Survey Says: Understanding Common Core

By Lauren Kreisberg, Research Director

I’m pleased to announce Resonate’s release of our newest wave of data, collected in late November/early December 2013.  I’m also excited to introduce our inaugural blog post celebrating our survey releases.  In each monthly post of “Survey Says,” I anticipate discussing things like: why we chose to ask about certain topics, challenges we experienced in survey design and execution, what new data sets are available, and interesting applications of our data.  In this post, I’ll discuss how we were able to question respondents on Common Core, a public policy education program of which many had never heard.

Among our political and public affairs clients, we’ve seen an increased interest in understanding what citizens think of the Common Core education standards.  Unfortunately, polling has shown that many people don’t think anything of them – they don’t even know what they are.  With a topic that is not widely understood, it becomes challenging to determine how to introduce that topic within the confines of just a question or two, without biasing the respondent. We don’t want to teach our respondents, we want to learn from them. While we could ask questions to only those who have heard of Common Core, that leaves the rest of the population about whom we just don’t know their opinions.

In this case, our solution included discussing some of the tenets of Common Core in which our clients were most interested.  Most of our clients do not message for or against a program in its entirety, even if their goal is to support or oppose the program. Rather, they focus on messaging about components of the program to citizens based on the citizens’ viewpoints of those components.  Therefore, awareness of Common Core doesn’t matter as much as the ability to understand and to reach people based on their opinions about public school curriculum.

Thus, our new data set gives our clients insight around various aspects of education that may be impacted by Common Core, including using testing to evaluate teachers and which entities should have control for setting standards and for planning curriculum. Moreover, this survey allowed us to design and execute a technique to determine how people feel about a policy without ever using the name of the policy. This technique could have applications across other lesser-known policies or across policies where use of the name could bias people before they even consider the program itself.

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