Many parents view the Common Core and the accompanying tests as a threat to their ability to keep their kids safe in a hostile world. Suburban parents, who are known for being particularly involved in their kids’ education and traditionally enjoy a good deal of influence on district policymaking, are frustrated by not being able to convince their local school boards to alter the standards or testing requirements. They worry that they won’t be able to help kids with homework, because the new learning materials rely on teaching methods foreign to them. They worry that, ultimately, their kids will be unemployed and living in the basement in their 20s.
Then social media steps in. There are those Facebook posts promoting articles with click-bait titles like "Parents Opting Kids Out of Common Core Face Threats From Schools," or "Common Core Test Fail Kids In New York Again. Here’s How," or "5 Reasons the Common Core Is Ruining Childhood." I can picture it in my head: articles with stock photos of children sitting miserably at a desk or ominous images of broken pencils. These articles go viral in certain communities—not least in suburbia, where parents like (and have the time) to stay on top of things and are often used to getting their way. Virtual networking makes it all too easy to be outraged these days.
Tea Party conservatives and suburban parents might not have a lot in common, but they seem to increasingly share a distrust of bureaucracy, so-called experts, and federal rules. The sources of their opposition, of course, are entirely different: For Tea Party conservatives, it’s about ideology; for parents, it’s about protection. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, indeed.
Teachers have fostered parental protests, too. Teachers’ unions were initially very supportive of the Common Core, and educators helped shape its goals. However, support from educators began to wane in the past year, when state legislatures started to create policies tying test scores to their pay, largely through new teacher-evaluation systems. The new stipulations have caused unrest among teachers across the country, including those in my suburban New Jersey school district, adding a new layer of politics to the Common Core.
A recent nationwide poll conducted by researchers at Education Next found that teachers’ approval rate of the Common Core dropped from 76 percent in 2013 to only 46 percent in 2014. Paul Peterson, one of the Education Next researchers and the Director of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance in the Graduate School of Education, confirmed that teachers are dissatisfied with the evaluation component. But, Peterson added, they’re also more informed than the general public is about the standards and accompanying tests.
Parents take their cues about education from their children’s teachers, and unfortunately that often means important facts are lost in translation once they exit the classroom. The bottom line is that if the teachers aren’t happy, the parents aren’t happy either.