California parents are ill-informed about school reforms, poll finds

school poll

Students at Francisco Bravo Senior High Medical Magnet School take a practice test for the new state standardized tests to measure their understanding of Common Core Standards in math and English. A new poll found widespread ignorance among California parents about the new standards and tests.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

California has ushered in new academic standards, statewide testing and school finance reform in recent years, but the majority of public-school parents remain ill-informed about them, a new poll has found.

In an effort to promote deeper understanding and more critical thinking by students, the state adopted new math and English learning standards known as Common Core nearly five years ago. This year, California rolled out new tests tied to those standards after a test run last year.

But the poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55% of parents surveyed had never heard of the new computer-based tests. And while 66% had heard of Common Core, nearly as many said they had received insufficient information about them -- including 42% who said they had received no information at all.

Parents with college degrees were far more likely to say their school provided adequate information about Common Core than those without higher education -- 48% to 28%.


“Many public-school parents are in the dark when it comes to Common Core,” Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said in a statement. “Local schools need to do a better job of keeping parents informed as the state implements the new English and math standards.”

Four of five parents surveyed said they were concerned that teachers were not prepared to teach the new standards -- a concern also voiced last month by state Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

The majority of California public-school parents surveyed, however, expressed confidence that Common Core would help prepare their children for college and careers, and improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Parents also expressed a low level of awareness about a groundbreaking shift in how the state funds schools, with extra dollars now provided for students who are low income, learning English or in foster care. Only 29% of public-school parents had heard of the Local Control Funding Formula, which was passed in 2013. But more than 70% supported it after hearing how it works.


And despite a national movement to reduce standardized testing, 76% of California parents with children in public elementary, middle and high schools said their schools did the right amount of testing -- or not enough. 

The institute surveyed 1,706 adult residents, including 355 public-school parents, April 3-13. The margin of error was 3.7%.

Twitter: @TeresaWatanabe