad News for CCSS

August 20, 2014

Today's annoucement of results from the annual PDK/Gallup poll on public education reveals troubling news about Common Core.  The poll, conducted by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK), measures the attitudes of Americans toward public schools, both in their communities and nationally.  The results show that, overall, the public is satisfied with their neighborhood schools, but are less so nationally, with 51 percent giving schools a C.  

But perhaps the most troubling news out of the poll has to do with Common Core. On the one hand, the poll reveals that knowledge and awareness of CCSS went up from only one-third of respondents last year to 80 percent this year.  However, we've reported on the misinformation and myths surrounding CCSS so it's not particularly surprising that 60 percent of Americans surveyed oppose the standards.

Besides the proliferation of misinformation around the standards, another reason behind these waning attitudes toward CCSS may lie in a question about the biggest problems facing schools: less than 10 percent of all respondents reported that the most difficult challenge for local schools is addressing concerns about education standards. 

Interestingly, the Education Writers Association, which examined the Education Next poll results alongside the PDK/Gallp poll, noted that the standards are suffering from a branding problem, "the standards’ lackluster support may have more to do with toxic branding." Furthermore, according to the Education Next results:

When the words “common core” were removed from the question, 68 percent of the general public supported uniform national standards for schools, said Paul Peterson, a Harvard government professor and one of the Ed Next poll’s co-authors. Add “common core” back to the equation, and support plummets by 15 percentage points, to 53 percent.

“I do think the name has acquired a negative patina – if you don’t use the words ‘common core,’ people are as supportive as they were a year ago,” Peterson told EWA. “There is a feeling out there that there’s some federal dictation of textbooks material. That’s what the opponents are harping about, and they are making headway.”

As always, we'll keep bringing you the latest CCSS news, good or bad, coming across our desks.  For more on the converation around today's poll results, follow the hashtag #PDKPoll.

Tags: Common Core, standards, STEM & the states

As long as it's not Common Core! (And other misinformation)

August 1, 2014

Here at CTEq, our newsfeeds are full of stories coming out of states about Common Core.  Namely, we've seen a lot of talk about the "radioactivity" of CCSS and how, no matter what states decide to replace them with, students will be better off.  We know... we're shaking our heads too.

This month, CTEq CEO Linda Rosen tackles the "anything-but" philosophy that's been making its way around state legislatures and the political motivations behind it. Here's an excerpt

"It is hard to fathom the politicians' confidence that new state standards would be better than Common Core. Before Common Core, most states' standards were vague or not very challenging, and students performed poorly. Those who now rage against common standards barely raised an eyebrow. It seems that where we once took two steps forward, we're now taking two steps back."

For more on the misinformation and myths around Common Core (like the belief that its dumbing down education) and the reality behind them, keep an eye on our Huffington Post series.  

Tags: Common Core, standards, STEM & the states