Thoughts on Utah Policy’s Common Core Poll

Image by Steve Depolo
Image by Steve Depolo

Last week, the Utah Policy poll on Common Core was all over the news.  The tidbit often highlighted was that while 41% of Utahns strongly or somewhat oppose the Common Core, only 21% correctly identified where the Common Core standards originated.

While I found this fact interesting, I had a few other thoughts on the poll and related  articles:

First, the poll fails to address a number of quite relevant questions about the public’s knowledge on Common Core.  Maybe more data from the poll will be released, but it seems to be missing some pieces.

For example, the poll participants should also have been asked if they currently had children in public schools.  As a parent, I am often given material about the Common Core Standards from my child’s teacher. I would also be curious to know if the understanding was equal, greater, or lower, by the general public as by parents of students.  It would also be interesting to know if those that correctly answered the question about Common Core’s origin gave more support for those standards.

Second, a Utah Policy article about the poll contained errors in explaining the Common Core Standards.  Ironic, right? The first line:

“Most Utahns clearly don’t understand where the public school student-testing program Common Core comes from, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

This does not make sense.  Common Core is not a ‘student-testing program.’  Rather, the Common Core Standards are simply statements. The test assessing if Utah students are proficient in the standards is called the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence, or SAGE.   Further, Common Core is not a program.  Grade level standards statements do not constitute a program.

Then comes this line in the Utah Policy article:

“And when GOP Gov. Gary Herbert says he needs to spend time educating citizens on Common Core – before state lawmakers act to modify or junk it – he wasn’t kidding.”

It is the Utah State School Board of Education, not state lawmakers, that adopt education standards.  It would be a stretch to refer to  board members as lawmakers, though they do write rules.  The statute is clear, as is the state constitution: Utah’s education standards are set by the Utah State Board of Education and NOT by the Legislature.

Third, Utah Policy’s question created groups I doubt survey takers would have constructed on their own.  For example, the survey asked who should set standards, and the most popular option was: teachers, parents of students and local school district administrators.   It seems odd that administrators are there instead of locally elected school board members or principals?  How many parents of students can even name one of their local school district administrators?

Fourth, one data point that seemed most interesting was the desire for Utah students to be compared to their peers within the state, but then seemed contradicted by the belief that teachers, parents of students and local school district administrators should set standards.  If standards were set district by district (and charter school by charter school), how would we compare students within the state?  Each district would be need to create their own assessment to test proficiency on their own standards, and then those assessment scores could not be compared to other districts?  This would not work.

Finally, one thought unrelated to the poll directly, but reaffirmed by it: the State School Board has failed both in messaging the Common Core Standards as well as in what their role is in public education.

I hope at some point we collectively can stop asking, “Do you understand how the Common Core came to be?” and start asking, “Now that we have had the Common Core for years, where can it be improved?”

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