Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (and Polls)

Mark Twain once said that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.  You can also add some polls to that statement.

The Education Trust – Midwest and one columnist at The Detroit Free Press are crowing about a new poll released that says a majority of Michigan residents are supportive of the Common Core.

The Education Trust-Midwest commissioned the poll and in their release said:

While most Michigan voters know little about the Common Core State Standards being debated in Lansing, once they are given a basic description of the standards 71 percent say they support Common Core, with only 18 percent opposing the standards.

And by more than a 2-to-1 margin, voters across Michigan say state funding for Common Core should be restored. Majority support for Common Core cuts across political parties, geographic region, parental status, gender, age, race, union status and education level.

These are the findings of statewide public opinion poll released today by the Education Trust-Midwest and the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards. The survey of 600 registered voters was commissioned by ETM and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. It took place Aug. 27-29, with a margin of error of ± 4 percent. (emphasis mine)

Here is the description they gave:

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by forty‐five states, including Michigan, which participated in their development with state governors, state school chiefs, and teachers involved in writing and reviewing them.

The goal of the standards is to help all students have the knowledge and skills they need in English and math and that students would be held to consistent standards so that they will be prepared for their next steps after high school, whether they choose a college or career path.

The description is based on a lie on how they were developed.  Teachers were not involved in writing them.  Teachers were not extensively used in reviewing them (perhaps there was some feedback given, but members of the actual validation committee question what if anything was done with their feedback).  On the various teams only one in sixty was a classroom teacher.  With the five lead writers – two did not have any experience with writing standards. State Governors did not write and develop them and frankly I question how many of them have actually read the standards.  State school chiefs were not involved in the writing or development as none were listed on the writing, review or validation teams (if memory serves).  It should be noted that the final report by the validation committee didn’t include the comments from the five members who did not sign off on them.  How’s that for transparency?

Then the second paragraph in their description above… sure who would be against those?  This is why it’s important that people do research.  It’s easy to be swayed by talking points.  Dig deeper.  Read pro and con arguments;  how many who advocate for Common Core tell you to read stuff by the opposition?  None that I’m aware of.  No they’d rather say we’re spreading misconceptions or just say we’re lying.

Frankly if I did a poll I could tweak this description and probably get the opposite result.  This poll is meaningless.  Do the research, don’t be a low information constituent.  Don’t be swayed by talking points from either side.