Budget Cuts, Not Standards, Are Top Concern for Parents

Kelsey Sheehy
August 21, 2013

The Common Core State Standards are taking a beating. Several states are trying to backtrack on the curriculum guidelines and New York schools made headlines earlier this month when scores plummeted during the first round of testing tied to the standards.

Despite attention from media and lawmakers, 62 percent of Americans - and 55 percent of public school parents - have never heard of the Common Core standards, according to a Gallup poll released today. The standards aim to set a consistent benchmark across all states, and emphasize 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.

"There's still a lot of people out there that don't know much about the Common Core," says Von Sheppard, assistant superintendent at Boulder Valley School District in Colorado.

[Discover why most states aren't ready for Common Core standards.]

Parents who think they're up on the standards don't actually know much, though. Of those who have heard of the Common Core standards, nearly 40 percent either agree or strongly agree that the "federal government insists all states adopt the standards." Almost 50 percent agree or strongly agree that Common Core "will create standards in all academic areas," the survey notes.

Math and English language arts are the only subjects covered under the Common Core standards, which were developed by state leaders with input from teachers, administrators and education experts.

Critics say tying federal funding to adoption of the standards is a way for the administration to get states to comply, but each of the 45 states that adopted the Common Core did so voluntarily.

Poor communication from schools could be partially to blame.

"We've done our best to talk about the Common Core," Sheppard says.

But Boulder Valley has yet to send anything to parents explaining the standards, he adds, even though Colorado is set to fully implement the Common Core this school year.

Parents can find information on the district's website, he says, but it is difficult to find.

"The parents in the Boulder Valley School District are very, very smart," Sheppard says. "They do a lot of digging, they do a lot of unearthing information on their own."

Another reason for the knowledge gap on Common Core standards is parents have a bigger concern: school funding.

Thirty-six percent of public school parents cited a lack of financial support as the biggest problem facing schools in their community, the largest proportion surveyed. Eleven percent put overcrowding atop their list of concerns. Only 4 percent were concerned with testing or regulations.

"The discussion around Common Core is so far removed from our reality," says Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education in Philadelphia.

New standards are the last thing parents want to talk about when a $304 million budget shortfall forces schools to lay off teachers and critical support staff, as is the case in Philadelphia.

"In the Philadelphia public schools, where they've stripped out almost everything, you can't have a conversation about the Common Core," Gym says. "It's almost laughable to talk about kids being college and career ready when 60 percent of high schools may not even have a guidance counselor."