Parent Voice

Removing “Buzzwords” from Poll Questions Leads to Surprising Answers

Turns out, it does matter how you ask the question. Teachers know that asking simple recall or yes/no questions stimulates different responses than asking students to investigate, explain or prove their answers. The Center for American Progress (CAP) went beyond recent poll questions that use loaded buzzwords about Common Core to investigate awareness and understanding of the standards. In a national survey of parents, CAP initially asked parents how well they know Common Core, and 64% reported understanding the standards; but when asked follow-up questions that probed their grasp of facts, the survey revealed surprising results—majorities (or near majorities) believe a variety of myths:
  • 50% classify the Common Core as a “shared curriculum” (as opposed to standards).
  • 49% believe it to be a “federal government initiative” (as opposed to a state-led effort).
  • 45% think the Common Core limits teacher independence and flexibility (as opposed to encouraging it).
  • 40% believe the Common Core will require more school testing (as opposed to changing current tests).
But when asked about their support of the features of the Common Core, parents overwhelmingly support the standards’ characteristics and stated goals. Parents and education leaders should be wary about over-testing, bad curriculum, and threats to local autonomy, but it’s clear that these conversations are becoming politicized and rarely rely on the facts or science of the standards. With so much information and misinformation out there, what should a parent or teacher do? My advice: Don’t settle for yes/no questions. Go beyond the buzzwords and asks for facts and evidence; question your messenger (myself included), and drive a civil conversation and debate.
Ann Whalen
Ann Whalen is senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Prior to returning to the U.S. Department of Education, she served as the director of policy for Education Post. Whalen has served more than five years in the Obama Administration with the U.S. Department of Education. At the department, Ann was director of the Implementation and Support Unit, providing technical assistance to ...

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