A poll of Arkansas schoolteachers finds that most of them believe Common Core is working for the state and should remain in place, but that the state’s current Common Core-aligned standardized tests should be replaced or eliminated.
The University of Arkansas’ Office for Education Policy sampled 975 teachers from grades 3-12 to gauge their opinions on Common Core.
Among the teachers, 66 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with Common Core, and 61 percent said they wanted the standards to be kept in place, while only 37 percent wanted them repealed. 92 percent said that Common Core was more rigorous than the state’s old standards, and 46 percent said that students were better off thanks to Common Core (versus 26 percent who thought they were worse off). Solid majorities said the standards would improve students’ critical thinking and make them better prepared for college and the workforce.
While it may be tempting to attribute teachers’ support for Common Core to them being rather liberal, that may not be a satisfactory explanation in this case. Of the teachers polled, 43 percent described themselves as Republicans and only 22 percent self-identified as Democrats.
The teachers didn’t like everything about Common Core, however, and their number one source of anxiety was related to standardized tests. Like several other states, Arkansas has signed on to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a multi-state consortium creating Common Core-aligned tests. Supporters of Common Core argue that having states administer similar standardized tests will make it easier to compare how well different states are educating children.
Only 11 percent of teachers, however, said they wanted to keep using the PARCC tests. Instead, 24 percent favored dumping standardized tests entirely (an option that would run afoul of federal law), 23 percent wanted to use Arkansas’s old state test, 42 percent wanted to buy or develop a new test.
The poll results could bolster the compromise efforts of some lawmakers, who have decided to focus on undermining Common Core’s tests rather than the whole set of standards. State Rep. Mark Lowery, who has introduced legislation to end PARCC in Arkansas, said the poll results didn’t shock him.
“I see Common Core and PARCC as separate issues,” Lowery told Talk Business and Politics. “I think that as long as local school districts believe that they can develop curricula locally to meet the standards, then they’ll be satisfied, but the problem has been with the testing.”
Like many other states across the country, Arkansas adopted Common Core with little controversy several years ago about is now mired in a fierce debate over whether to keep the standards. In an effort to settle the debate, Governor Asa Hutchinson has created a 16-member panel to make recommendations on whether the state should keep, dump, or modify Common Core. The poll’s results were presented to the panel’s members last week.
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