Does Common Core Have a Branding Problem?

Annie TeichIn her first piece for the new Education Post, Tracy Dell’Angela suggests that the real issue around Common Core Standards is that they have a branding problem.

Referencing the 2014 EdNext data, she says: “Americans… want clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do in math, reading and writing from elementary through high school. Maybe they don’t like the name, but they want what Common Core offers. They know we must expect more from our children.”

The study she refers to is the 2014 EdNext poll, which highlights the increasing polarity of opinion on Common Core:

  • Public support in 2013 was 65%; now down to 53% in 2014.
  • Republican support has fallen from 57% to 43% year over year.
  • Democrat support has remained unchanged – 64% to 63%.
  • Democrats who do not support CCSS increased from 10% to 17% in 2014.
  • Teacher support fell dramatically from 76% to 46%.
  • Opposition has tripled from 12% to 40%.

Those respondents who said they were familiar with the Common Core were asked a follow-up question. Testing the idea that, at least in part, it is the Common Core label that is the problem, this follow-up question alternated between specifying Common Core Standards and referring simply to generic standards. Here is the question with the variable text in brackets:

As you may know, in the last few years, states have been deciding whether or not to use [the Common Core, which are] standards for reading and math that are the same across the states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the use of these [the Common Core] standards in your state?

The results were remarkable. In their summary of the poll results in No Common Opinion on the Common Core, Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson, and Martin R. West note that “when the Common Core label is dropped from the question, support for the concept among the general public leaps from 53% to 68%.

“Significantly, the pronounced partisan polarization evoked by the phrase Common Core disappears when the question does not include those seemingly toxic words.”

When the words “Common Core” are omitted, “the level of support among Republicans is 68%, virtually identical to the Democratic level of support. In other words, a broad consensus remains with respect to national standards, despite the fact that public debate over the Common Core has begun to polarize the public along partisan lines.”

When the question refers generically to the need for higher standards, two-thirds of Americans agree that we need tougher standards. It is the words “Common Core” themselves that many are reacting to due to the politicization and polarization of the issue.

One of the significant benefits to marketing Common Core resources is that it would mean that the days of customizing products and marketing for individual states would be a thing of the past.

I’m sure that the political sensitivity of the standards is clearly understood by all. However, it’s good to hear that when the words “Common Core” are removed from the discussion, there is general agreement on the need and type of standards required to make our students’ college and career ready.

This underscores what we heard here about how superintendents are feeling about the implementation of Common Core:

“…Overall superintendents seem optimistic about the standards and their eventual impact on student learning as well as their abilities to gather support from their broader communities.”

 Does this data differ from or support what you’re hearing from the field?