More New Jerseyans in the dark about Common Core standards, poll finds

By Peggy McGlone | The Star-Ledger
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on July 23, 2014

Many New Jerseyans haven't heard of the Common Core, the curriculum standards that have been adopted by New Jersey and 38 other states, but a majority of those who know something about the topic say they disapprove of them.


Although a controversial subject in education circles, more New Jerseyans say they know nothing about the Common Core State Standards than those who say they have heard a lot about them, according to a new poll.

But the Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind Poll released Wednesday also reports more than half of those who have heard "some" or "a lot" about the standards say they disapprove of them.

The poll found 44 percent of residents said they have heard nothing about the guidelines for language arts and math that have been adopted by 39 states, including New Jersey. Only 15 percent reported knowing a lot about the curriculum standards that lay out what students should know in both subject areas for grades K through 12. Another 39 percent reported knowing some or just a little about the topic.

As a result, 55 percent said they didn't know if they approved of them or not. However, of those who reported knowing at least something about the standards, 54 percent disapprove and 28 approve.

More than half of residents didn’t know if the standards are being used in New Jersey’s public schools. The standards were adopted by the New Jersey State Board of Education in 2010.

The poll shows the Common Core is highly politicized, with many people basing their opinions on misconceptions about the curriculum guidelines, according to the survey’s analyst.

“A lot of the opposition is inaccurate,” Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Dan Cassino said. “The actual information is pretty dull. There aren’t too many parents saying I don’t want my children learning trigonometry or Shakespeare.”

For example, 43 percent of people who reported they had heard about the standards incorrectly believed they include sex education, Cassino said. More than a third said the standards taught evolution, while more than a quarter reported the guidelines taught global warming.

“It looks like the Common Core has become a proxy fight over curriculum,” Cassino said.

In addition, residents are divided in their opinion about the concept of uniform national standards for the teaching of language arts and math, the poll finds. When asked who should take the leadership role in making education policy, 37 percent said school officials, while 10 percent said the federal government, 18 percent said state government and 19 percent said local government.

“Parents in New Jersey, and people in New Jersey in general, want standards set by the school, not by the state, not by outside officials,” Cassino said.

A random sample of 819 residents aged 18 or older were surveyed by telephone between July 14 through July 20, according to the university.

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