What’s in a Name: Education Next Survey Shows Strong Support for High Standards

On August 15, 2017 Jim Cowen, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, released the following memo on the results of Education Next’s 2017 Education Survey.

Nearly a year ago, we noted Education Next’s annual public opinion survey and its confirmation that parents support high, comparable, college-ready standards, as well as annual assessments.

Well, it’s that time of year again— and the results are even more encouraging in 2017.

Support for High, Comparable Standards—Whatever They’re Called and Whatever Your Politics—is Even Stronger!

  • More than 60 percent of the public supports high standards that are consistent across states. This is up from 56 percent in 2016.
  • Support for high standards remains, regardless of political affiliation. When asked if they support high standards, 61 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans responded affirmatively.
  • Reactions to the “Common Core” brand have plateaued. While more people support high standards generally than when they are linked with the brand, support for (41 percent) and opposition to (38 percent) the Common Core reflected little change from last year.

It’s worth noting that the Education Next poll question conflates standards and accountability (telling respondents that the standards “will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance.”). In addition, we also know that 58 percent of the public doesn’t actually know what Common Core is.

Tweet: The 2017 #ENpoll results show strong, continued support for #highstandards! http://bit.ly/2uFCu3r

Demand Remains for Statewide, Annual Assessments

  • The public broadly supports testing, too. 66 percent of the public favors statewide, annual assessments (the federal requirement that all students be tested in math and reading each year in 3rd through 8th grade and at least once in high school), while only 24 percent oppose the policy.
  • Support is high, regardless of political affiliation. 66 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans support testing.
  • Parents are also on board. 63 percent of parents of school-age children support the assessments.
  • Teachers oppose opting out. 58 percent of teachers oppose allowing parents to opt children out of annual assessments, which reflects sentiments in the public (63 percent) and among parents (55 percent).

The language used in the Education Next poll question on testing is worth a closer look: “Do you support or oppose the federal government continuing to require that all students be tested in math and reading each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school?”

We wonder how much higher support would have been if the question had been written with a greater focus on the actual role that assessments play for states and districts.  We would have preferred, for example, that the question read, “Do you support or oppose annual assessments (in grades 3-8 and once in high school) that can be used to inform parents, educators, and policymakers about individual and student group performance trends at a school, district, and state level?”.

Bottom line, both last year’s and this year’s Education Next results confirm a simple truth; People understand that it’s time to stop fighting about what label we put on a state’s standards and get on with implementation for all students.

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