MSNBC/WSJ Survey: Public not very happy with schools, barely half ever heard of Common Core

A new survey conducted for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal by Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies reveals some surprising information about how the nation thinks about its public school system in general and provides an interesting hint about what the people who do know about Common Core really think about it.

Several things pop out.

• The survey shows 61 percent of the general public in the nation (survey accuracy is plus or minus 3 points) think the public school system in this country needs somewhere between major changes and a complete overhaul.

• The survey asked a very leading question about Common Core, playing on the wide lack of knowledge of these new education standards. Never-the-less, the survey, provides strong clues that a solid majority of those members of the public who do know something about Common Core are opposed to it.

The first education question in the poll asked:

“When it comes to education in grades K through twelve, please tell me whether you think.”

Here is how the survey respondents answered:

(a) Our public schools work pretty well as they are now – 5%
(b) Some changes are needed, but basically they should be kept the same – 31%
(c) Major changes are needed – 35%
(d) A complete overhaul is needed – 26%
(e) Not sure – 3%

So, as of June 2014, an astonishing 61 percent of the respondents think the public school system in this country needs somewhere between major changes and a complete overhaul.

The survey then dealt with two questions about the Common Core State Standards, which are supposed to be creating change in our schools.

The first (poorly punctuated) Common Core question asks:

“Have you seen read or heard news about a new set of educational standards called Common Core?” If respondents had heard something, the poll takers were then to ask, “Have you seen read or heard a lot or just some about Common Core?”

Here is how those answers came back:

(a) Yes, a lot – 22%
(b) Yes, some – 30%
(c) No – 47%
(d) Not sure – 1%

Given the form of the basic question, I think the “Not Sure” answer is more likely a “have not heard anything” answer. Regardless, nearly half the people in this country have not heard anything about the Common Core State Standards which were released four years ago and adopted by the vast majority of states in the nation.

Now, here is the way the other Common Core poll item was asked:

“Just to make sure that everyone has the same information let me describe the Common Core standards in a bit more detail. The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.

Based on this information, do you support or oppose the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards in your state? (IF SUPPORT/OPPOSE, ASK) And, do you STRONGLY (support/oppose) or just SOMEWHAT (support/oppose) this?”

This is clearly a loaded question. It only presents a positive side to the story. Notably absent in this question is any mention of the increasing problems Common Core is experiencing (e.g. Three states recently dropped adoption, Republican Party has major plank against Common Core, teachers’ unions now calling for reviews, absence of research so far that Common Core working as promised).

Still, here is how respondents answered this loaded question:

(a) Strongly support – 27%
(b) Somewhat support – 32%
(c) Somewhat oppose – 11%
(d) Strongly oppose – 20%
(e) Not sure – 10%

Now, let’s put this together in a way the pollsters clearly never considered.

Based on the first Common Core question, only 52 percent of the public knew anything about Common Core when the survey was conducted. Still, the poll says 31 percent either somewhat or strongly opposed the standards.

I would submit that the 31 percent opposed to the Core would have to have knowledge beyond the loaded question information to form such negative opinions. So, virtually all would fall in the total of 52 percent of all respondents that said they knew something about Common Core already.

Thus, it seems likely that 31 in 52 – that is 60 percent – of the people in the United States who know something about Common Core are opposed to the reform.

Given the fact that dissatisfaction with Common Core seems to be rising, as more of the uninformed learn about Common Core, it’s likely that the percentage of the total public who are unhappy may grow even more.


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