Robert G. Holland
Never let it be said that Common Core (CC) entirely lacks educational value.
By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.
The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.
A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:
“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”
That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.
In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”
The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.
The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.
It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.
Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.
Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.
Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.
Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.
Governor Fallin today embraced the new Republican nominee for school superintendent, Joy Hofmeister, and said they’ve already started working on an agenda for stronger schools.
Hofmeister was overwhelmingly elected by GOP primary voters over the incumbent Janet Barresi.
This, from Fallin’s campaign website:
Governor Mary Fallin and candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister are working together on an agenda to strengthen Oklahoma public schools and produce better outcomes for Oklahoma students. Mary and Joy know the path forward requires:
- A commitment to producing strong, Oklahoma-based academic standards to replace Common Core
- Supporting our teachers by getting more funding for K-12 education
- Focusing on accountability in spending – additional funds need to go to the classroom!
“Joy Hofmeister is a teacher, small business owner and a mother who cares deeply about public education in Oklahoma, which is why I was proud to appoint her to the Oklahoma State Board of Education. I know Joy will work tirelessly to unite parents, teachers, employers and lawmakers as we work to support and improve our schools. I am proud to support her in her race for superintendent.” – Governor Mary Fallin
“Governor Fallin has always said that improving education is the most important thing we can do to support the long term growth and prosperity of our state. She should be applauded for highlighting the importance of public education, not just in the individual growth of our students, but for Oklahoma’s long term economic well-being. I encourage Oklahomans to get behind Governor Fallin to ensure we have a pro-education governor for the next four years.” – Joy Hofmeister
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman announced the “first phase” of his education program on Thursday.
In doing so, Dorman signaled his intention to tie state Superintendent Janet Barresi around incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin’s neck.
“The ‘Fal-esi’ (which Dorman pronounced ‘fallacy’) plan — the Fallin-Barresi education plan — must be turned around,” Dorman said during a press conference in Tulsa.
Barresi’s aggressive approach to education reform stirred animosity across the political spectrum and put her frequently at odds with the Legislature. Her bid for re-election ended last month with a third-place finish in a Republican primary won outright by former state school board member Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa.
Barresi and Fallin have sought to take the public education system in generally the same direction but have disagreed at times on policy and implementation.
“Much has been said about Mary Fallin and Janet Barresi,” Dorman said. “The two of them combined have initiated changes that have caused what’s happened to our education system.
“Through their radical agenda on education, they have pursued many programs that have harmed the classrooms.”
Dorman specifically cited lack of financial support, high-stakes testing and lack of input from education professionals as shortcomings of the current regime.
Dorman’s proposal, called Classrooms First, would dedicate the state franchise tax — estimated at $35 million — to classroom costs and limit per-pupil state funding cuts.
Dorman said the money from the franchise tax, which now goes into the general fund, could not be spent on administrative salaries or for non-educational purposes.
A term-limited state representative from Rush Springs, Dorman previously proposed using the franchise tax to finance school storm shelters. He still supports the idea of state-financed shelters but said the proposal now being circulated as an initiative petition does not specify a revenue source.
Under Dorman’s Classrooms First proposal, the franchise tax would be distributed as part of the so-called midterm adjustment. Local districts would have some latitude on how the money is spent.
Dorman also emphasized that the winner of November’s gubernatorial election will oversee the adoption of new education standards.
“The governor has the ability to hire and fire the state board of education,” he said. “The governor will determine the education standards. We have to have input from education professionals, parents and other parties invested in education.”
Dr. Freda Deskin sent this email today to the news media:
We respectfully request as you continue to report accurate and fair information regarding the election of the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction, that you allow Democrat candidate Freda Deskin the same respect as her opponent John Cox in their short descriptors.
Recently in various articles, Freda Deskin has been referred to as “Charter school founder” and “Dean” whereas John Cox has been referred to as a “lifelong educator.” Freda Deskin is beginning her 44th year dedicated and working in Oklahoma schools as John Cox is beginning his 29th.
Please know members of the Deskin campaign are thoroughly appreciative of Oklahoma’s media sources and grateful for your understanding. In addition, as the Aug. 26 primary run-off approaches there will be many events you may be interested in attending. The Deskin campaign will keep you notified of events for your consideration.
Republican Joy Hofmeister today called for a federal investigation into incumbent State Superintendent Janet Barresi.
Hofmeister said today she will provide emails showing that Barresi had full knowledge of the privacy violations of Department of Education student records and refused to do anything about it until after intense pressure from state board members, the media, and legislators.
Hofmeister also charged that Barresi’s staff admits that her own campaign benefited from her use of private student records. This includes the records of special education students receiving the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship through the State Department of Education.
Parents of special needs students recently revealed that they learned their child’s name had been made public because Barresi’s campaign reached out to them.
“Janet Barresi has repeatedly violated the privacy of Oklahoma school children. She has posted their private academic records and personal information on the State Department of Education website. There are multiple state and federal laws prohibiting this sort of behavior,” Hofmeister said.
“These are egregious failures of which Janet Barresi is desperate to conceal while she continues to use her personal fortune to smear my name,” Hofmeister said.
“Barresi’s conduct is a pattern of abuse that I witnessed during my appointment to the State Board of Education and is one of the reasons why I am compelled to run against her. Superintendent Barresi’s gross violations of state and federal privacy laws need to be fully investigated.”
“This is yet another example of Joy Hofmeister trying to use taxpayer resources for her own campaign advancement. There is nothing new in these allegations — she has been trying to trump these issues for months. It is not surprising that Hofmeister is making wild allegations given that she has been identified as the focus of an inquiry by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater regarding illegal campaign activity. At the same time, previously secret e-mails show that the Hofmestier campaign illegally used school resources for fundraising efforts. I believe Oklahoma voters will see through Hofmeister’s transparent effort to divert attention from her very real legal problems, which could include criminal prosecution.
“The Department acknowledged that staff made mistakes, as will happen when 284 employees are working to implement needed education reforms, but that has been rectified and handled with transparency as Ms. Hofmeister’s own release proves. Hofmeister claims this is why she quit the state board and is running for office. If that were true, why did she wait until five days before an election to call for the investigation? Certainly, to now run to ask for the help of Barack Obama appointees shows her desperation and proves this is a campaign stunt with absolutely no merit.”