The controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams have started in most school districts throughout the state this month, but a new poll reveals most New Jersey residents admit they don't know much about the Common Core education standards that are aligned with the standardized tests.

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According to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey released March 9, 55 percent of New Jerseyans said they have heard "just a little" or "nothing at all" about the Common Core standards and only 41 percent were able to correctly identify that New Jersey public schools are using them.

"In surveys this is really unusual because generally people want to pretend they know something even when they don't, but we see half of the public saying they're not paying attention and they don't know and that's telling us there's a real high level of ignorance there," said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at FDU, and an analyst for the poll.

The lack knowledge evident in the poll about the standards didn't keep residents from having opinions about Common Core:

  • Only 17 percent said they approve of the standards;
  • 38 percent disapprove;
  • 45 percent said they don't know.

"While republicans are a little more likely to say that they disapprove, in general the disapproval of the Common Core is widespread. It seems to go across all partisan groups and no one is really immune to this," Cassino noted.

Parents of school age children said they've heard more about the standards and they're also more likely to disapprove of the standards:

  • 35 percent of parents with school age kids said they've heard "a lot" about the standards;
  • 48 percent disapprove of the standards.

"When we asked people who disapprove of the Common Core why they disapprove, the largest group (69 percent) they don't like the Common Core because it limits the flexibility of teachers and forces them to 'teach to the test,'" Cassino said.

Among those who support the Common Core:

  • 42 percent said they approve because the standards help ensure every child gets the same education;
  • 19 percent said the standards make it easier for parents to track children's progress;
  • 17 percent said the standards lead to higher expectations of learning

"Part of the opposition to the Common Core comes from the fact that people in New Jersey don't like standardized testing very much," Cassino explained.

Garden State residents' opinions on standardized tests include:

  • Only 28 percent who said the tests are necessary to measure a student's performance;
  • 59 percent said there are other and better ways to measure progress.

The opinions New Jerseyans have about Common Core standards mirror a national poll PublicMind released on Feb. 19. that showed 52 percent of Americans said that they've heard just a "little or nothing at all" about them. In addition, 40 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the Common Core standards, with only 17 percent in approval.

The poll 901 adults in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Feb. 23 through March 1. The margin of error is +/- 3.3 percentage points.