This week, the tea party’s fight against the Common Core State Standards got worse when survey results supposedly showed that the standards are very unpopular in Mississippi, which has the worst student achievement in the country. But the survey questions were confusing, and some of them were based on outright false information.
The Common Core State Standards are a new set of educational goals that 45 states, including Mississippi, have agreed to use. The measure was made to make sure that all students in the country are held to the same high standards in school. In the summer of 2010, the Mississippi Board of Education adopted the Common Core. This was made possible by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition, which gave schools the chance to win extra federal money.
The Mississippi Tea Party branch released the results of its Common Core robocall survey on Wednesday. The results, which showed that a very large number of people think the Common Core should be stopped immediately, backed up the views of the Tea Party.
The survey was done over the phone with more than 3,200 randomly chosen Mississippi households in the last quarter of 2013. Before each question on the survey, the script calls the Common Core the “This is the latest attempt by the Federal Government to take control of public, private, and home-schooled education in the United States.” Mississippi Citizens for Good Government ran the survey with the help of the tea party. The group’s Facebook page says that its goal is to “expose the pretend conservatives at every level of government.”
There are biassed claims in many of the questions in the survey. One of these questions asks people if they are worried that “third-grade achievement standards seem to set lower expectations for black and Hispanic students than for white and Asian students.”
But the Common Core doesn’t have anything to do with achievement standards based on race. Instead, racial achievement goals became policy in Mississippi because the state got a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act during the George W. Bush administration. Mississippi is one of more than 40 states that got a break from that law by agreeing to take on some of the Obama administration’s education reforms, such as a new way to hold schools accountable and higher standards for education (but not necessarily the Common Core).
People in Mississippi seem to think that the Common Core is linked to racial achievement goals so much that the government is trying to change that idea. On its website, the Mississippi Department of Education calls this idea a “myth” and says that racial achievement goals have nothing to do with Common Core State Standards.
Rita Anderson, a tea party member who helped write the survey’s racial achievement question, told The Huffington Post that the Common Core framework “sets a lower baseline for blacks and Hispanics, and it shows they’re going to progress but stay lower [than Caucasian and Asian students].”
When asked about race, 83 percent of survey respondents said they were very worried that the Common Core would set lower standards for some minority students.
Anderson said that she plans to use the results of this survey to convince policymakers to get rid of the Common Core.
Anderson told HuffPost over the phone, “I spent several months travelling around the state, and it was clear from talking to people that they didn’t know much about Common Core.” “Everyone knows it caused a stir…. But we started to see that the general public was kind of left out. That’s what we were trying to tell lawmakers.”
Carey Wright, Mississippi’s new superintendent of education, said she thinks the state should keep putting the Common Core into place. The 10-member Senate Conservative Coalition is working against her. They want to slow down or stop the rollout of the Common Core.
In July of this year, the coalition sent out a press release saying that the Common Core Standards had achievement goals that were based on race.
Senator Chris McDaniel, who is in charge of the Coalition, said, “If the Mississippi Department of Education plans to evaluate children and measures of progress differently based on race, we can’t stand by and let such clear discrimination happen.”