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By Theresa Harrington, Contra Costa Times

Results of a national poll released Wednesday show that many Americans are opposed to the newly implemented Common Core standards, although their reasons reveal they don’t understand them.

Similarly, the 46th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll gauging public attitudes toward public schools and other education issues, showed strong support for charter schools, even though many people surveyed had misconceptions about how they work.

“Given the increased media coverage this year, we were not surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans have heard about the Common Core State Standards, but we were surprised by the level of opposition,” said William Bushaw, chief executive officer of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “Supporters of the standards, and educators in particular, face a growing challenge in explaining why they believe the standards are in the best interest of students in the United States.”

The results related to Common Core — which are a state-led effort to create higher learning standards in kindergarten through 12th grade English and mathematics — showed the most dramatic change compared to last year. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia originally adopted the standards, which have been criticized by opponents who allege they take local control away from schools.

In 2014, nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they had never heard of the new standards. This year, 81 percent said they had heard of them, and 60 percent said they opposed the standards, most saying because they believe they limit the flexibility of teachers to teach what they think is best.

Nearly three-quarters of those who supported the standards, on the other hand, said they “help more students learn what they need to know regardless of where they go to school.”

Michael Kirst, president of the California state Board of Education, said the poll results related to the standards did not appear to reflect what is going on in California. Contrary to the opinions stated, the standards actually allow teachers greater flexibility to communicate information in engaging and challenging ways to prepare more students for college and careers, he said.

“A lot of states, particularly with strong Republican and tea party roots, have had a lot of agitation about this and we have not had as much,” he said. “And some other states have rolled out Common Core in a very clumsy manner … they made the Common Core immediately accountable for schools and teachers.”

California is phasing the standards in more slowly, allowing time for teacher training and pilot tests this year, he said.

Kirst was also surprised by the poll’s results related to charter schools, which showed that more than 60 percent of respondents supported them, but thought they were religious and that students had to pay tuition to attend them.

“They’re badly misunderstood,” Kirst said.

The results were based on telephone interviews of 1,001 American adults in May. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Photo: Construct via Flickr

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