Wednesday, April 1, 2015

LSU Botches Its Own CCSS Data

Another Common Core poll has been conducted, this one by the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, and while some of the results are interesting, various media outlets are already blowing the lead.

LSU would like the big takeaway to be that people support the Common Core if you don't call it the Common Core, thereby suggesting that the poor standards simply suffer from a branding problem. If you ask people about adopting standards, they think it's swell, but if you ask them about adopting Common Core, the rejection and mouthfrothing begins. LSU (and the outlets jumping on this story) have thereby concluded that it's just the name that people have been trained to hate.

Let's see if I can illustrate the gaping hole in their argument with a little play:

Harry: Honey, do you think men should wear hats?
Chris: Yes, I think hats make men look rather dashing.
Harry: (Exits, returns wearing neon blue possum poop hat) So shall I wear this to your folks?
Chris: For the love of God, no!!

It is a leap of Knevelian proportions to suggest that if one likes the idea of educational standards, one must therefor love the Common Core Standards. It is possible to think standards are, in principle, rather dashing and desirable and yet to also conclude that Common Core is the blue neon possum poop of standards.

And my theory is further buttressed by the LSU finding that far more people consider themselves well-versed in CCSS since the last time LSU asked. They have seen the hat. They have tried the hat on. They have decided. That is some bad hat, Harry.

LSU offered a series of True-False questions. If you want your poll to yield particular results or push a particular idea, TF questions are great, because one need not offer an actual true answer at all!

For instance, LSU asks if CCSS was developed by the Obama administration or state leaders. Oops! No correct answers here, although both of those groups financed and supported the development, one more openly than the other.

Or would you say that the federal government required their adoption, or was it voluntary? Again, we left the correct answer off. Adoption of the standards was voluntary in the same way your mortgage payments are voluntary-- not required by law, exactly, but certainly a good idea if you'd like to avoid punishing financial penalties.

Do you think state and local government chooses materials, or the feds? Brrrzzzpt! None of the above, again.

Do the standards set higher or lower expectations? Well, this is just deep philosophy that assumes that educational expectations can be measured along a single axis, like height or heat or number of angels dancing on head of pin. I've always been bemused by the high expectations thing-- we kind of all know what it means, but it's also super-complex, particularly if we mix all the various aspects of education together. But that's a conversation for another day.

Methodology? They called 980 adults on the phone-- some landlines and some cells, including some cells only (I am curious-- how did they get those numbers?). The response rate was 7% for landline and 6%  for cells, making a grand total of 64 persons who completed the survey. Those 64 people were weighted "using an iterative process that matches race and ethnicity, education, household income, gender and age to known profiles for Louisiana found in the Census Bureaus American Community Survey." The authors do acknowledge weighting cannot fully compensate for non-response bias (IOW the 916 adults who DIDN'T finish the survey).

I could get into the results, but really, why bother. Sixty-four residents of Louisiana were asked badly-constructed questions about the Common Core. What else do we need to know?

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