Awareness Is Key to Success of Common Core Standards

A new poll suggests the more stakeholders know about the state-led initiative, the more they like it.

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Supporters of the Common Core State Standards say the initiative will align high school learning with college and work expectations.
Supporters of the Common Core State Standards say the initiative will align high school learning with college and work expectations.

The Common Core State Standards are taking root in public schools across the country, impacting more than 42 million K-12 students and 2.7 million teachers—but outside the education sphere, many people have no idea what the standards entail.

In fact, 60 percent of registered voters surveyed said they know nothing about the new academic standards, according to a poll released last week by Achieve, an education nonprofit.

Teachers are better informed on the standards, with 65 percent saying they know a lot, up from an August 2011 survey where fewer than half of the teachers surveyed said they were well versed on the standards, according to the poll. While only 1,000 registered voters and 500 K-12 teachers were surveyed for the poll, the results are nationally representative, says Chad Colby, communications director at Achieve.

The Common Core State Standards set a consistent bar for math and English achievement. With an emphasis on building and expressing logical arguments, and applying math to real-world issues, the initiative aims to align high school lessons in those subjects with college and work expectations. State leaders from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed the standards with input from teachers, school administrators, and other experts (the federal government was not involved with developing the standards).

[Learn about the challenges of national standards.]

They are "a foundation for the essential skills needed in math and English," Colby says. "They're challenging, but they're applying critical thinking skills."

Support for the standards is growing as educators and the public learn more about them, Colby says.

"People like that they're common … that students will be learning similar things along a similar timeline across states," Colby says. "What we've seen from the surveys, as teachers read or hear about them ... [is] they're optimistic, they like what they see," he says. "It's a good sign for implementation."

After a brief introduction to the standards—which are designed to be internationally competitive and include more rigorous exams—77 percent of voters supported their implementation, according to the poll.

While the Common Core Standards will set a uniform achievement benchmark, implementation will vary from state to state, particularly in the area of technology, which is weaved throughout the standards and their computer-based assessments.

Teachers and voters surveyed in the poll raised concerns about computer-based testing, as well as using those tests for teacher evaluations and federal accountability, the report stated.

"There is a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that our classrooms are technology ready. It's a daunting task," Colby notes, especially in states with large rural expanses and insufficient infrastructure.

[Learn more about technology in the classroom.]

But states such as Oregon, Virginia, and Indiana have found ways to overcome their own unique rural challenges, he adds.

"Each state is going to approach it differently … If you talk to Virginia, how they do it will be vastly different from the way Indiana has undertaken it," Colby says.

As states ramp up their Common Core implementation, the success of the standards will hinge on informed stakeholders, and teachers will likely be tasked with keeping parents in the loop, with administration playing a support role, Colby says.

"Teachers are the communicators parents listen to most," he says. "It's important for states and districts and even school leaders to make sure that teachers have the right resources."

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