Public turns on Obama’s education policies

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Public support for President Obama’s education policies is plunging, according to a new survey.

Only 27 percent of people give Obama an “A” or “B” for his support of public schools, down 9 percent from last year, in a new poll from PDK/Gallup that was released Wednesday.

An equal amount of people — 27 percent — said Obama deserves a failing grade on education.

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Fifty-six percent of respondents said they believe their local school board should have the greatest influence in deciding the curriculum. Only 28 percent of Democrats said the federal government should have the greatest control, while 45 percent of Democrats said the local school board should be in charge.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration’s federal policies, including Race to the Top, saying Education Secretary Arne Duncan is trying to create a “national school board” rather than leaving education to states and localities.

“This administration has used the combination of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and waivers from No Child Left Behind to, in effect, turn itself into a national school board, making decisions that states and local communities ought to make for themselves,” said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).


Despite the preference for state and local control of education, the public has an overwhelmingly negative view of the Common Core State Standards that have been imposed by governors.

The administration supports Common Core and says it is necessary to ensure K-12 curriculum is more consistent across the country. The administration used adoption of the standards — which are now in place in 45 states and the District of Columbia — as a criterion for whether some states received bonus federal funding from Race to the Top.

The Gallup poll found that 81 percent of the pubic had heard of Common Core, with 60 percent opposing it. The most common reason cited for opposition was the belief that the standards limit the flexibility of teachers.

“Parents nationwide, including many in Indiana, are raising concerns the administration is attempting to force states to implement a national curriculum through the Common Core State Standards,” Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) said. “Reforming our nation’s education system to put power back in the hands of state and local leaders is long overdue.”

In June, Duncan appeared on “CBS This Morning” to defend Common Core, saying the standards have a positive impact on schools.

“Historically many states dummy down standards. They reduced standards. Why? To make politicians look good,” Duncan said. “That's terrible for our country. ... Raising the bar is absolutely the right thing to do.”

An area where a majority of Democrats and Republicans agreed is a negative view of standardized testing. A majority of all respondents in the poll — 54 percent — said they don’t think standardized testing helps schools or teachers. And parents of public school students viewed testing even more negatively, with 68 percent saying it isn’t helpful.

Under No Child Left Behind, public schools are required to use standardized tests to determine if students are meeting grade-level standards. If schools don’t show annual improvements, they risk losing federal funding and have to apply for a waiver. The administration encouraged states to adopt Common Core in order to have their waiver approved.

“Every minute that a teacher spends on an unneeded rule or test is a minute that could be devoted to teaching a child,” Alexander said. “We want teachers and principals ... to tell us which regulations and tests are useful and which ones we can get rid of.”

Supporters of testing argue that it is necessary to gauge the performance of teachers.

Common Core also uses standardized tests to determine if states are meeting federal standards.

The PDK/Gallup poll was conducted in May and June of 2014 and involved 1,001 people around the country. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percent. 

 

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