So what does a poll on the Common Core tell us when it reveals that 36 percent of New Yorkers think the new educational standards are too demanding, 24 percent think they aren't demanding enough and 23 percent think they're about right? In the words of the Siena College pollster who oversaw the survey, "There is a lot of debate swirling around about the Common Core, but there is still a lack of information out there about the Common Core."
The debate, in this second year of the standards' implementation, has exploded among parents, leading state legislators to demand changes. Beliefs about the new standards -- and about the curricula, testing methods and teacher evaluations stemming from them -- are passionate, but many people expressing convictions don't know as much as they should.
This is largely the fault of the state Education Department, which botched the rollout, failing to have promised guides ready to help districts roll out curricula last year and doing a poor job of educating the public on the changes. But the anger among parents is also a result of teachers unions ginning up opposition to prevent or postpone high-stakes teacher evaluations partially based on student test performance.
Much of this year's anger is focused on last year's problems: the lack of curriculum guides from the state, and teachers being unfamiliar with new lesson plans. Much of the parent discomfort stems from last year's tests in English and math for third- through eighth-graders, which saw the number of students deemed proficient cut in half.
The Education Department must keep educating the public, and teachers need top-notch training. But the changes also need to continue so kids can succeed, and parents thinking about holding children out of upcoming standardized tests should think again. Backing off on Common Core standards, as some Regents, legislators and parents want, might tamp down outrage, but it won't improve our schools.