Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Building Support for the Common Core

obriena's picture

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are one of the most important education initiatives of our time. While historically each state had its own academic standards, which varied widely in quality, under the Common Core students in the 45 adopting states (plus the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity) will be held to the same internationally-benchmarked educational standards.

These standards were developed with input from educators and other experts in math and English/Language Arts, and educators continue to support them. A recent survey from the National Education Association showed more than 75% of their members (teachers, administrators, support staff and other education professionals) support the standards either wholeheartedly or with some reservations, tracking closely with results from an earlier American Federation of Teachers’ poll finding that 75% of teachers surveyed support the Common Core. Even more recently, a preview of the 2013 Primary Sources project highlighting 20,000 teachers’ thoughts on the Common Core shows that overall, 73% those who teach math, English language arts (ELA), science and/or social studies in Common Core states are enthusiastic about the implementation of the standards in their classrooms.

But the general public is another story. The 2013 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools found that prior to taking the poll, only 38% of respondents had heard of the CCSS. Of those who had, just 41% said the standards will make U.S. education more competitive globally, and significant percentages believe misinformation about them. And rhetoric in states that are revisiting involvement in the initiative indicates widespread concern that the standards are a federal intrusion into education (though development was led by state governors and education commissioners), as well as concerns about the impact on student privacy.

For the Common Core to succeed, it needs the support of the public. That support is critical for a number of reasons, but one very pragmatic one stands out: Without the support of the public, state legislatures might not appropriately fund Common Core implementation, and governors and state boards of education might pull back from the high standards, to the detriment of students. So in addition to implementing the standards, educators must build public support for them.

Ideas to build support among parents:

  • Distribute the Parents' Guide to Student Success. The National PTA has developed detailed guides on the importance of academic standards; what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade K-8 (plus separate overviews for high school math and English); and supporting learning at home. They can be distributed in student folders, school newsletters, social media and other channels.

Ideas to raise awareness in the community:

  • Write a letter to the editor, either proactively or as a reaction to misinformation. The CCSS website offers information on FAQs and myths versus facts that can be used to address issues relevant to a given community. In addition, the National School Public Relations Association has created the Common Core Communications Network to aid in Common Core communications. While some resources are available only to NSPRA members, others are available to the public.
  • Partner with community organizations. Ask local institutions, such as libraries, to put out fact sheets. These can be customized to the community, or they can be general fliers developed by national organizations such as Change the Equation. Contact local organizations (such as the Chamber of Commerce) and offer to speak on the importance of the Common Core.

While education leaders face a daunting challenge in Common Core implementation, with responsibilities ranging from developing staff to obtaining the technology necessary to implement the forthcoming CCSS assessments, they cannot overlook the importance of building community support for this work. Without it, they will not succeed.  

A version of this post appeared on the Microsoft Partners in Learning Leadership and Strategic Innovation blog. Views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

Image by Basil D Soufi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons