Although 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, a recent Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa Poll  revealed that 62 percent of Americans have never heard of Common Core, and 55 percent of public school parents don’t know what it is.

“Almost two of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, arguably one of the most important education initiatives in decades, and most of those who say they know about the Common Core neither understand it nor embrace it,” the Poll summary states.

More from the poll: “Slightly more than one-third of Americans have ever heard of the Common Core; among Americans with children in public schools, fewer than half recognized the Core. The majority of those who said they have heard of the Common Core selected the ‘somewhat knowledgeable’ option. Among the third who had heard of the Common Core, only four of 10 said the standards can help make education in the United States more competitive globally; a majority said the standards will make the U.S. less competitive or have no effect. Of those Americans who had heard of the Common Core, many said — erroneously — that the standards are based on a blending of state standards, that the federal government is insisting that all states adopt the standards, andthat there is a plan to create standards in all academic areas.”

Some educators aren’t really surprised about the lack of parent knowledge. Retired Indiana public school teacher Barbara Kuykendall said that, although she retired before the Common Core was implemented, she didn’t think parents were aware of the Indiana state standards before Common Core. “None of our parents had any idea what the standards were for each grade,” she said. “The Indiana standards were pretty easy to understand. It wasn’t that the parents couldn’t understand them. The state provided booklets for every parent for years and I know they were just thrown away.”

As more schools start implementing Common Core this year, some parents said they didn’t know if it was happening in their schools.

“I read an article in Parents magazine last month,” said Nashville mom Jessica Kennedy, responding to our social media query. “Still not clear on the subject other than a lot of controversy over it.” And Michigan parent Laura Baumert said, “Never heard of it.”

Other seemed to know more. “I think there are benchmarks the kids are supposed to be hitting by certain points in their school careers. But that’s about all I ‘know.’ Which is putting is loosely! People seem to be really upset about it,” said Janie Hesterly Wilkerson of Tennessee.

John Webster, a Minnesota parent, even joked about the controversy that has left him confused. “CCSS is a right-wing plot to destroy public education. CCSS is a left-wing plot to nationalize curricula. I can’t decide which of these plots is for real — or if both are!” he wrote.


Whether because of, or in spite of, recent controversy over the Common Core, some schools are helping parents understand the new standards. Susie Masterson, elementary principal of Evansville Christian School in Evansville, Indiana, kept parents informed during the whole adoption process.

“We specifically told them [parents] that we were transitioning from Indiana Academic Content Standards to CCSS (now called INCC, Indiana Common Core), and how they would see that in the classroom,” she said. “We gave examples of how expository writing would be used, increased informational text, and then in math, the mathematical practices. For parents, we explained that beyond second grade, student instruction would focus less on memorization or rote facts, and more on accessing information and using it in more authentic activities,projects, and writing.”

 Masterson said that overall, she has received about seven emails from parents, asking her to explain the standards or the controversy surrounding them, but she said for the most part their apprehension dissipated when she explained that the school has always been standards-based, and has always participated in state assessments.


Parent involvement is key, she said, for student success. “Because this issue seems to have become more political than anything, I like to explain it, so parents can know, ‘What does this mean for my child’s education?’ instead of the polarizing topic it has become for some.”

Fifth-grade teacher Jenny Kavanaugh of St. Louis, Missouri, plans to explain her school’s adoption of the Common Core on Parent Night, and she believes the principal will also address it. “I do plan to discuss it with parents at our back to school night, and I will send home some info on it,” she said. “We are required to post each learning goal addressed in a given week for our students. I plan to include the CCSS goals for the week in my parent newsletter whenever possible.” Like Masterson, Kavanaugh thinks it is important for parents to know what Common Core is — and what it isn’t. “The CCSS is not a curriculum. It does not tell you exactly what your lessons will be,” she said. “That may be a useful distinction to make for parents. It is a set of learning goals and standards.”

Beth Cocuzza, Director of Math at Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit formed by three contributing members of the Common Core, said that, of course, parents want to know what their child is learning, and if they’re showing progress. “Before the Common Core I don’t think many parents knew very much about previous state standards, either. That’s probably because standards don’t teach kids, teachers do,” she said. “These important conversations are informed by the new college and career readiness standards, but the conversation is about the kids.”

Cocuzza said if parents are interested in knowing more about the standards from a non-partisan source they can trust, the National PTA has put together a grade-by-grade breakdown of what students are expected to know.

Cocuzza said parents should want to know how the Common Core will affect educational standards — and it is their right to know. “Because of the disconnect between K-12 and higher education, the majority of students who earn a diploma today are not actually ready to move on,” she said. “These students spend money on remediation classes in college, which get them no closer to graduating with a degree, and they fail military entrance exams and entrance exams for good careers. So yes, I think parents should want to know, and it is their right to know these facts.”

  • GAD

    It’s a shame that the author makes it sound like the only issue is that parents don’t know about the standards, and they didn’t even know about the previous ones either so what is the big deal.

    No mention that this is the largest overhaul education has ever seen, and this with a totally unproven or untested set of standards. To-date no empirical evidence has been provided to support these standards, NONE. No mention that the schools are locked in by the standards and the tests. So their claim they are allowed to build the curriculum is in based on a start and end-point that cannot be changed. Guess what, as the teachers will be evaluated on the test results, tests by the way they don’t even have access to, they will teach to the tests. That means that most curricula will look the same, some kind of freedom, right?

    There is no mention that the Common Core State Standards were developed by two DC based trade organizations, the NGA and CCSSO, who did not have the authority to do so. And that these standards were copyrighted by them so not changes can be made without their approval. Isn’t it a bit strange that national standards are copyrighted and owned by unaccountable third parties?

    No mention that these standards go hand in hand with a Statewide Longitudinal Database System as part of the Race-to-the-Top requirements. In other words, data-mining of your children, and your family. Not just grades and attendance records but religious affiliation, medical condition, bus stops, parent occupation, voting status and so on. Doesn’t sound very educational to me.

    No mention that no cost analysis was done on how much this would cost States. Only 12 States received Race-to-the-Top funding in Phase I and II but 45 were locked in. This happened years ago and still nobody has done an in-depth cost analysis. Guess who will have to carry the burden. Yep, the taxpayers again.

    I ask the author to at least scratch the surface on why people are worried about these standards instead of making it sound its just uninformed parents, and of course, its political. Maybe worth informing people what the Department of Education signed our kids up for without participation of parents, teachers and legislators. Speaking to administrators who just treat schools as a business and a balance sheet is not doing them any justice.

    • tbarseghian

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, GAD. MindShift has covered some of the issues you raise below: The purpose of this article specifically, however, is to cover the recent Gallup poll and talk about ways teachers are dealing with parents’ lack of knowledge and confusion.

      • GAD

        Thanks for your response. But are there not two sides to the story specifically on this issue? You talked to the teachers on how they are dealing with parents’ lack of knowledge and confusion. What was not addressed is why they don’t have the knowledge and why they are confused.

        Its the simple fact that Common Core has been flying under the radar and unfortunately by design. Why all the secrecy? Parents however are now starting to wake up to the fact that something is not quite right. Grassroots movements are popping up everywhere.

        Its just too easy to say parents don’t know or are confused. That is only just the tip of the iceberg. The real story is why is the largest educational change this country has ever seen been brought in through the backdoor? Why were legislators, parents and yes, educators by-passed?

        • tbarseghian

          None of the teachers or parents interviewed for this story brought up why they don’t have the knowledge or why they might be confused. But definitely worth following up, thanks GAD.

      • tu_ne_cede_malis

        I don’t know, TIna, I think it might be better from your perspective to keep this dangerous, anti-logic, Alinskyite indoctrination scheme a secret from parents who might simply want their kids to learn reading and arithmetic in a rigorous, no bullshit fashion.

  • RubinsteinDDS

    The title of this article is misleading. Parents are not “confused” abut Common Core. Parents were UNAWARE of the Common Core. There is a difference. These so-called standards were hastily contrived without much publicity or debate, and then hastily adopted by a number states without ANY public debate. Why all the secrecy, I wonder?
    If the Common Core’s backers really believed they were good for our children and our schools, why was it done without any input from parents or teachers? Why are SO many parents, teachers, principals, and school boards opposed to the standards, now that we’ve finally had a chance to see them?

    Maybe because they are badly designed, expensive, low quality standards that actually represent a step BACKWARD, not forward.

    • tu_ne_cede_malis

      Low quality standards combined with bald indoctrination:

      The intention of this curriculum is to produce a nation of jackasses that will be more easily manipulated by the jackals in power, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken.

  • Deb

    What about the educators who have their own misgivings about CCSS? There are plenty of them or there wouldn’t be the BAT group (of which I’m not a member) of tens of thousands of teachers.

    I’m not “confused” about CCSS. I’m unhappy with much of what I’ve seen so far, though.

  • Bruce_William_Smith

    The Common Core mathematics standards should be sent back for revision, since they are not what they were supposed to be, genuinely world-class standards that will give American kids a chance to compete with the best that the rest of the world has to offer.

  • Karen Braun

    Parents are key to student success. Too bad David Coleman and the rest of his crew didn’t consult parents and ask them if they wanted national standards to replace their state standards.

    Yes, I said it…national standards because that is exactly what the common core is, a national education standard. States may have always had STATE standards and STATE assessements but these are NATIONAL standards developed outside the control and jurisdiction of state governance.

    The standards are privately owned by the NGA and the CCSSO and cannot change them. Our state lawmakers in MIchigan are confused and no one can even tell me who is charge of the standards and the process for revision. The assessments SBAC or PARCC are under federal oversight for development. So parents, lawmakers, and teachers are confuseed because the whole process has been chaotic and poorly executed from the start. Charles Finn of Fordham also admitted that the development of the standards was paid for by Bill Gates. So much for state-led. These are Gates-led federally incentivized standards.

    The only one who is not confused is Arne Duncan who said that having 50 standards for education is “ridiculous.” Obama also said in 2013 that for about 1% of what we spend on education we were able to convince nearly every state to adopt standards and curriculum.

    Obama knows that because that what is tested is what is taught. With federal oversight of the tests Obama knows the curriculum will follow. And don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, this is not about a higher standard either. The standards are written to be COMMUNITY college ready. Read the report released by Marc Tucker “what does it mean to be college and career ready” and you’ll understand it all a bit more. Tucker is not against the common core. Hardly. He was a HUGE proponent of Goals 2000 and he is now realizing his dream of nationalized education in Common Core.

    It isn’t just parents who are confused. It is most of America’s governors and the entire American public. We are watching the silent take over by the federal government of public education in America. As Governor Snyder said, education is no longer K-12 but P-20. And if you dont’ know what P-20 means then you are confused and better get informed. Here’s a post I wrote for Stop Common Core in Michigan to help you get started. After you read it, get informed and inform your teachers and lawmakers. Common Core isn’t about raising the standard in education but about raising the level of control from the state to the federal level.

  • Elizabeth Rubenstein

    How can parents (or anyone, for that matter) have any idea about the efficacy of the CCSS since districts had to adopt them blind?
    How can we spend billions of education dollars on something created by for-profit corporations with out any information or consent?

  • Pingback: Reinventing School for Inquiry Learning | MindShift()

  • Pingback: COMMON CORE SCHOOL STANDARDS | Randallstown Mom()

  • Pingback: 5 Common Core Resources()

  • Pingback: Understanding Common Core: A Breakdown of the Pros and Cons | The Desert Review()

  • Pingback: The Best Resources For Talking To Parents About The Common Core Standards | Engaging Parents In School…()


Holly Korbey

Holly Korbey's work on parenting and education has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Babble, Brain, Child Magazine, and others. She lives in Nashville with her family. Follow her on Twitter: @HKorbey

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor