Gates-Backed Report: Public Turning On Common Core

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Blake Neff Reporter
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A new study financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirms support for Common Core is flagging as grassroots opposition flares up.

That’s bad news for the Gates Foundation and other Common Core supporters, who have been hoping that greater public knowledge of the multistate education standards would translate into stronger support rather than furious opposition.

The report, simply titled “Common Core State Standards in 2014,” was published Wednesday by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) at George Washington University. The Center surveyed superintendents in every state Common Core is being implemented in, seeking to assess how sentiments towards the standards have changed since an earlier survey was conducted in 2011, when states were adopting the now-controversial standards for the first time.

Five states have acted to eliminate or substantially modify Common Core in the past year, and many more have had bills under serious consideration. According to the report, this rising resistance to Common Core is pervasive at the local level and not limited to the statehouse.

When surveyed, 34 percent of district leaders described resistance from outside the school system as a major challenge to implementing Common Core, and another 39 percent described it as a minor challenge (18 percent said it was not a challenge at all).

That is a dramatic shift from 2011, when only 5 percent of district leaders said outside resistance was a major problem, 35 percent said it was a minor one, and 60 percent said it wasn’t a problem.

Internal resistance is rising as well. While in 2011, only 10 percent of district leaders said opposition from their own teachers and principals was hindering Common Core implementation, in three years that number has spiked to 25 percent.

This collectively rising opposition has made 62 percent of leaders concerned that state governments will abruptly pull the plug on Common Core just shortly after its implementation.

Nonetheless, the study maintains that despite rising opposition, school leaders remain supportive overall. Over 90 percent of school district leaders believe the standards are more academically rigorous than what came before, a large boost from 2011 when just over half thought so. More than three quarters also believe that the standards will boost student achievement in their schools.

However, all is not well even for district heads, who are adamant that more time, effort, and money than initially expected will be necessary for Common Core to work.

Over 80 percent of leaders say Common Core requires new or massively changed curricula and teaching standards, something only half of them thought in 2011.  A whopping 90 percent were concerned that standardized tests aligned with Common Core are being rolled out too quickly, and could be used to penalize low-performing schools before they’ve had the chance to adapt.

The last concern is one that the Gates Foundation itself, a major backer of Common Core, has already acknowledged by calling for a general two-year freeze on using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools.

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