Louisiana adults seem to be getting their “facts” about Common Core from partisan rhetoric and basing their opinion, for the most part, on their political persuasion, according to the most recent chapter of LSU’s 2015 Louisiana Survey that was released Tuesday.
But the poll also found lots of support for the concept — higher academic standards that could be compared with the achievements of students in other states — just not when it was called “Common Core.”
“People like the idea behind the program, but the phrase has become politically toxic — dropping support and polarizing the parties,” said Michael Henderson, who as research director at LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab was in charge of putting together the annual survey.
The Louisiana Survey has been conducted annually since 2003. The poll is sponsored by the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs “to understand the opinions of Louisiana residents and share those opinions with Louisiana lawmakers.” The LSU Lab interviewed via cellphones and land lines 980 adults living around the state. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
A majority of Louisiana opposes Common Core when that term is part of the question. But when answering the same question without using the Common Core label, LSU found 67 percent in support.
“There is no difference in support of Democrats and Republicans when the program is not labeled as Common Core,” the survey determined. When the term was used in the question, support split along party lines with 57 percent of the Democrats in favor and 62 percent of the Republicans opposed.
“The way people respond to the name Common Core probably has a lot to do with what they think that means,” Henderson said.
To measure what Louisiana adults know and what they believe, the LSU pollsters crafted questions that tested the public’s knowledge. After answering the initial set of questions, the respondents were randomly split into different groups and asked two different sets of questions.
“Everybody got one or the other,” Henderson said. “What it shows us is that there’s a lot more confusion than you think.”
The survey stated: “When asked one way, people are more likely to say state leaders developed the standards, but when asked another way they are more likely to say the federal government developed the standards.”
The movement to create the standards started when a professional association for state superintendents began talking about common standards in 2007, during the term of President George W. Bush. The Common Core State Standards Initiative drew input from teachers and educators to develop achievement levels students would be expected to reach.
The standards were released in 2010, during the term of President Barack Obama.
Critics contend that Common Core allows the federal government to control local classrooms.
Defenders say Common Core standards simply detail benchmarks and that decisions over curricula, textbooks and other instructional materials remain in local control.
When the LSU Survey presented statements describing specific aspects of the Common Core State Standards, anywhere from 28 percent to 47 percent of the respondents could not say whether the claims are true or false.
“When they do venture to make judgments on these claims, it appears they are simply guessing, because answers vary widely depending on how the question is phrased,” the LSU Survey stated.
In another example, when asked whether it is true or false that the federal government requires states to use Common Core, respondents are more likely to say this is true than to say it is false.
But if the question is posed from the other side — asking people whether it is true or false that states can voluntarily choose to participate in Common Core — people are also more likely to say that is true than to say it false, the survey showed.
Henderson said this indicates that people are falling back on the rhetoric, regardless of its accuracy, to form their judgments about the issue.
“We’re hearing inconsistent stories in the rhetoric,” Henderson said.
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