More than 80 percent of school superintendents on Long Island and statewide who responded to a recent poll believe the Common Core academic standards are improving the quality of English and math education in their classrooms.
Survey results, released Thursday by the New York State Council of School Superintendents, showed that 83 percent of school chiefs responding in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and 85 percent statewide, felt either "very positive" or "somewhat positive" about the standards' impact on English instruction.
Those upbeat opinions contrasted with recent results of public opinion surveys, indicating that support for the national standards -- used in more than 40 states -- has been declining in many areas. A Times Union/Siena College poll in June found 23 percent of upstate New Yorkers supported the way Common Core standards were being used in public schools, while 46 percent were opposed and 32 percent had no opinion.
The survey of New York superintendents got responses from 324 administrators statewide and 51 on the Island -- about 47 percent of the state total.
Lorna Lewis, superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage schools, said that instruction driven by the new standards "demands more of students, but it also prepares them for the future."
Thus, Lewis said, she and her colleagues have been able to distinguish between the effects of the standards themselves and the impact of tougher new state tests based on the standards.
State education officials rolled those tests out rapidly two years ago in grades 3-8, before schools had gained access to state curriculum guides needed to help with instruction. The resulting confusion and public anger prompted thousands of parents to pull their children out of testing, including about 10 percent of students scheduled for assessments last spring on the Island.
"We feel positive about the actual Common Core standards," said Lewis, who co-chairs the state council's committee on curriculum. "We are not very positive about the way this was implemented."
Downstate school administrators remain less enthusiastic about the standards than their upstate colleagues. According to the survey, 33 percent of school chiefs statewide felt "very positive" about the impact of Common Core, compared with 25 percent on the Island and 17 percent in the lower Hudson Valley.
Robert Lowry, deputy director of the state superintendents council, said opinions in downstate areas might have reflected a sense that schools on the Island and in the lower Hudson area "were doing great things before Common Core came along."
Lowry added that he has seen signs of a cooling of irritation in local districts over the state's hasty start-up of Common Core-aligned instruction.
"Around the state, there's a sense that things have calmed down," he said.
Michael Mensch, chief operating officer of Western Suffolk BOCES, agreed with the survey results, but said the state's flawed rollout left a lasting bad impression with the public.
"I don't think public confidence will ever be restored with the current administration of the State Education Department," he said.
A department spokesman, Jonathan Burman, said that Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and others have seen improved lesson plans being used in schools around the state, reflecting the new standards.
"We are gratified to see that the vast majority of New York's school leaders understand the value of Common Core learning standards," Burman said.