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Public is more clued-in when it comes to the Common Core, but many are still skeptical

Common-CorePublic awareness of the Common Core State Standards has skyrocketed, increasing from 38 percent to 81 percent in just one year, according to the 46th annual PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

But while awareness has seen a boost, 60 percent of Americans said they don’t support the Common Core, with many saying they are worried that the standards will prevent teachers from teaching the material they think is most important for students.

Of those who oppose the Common Core, 77 percent cited lack of local teacher support as a very important or somewhat important reason for their opposition, and 68 percent cited their belief that the Common Core will result in a national curriculum and national tests.

(Next page: More on the Common Core, plus opinions on standardized testing and school challenges)

Fifty-six percent of poll respondents said local school boards should have the most say in what is taught in U.S. public schools, and 54 percent said they do not think standardized testing helps local teachers. Though many respondents said they don’t believe standardized tests help teachers, they do support such testing to determine achievement as it relates to college placement tests and graduation.

When it comes to challenges facing U.S. public schools, lack of financial support tops the list (32 percent), followed by concerns about curriculum standards (9 percent), student discipline (9 percent), and attracting and retaining high-quality teachers (8 percent).

“It’s pretty clear that ‘Common Core’ has become a polarizing term,” said Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s commissioner of education, during a conference call with reporters. “I think the rush to implement No Child Left Behind waiver requirements, and standards, assessments, and teacher evaluations, has led the public to connect the Common Core with a federal overreach of education.”

Many educators are questioning the standards, too.

“There’s a major pushback from teachers, who have connected the Common Core to standardized testing, which connects to their evaluations, so they question the validity,” Holliday said.

“Given the increased media coverage this year, we were not surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans have heard about the Common Core State Standards, but we were surprised by the level of opposition,” said William Bushaw, chief executive officer of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “Supporters of the standards, and educators in particular, face a growing challenge in explaining why they believe the standards are in the best interest of students in the United States.”

PISA scores released in December 2013 received a great deal of attention as U.S. educators and policy makers noted that U.S. competitiveness is in danger of slipping even more.

Despite the headlines, 70 percent of poll respondents said they don’t remember hearing about the PISA results when they were released.

Though the majority said they were unaware of the PISA results, international competitiveness remains a concern, with half saying they believe U.S. students rank below students in other nations.

Roughly three-fourths of Americans said that international teaching methods could inform U.S. instruction and education policy, but were less confident that comparing international test scores can help improve U.S. education or measure international student achievement accurately.

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