The Common Core State Standards are designed to prepare students to be college and career-ready.

A cross-section of parents who participated in a total of eight recent focus groups stated almost universally they knew nothing about one of the biggest education reform initiatives in the last decade: the Common Core State Standards.

When informed about these higher standards for K–12 students in English Language Arts and mathematics, these public school parents had a positive initial reaction to them. 

The Common Core State Standards are set to be implemented a year from now in almost all states and classrooms in the U.S.  

Only three parents in the groups had heard anything about the changes; all were surprised they didn’t know more about the Common Core State Standards

In a couple of groups, the participants mentioned that, as one participant put it, “if they can put on a campaign to announce the conversion from analog to digital TV, how come we can’t have an awareness campaign for parents to learn about a major education reform?” They felt that they should hear about it from the mainstream media and from their school districts. 

All respondents had a lot of questions about how school districts will be able to implement the Common Core State Standards initiative.

Their concerns ranged from budget constraints to teacher readiness to impact on struggling students. Parents whose children will be close to graduation in 2014 were particularly concerned about the effect CCSS implementation might have on their children’s academic careers. 

The focus groups were conducted in February and March 2012 in Chicago; Tampa; Oakland, Calif.; and Stamford, Conn. They were led by the Center for Strategic Research and Communication with support from by the GE Foundation. 

The findings were released at the GE Foundation Summer Conference, “The Common Core State Standards and Our Commitment to Student Success.” The conference was attended by more than 500 educators, principals, administrators and business executives from across the U.S. 

Participants heard from former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and other business and union leaders who drew attention to the need for greater outreach in order to inform parents about the standards that focus on a deeper level of subject comprehension. 

“We need to make sure that every child, not just those who are affluent, every child can achieve or exceed their God-given abilities, and if we are being serious about that, we need to raise the bar for every child and then develop strategies to make them successful,” Bush told attendees. 

“These focus report results are a real wake-up call for all of us concerned about education and parental involvement. During our strategy sessions, teachers and business leaders shared their concerns that communicating about these changes to parents is critical and the work must begin now,” says Kelli Wells, Director, U.S. Education, GE Foundation. 

The focus group parents responded positively to these message points:

  • CCSS will bring U.S. education on par with nations that lead in math and language instruction.
  • The initiative promises consistent learning goals for all students regardless of where they live. This point was particularly appreciated by the participants who had to move during their children’s tenure in school.
  • CCSS is not a federal government initiative.  However, some participants did ask the question, “If this initiative is really good, why is the federal government not backing it?”
  • The CCSS are designed to prepare students for success in college and career. The CCSS clearly delineate expectations for learning.

Although the respondents had positive impressions of their children’s schools, they believed that today’s high schools don’t adequately prepare students for college or for careers in the 21st century. This concern is a key motivating factor behind the creation and implementation of the Common Core. 

The focus groups follow an earlier Public Agenda quantitative survey, also underwritten by the GE Foundation, that found almost two thirds—65 percent— of parents surveyed said they wished they could be doing more when it comes to involvement in their child’s education and only 34 percent were satisfied with the way things are. Another 50 percent said other parents they know are involved too little. Parents are even less involved during later grades. 

GE Foundation ( has made the largest corporate foundation commitment to date in support of CCSS. It’s grant to Student Achievement Partners, a non-profit, is funding teacher professional development and other efforts to help prepare for the new standards.

The full focus group report is available at:

GE Foundation

GE Foundation works to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. In coordination with its partners, GE Foundation supports U.S. and international education, developing health globally, the environment, public policy, human rights, disaster relief and community success around the globe. Through the Developing Futures™ in Education program, GE Foundation has committed nearly $200 million to seven U.S. school districts to improve student achievement through a rigorous math and science curriculum, professional development opportunities for teachers and management capacity improvement. For more information visit the Foundation’s website at