Does the Anti-Common Core Movement Have a Race Problem?

Does the Anti-Common Core Movement Have a Race Problem?

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Like many people interviewed for this story, de la Vera used the phrase “leveling the playing field,” to describe what black and Hispanic parents hoped for from the standards.

“These standards are leveling the playing field so that our kids are not relegated to lesser instruction because of the zip code that they are born into,” said de la Vara. “This is a way to make sure that schools aren’t pre-determining the abilities of our children.”

Andre Perry, dean of urban education at Davenport University and a columnist for The Hechinger Report, isn’t surprised by the poll either.

“In poll after poll, we have seen that blacks and Latinos have always desired a higher education more than whites,” said Perry, who is black. “But they haven’t received the quality of education that would give them the access to higher education. So when things like the Common Core are proposed there is hope.”

“Folks in the community might not know all the politics or the money attached to these things but they just want a better option and a better chance,” added Perry. “As long as black and brown people are receiving a substandard education, they are going to want the next, better thing.”
65% – the percentage of black and Hispanic parents who support Common Core, compared to 41% of white parents.  Perry thinks that part of the difference in support between Hispanic and black parents can be explained by the fact that black parents may be more likely to be employed by the education system, and thus have more to lose.

“Many African Americans are in positions in school districts, so they have a different perspective,” said Perry. “While certainly that power is diminishing in terms of the number of teachers and school board members, I think the results of this poll reflect the difference between the level of engagement on an institutional level between black and brown people.”

Perry thinks that the even lower support among white parents is because they have yet more at stake with the new Common Core-aligned tests.

“When you see the animus among whites, it’s because a lot is at stake,” said Perry. “The one thing at stake for us is a quality education. But in some communities for the first time, jobs are at stake. Credibility is at stake. Someone is telling them what to do and they have never had that experience.”

Dao Tran, the mother of a second grader at Castle Bridge School in Upper Manhattan, has mixed feelings about the standards themselves. While she thinks her daughter’s math has improved with the Common Core, she is concerned about the emphasis on non-fiction, especially in the earlier grades.

Tran, who is Vietnamese-American, says that the opposition she sees is largely about the stakes attached to the tests aligned with the standards.

“I get why low-income families and parents of children of color would support the Common Core. It holds a promise of fairness at a time when our schools are so unequal,” said Tran. “But the problem is the tests. If all the Common Core entailed was some excellent guidelines for what kids need to know and it wasn’t tied to the high stakes of whether your school would get shutdown or teachers would lose their jobs, it wouldn’t be this controversial.”

Despite the fact that overall the poll found more parents supported the standards than opposed them, Hess says that supporters of the standards should take no solace in this poll.

“The implication here is that most white Americans are skeptical and blacks are only marginally supportive,” said Hess. “If an election turned on this issue, in many states, that would be a problem for the Common Core supporters.”

But he cautioned reading too much into any Common Core poll.

“All of these polls need to be taken with several grains of salt,” cautioned Hess. “The question of Common Core is like abortion, you can change the framing of the questions and you will get very different answers.”

Prior to joining The Hechinger Report, Emmanuel Felton covered education, juvenile justice and child services for the New York World. He received a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and a master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He grew up in the music-rich city of New Orleans, but learned the hard way that he had no musical talent during one very long week in middle school. Luckily, he found journalism.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.