Thursday, June 19, 2014

Common Core; Who Knew?

Polling.  Our country loves this stuff.  Naturally, for anyone who has taken a decent high school civics class (or sociology/poly sci course in college), we all know to take polling with a grain of salt. 

Depends on who does it, who paid for it (not always the same) and, most of all, the shaping of the questions.  Nowhere is this more visible than in polling around Common Core. 

The most hilarious part?  To this day, nearly half the country doesn't have a clue.  Still. 

The latest polling is from NBC/Wall Street Journal.  It's a wide-ranging poll on politicians and the mood of the country.  But they do ask about CC and public education.  There were 1,000 people polled, almost equally men and women but 74% white. 

First, they ask "how well you think our public schools are working." 
A whole five percent said "pretty well." 
About 31% said "some change needed but basically keep it the same." 
About 35% said, "Major changes needed" while 26% said "complete overhaul needed."  S

So that's about 35% who are good with our system and about 61% who think change is needed. 

What is interesting is that they don't ask people to choose what THEY think is needed/would help.  I'd be interested to know what most people would say (and what the difference is between parents with school-aged kids and those without).

Then they ask:

  1. Have you seen read or heard news about a new set of educational standards called Common Core? (IF YES, THEN ASK:) and have you seen read or heard a lot or just some about Common Core? 
  2. Yes, a lot ........................................... 22 Yes, some.......................................... 30 No...................................................... 47
    Not sure........................................... 1
 So just over half the country has even seen or heard of Common Core standards?  At this late date?

  1. 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?

Strongly support ................................ 27
Somewhat support............................. 32
Somewhat oppose............................. 11
Strongly oppose.................................20
Not sure............................................. 10

So that's 59% that like standards (from that ever-so-brief explanation) and 31% who don't.

I contrast this with another poll taken in Washington State on Common Core released earlier this month. They say that 70% of Washington residents support Common Core.

Who sponsored this polling? The public education arm of the Washington Roundtable (a business group), Partnership for Learning. They did the polling for Ready Washington which is a coalition group pushing Common Core. This was 900 adults in Washington State. 
They claim it was statewide but when you examine their data, not so much.

Now when this poll came out, it was stated that this was a poll taken throughout the state.  You scroll down to page 8 and see that 29% of the responses came from King County, 49% came from "Western" and 22% from "Eastern."

So if 70% of the responses came from the "Western" part of the state and 22% from the "Eastern" part of the state, is that considered "even?"  Especially when it is far more likely that the eastern part of the state - skewing conservative - would be opposed to CC?

I tweeted Ready Washington on this point and they said it was evenly done across the state.  When I tweeted the stats - from the polling document - dead silence. (Their polling results say,
"statistically weighted for statewide results."  I understand what that means but for phone polling, I'm not buying this explanation.)

You can contrast what they found for Washington State versus the national mood.
  • 48% think our state’s K-12 education system is moving in the right direction; 30% wrong track; 21% don’t know
  • 44% have heard of Common Core (up from 14% in 2013); 54% have not; 2% don’t know
 Again, explaining to people, in a very basic way what standards are (which are pretty much what most people would probably describe what ANY education standards should be), pretty much is like saying, do you support the idea of motherhood?  the flag? Sure.

They then read a list of statements about CC (but again, really, about public education in general).  They fudge one of them, saying "Teachers were involved in creating the standards and they support them because CC..."  First, teachers gave input - they did not write them and I'd bet if you told the truth, you'd get a different outcome.  Second, not all teachers support CC and you have to wonder about that "push" for that question.

They also have a question that tries to swat off that whiff of CCSS being "federally developed."  Sure, so that no one really has a clear picture of what the DOE is doing in support of CC that very surely drove some states to adopt them.

Then they had a very wrong-headed question on how CC will save money.  That is not something anyone can say with ANY authority and it's wrong to lead people to this conclusion.  Any savings - if there is any - would be at least a decade or more off.

What is fascinating is that after all the pumped up questions on how great CCSS are, they ask the participants again what their support or opposition level is.  The support stayed the same but the opposition went up slightly. 

The bottom line is that CC continues to be something of a mystery to both Washington state and the country.    It points to either a real disaster of communications or the idea that maybe it would be better to get it rolling out, keeping it on the down low and THEN trumpet it to the rafters.

Either way, not good.


Scrawny Kayaker said...

There are 7 million people in the state. Per Census data, there are 2 million in King County and about 3 million in the rest of Western Washington, if I added right.

So, King county would be almost exactly proportionally represented in the poll at 29%. By my mental math, Eastern Washington as a whole is just a little less populous than King county, and so might be under-polled by about 5%, if I'm calculating right, but I didn't add up all those little counties, so I'm not super-confident I didn't get that a bit wrong.

The difference between 59% and 70% is not THAT big, so if the first poll had perfect representation by county, I could see much of that difference being from county skew. Exact wording of the question would also be a factor.

Regardless, "high standards" sounds like something that would get support by low-info respondents, so what to make of that I don't know. I'd guess that the quarter to scant third opposed are real solid opinions, and the rest could be anything from supporters to "yeah, that sounds good, I guess."

Mary Griffin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Griffin said...

Melissa, based on 2010 census data, the facts are that 78% of the population of the state lives wast of the cascades. Population of the state at that time was 6,724,540. 78% or 5,229,486 lived in Western Washington, 1,495,054 lived in Eastern Washington. 29% of the state's population(1,931,249)lived in King County, and 49% of the rest of the state's population (3,298,237) lived in the rest of Western Washington. 81.6% of the state report themselves as white. So their numbers are spot on. I would say, that most of their questions regarding Common Core would be what I refer to as "push poll" style questions such as "Common learning standards in English and math across the nation will better prepare students for college, life, and work."