Common Core can’t be avoided by Arizona school districts

Bus stop signOn Monday, the Arizona State Board of Education met to be briefed on the responses to a Request for Information (RFI) sent out last year to solicit data from vendors of educational assessments that could be used in school year 2014-15 as standards-based competency assessments for grades 3 – 11. According to the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Office, from there, the Board will develop a “Request for Proposal” and proposals will be accepted from all qualified bidders.

The Board will then convene a public meeting to vote on which new assessment the state will use to measure the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, otherwise known as Common Core.

This past weekend, the state of New York’s largest teachers union said that they support the premise behind Common Core, but they want a three-year moratorium on any consequences teachers will face if their students perform poorly on the state’s new Common Core-aligned standardized tests, according to eag.org.

The politicians tell us that the generally accepted premise of Common Core is increased standards for students in grades K-12. They tell us that the current standards are so low now, we must adopt uniform standards that will be recognized nationally and internationally.

Who would reject higher standards? Who would reject standards that would be recognized on the international stage as rigorous? No one. However, the truth behind Common Core is that it does not raise the bar and create “critical thinkers.” In fact, Dr. James Milgram and Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who refused to sign off on Common Core standards, pointed out the standards are actually sub-par and reduce the quality of math and English for all students so that by the time they graduate from high school, they possess the minimum requirements for a community college education.

In the Red State of Arizona, the Republican Governor and John Huppenthal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, are promoting the Common Core lie. Recently, Huppenthal admitted to a group of Republicans that his supporter, Craig Barrett, was even one of the great minds behind CC and Huppenthal’s support for it. Between guys like Barrett and the Chamber of Commerce, Brewer and Huppenthal have little choice but to be dug in, and much to our children’s benefit, few are buying.

In June 2010, the State Board of Education adopted new English Language Arts and Mathematics standards aligned with the Common Core Standards. The implementation of these new standards was phased in over several years, and the new standards will be tested for the first time in school year 2014-15.

Huppenthal’s spokesperson recently wrote in an email, “Keep in mind that there is a big difference between standards and curriculum…..standards are what a child should know and curriculum is how the child is taught the standards, and this is where text books come into play. Local school boards make decisions about curriculum, not state agencies or boards.”

However, Huppenthal’s challenger in the upcoming election, Diane Douglas, says what every educator knows; there have been widely successful “efforts on the part of virtually all the publishers to bring their textbooks into alignment with the Common Core Standards. Pearson Publishing Company, the largest educational publishing company in the world, has been in on the ground floor of creating the Common Core “State” Standards. Or that so many school districts all around Arizona are spending enormous amounts of money to purchase Common Core aligned textbooks, workbooks and curriculum. We only maintain an illusion of local board control over curriculum in Arizona.”

Douglas notes, “The agenda of the June 28, 2010, meeting includes “Item B” of the General Session, a “Presentation, discussion and consideration to adopt the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts.” The motion to adopt the Common Core State Standards passed. During the August 23, 2010, meeting referenced by Supt. Huppenthal, the SBE adopted “…specific additions to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts. The Common Core Standards copyright allows a state to add 15% to the standards but not to change the actual standards.”

So, if the vast majority of textbooks are aligned with Common Core, and the textbooks reflect the curriculum adopted by the schools, and schools adopted curriculum presumably to prepare students for the statewide exam, are we to believe then that the schools in Arizona are going to develop their own textbooks in order to meet the “State” standards and avoid Common Core?

What would be the cost to districts that choose to opt out of Common Core then? One educator asks, “What is the state doing to ensure that local districts can afford to purchase textbooks and develop curriculum that will assist students in meeting standards and passing the new test while avoiding the confusing Common Core math and English materials flooding the market?”

According to PARCConline.org, “Superintendent Huppenthal serves on the PARCC Governing Board. Sarah Gardner, Director for PARCC and Innovation Assessments at the Arizona Department of Education, is the K-12 Lead for PARCC in Arizona. Eileen Klein, President of the Arizona Board of Regents, serves on the PARCC Advisory Committee on College Readiness. Karen Nicodemus, President Emerita of Cochise Community College, coordinates PARCC- related postsecondary engagement activities in the state.

On December 14, 2012, the Arizona State Board of Education voted for and approved a plan to transition from AIMS to PARCC. Prior to that, the Legislature passed legislation, which allowed the State Board of Education to implement its transition plan from AIMS to PARCC.

While the implementation of Common Core standards in Arizona has met opposition in terms of content, the cost of testing has also raised eyebrows and voices. The new national PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test, which will replace the AIMS test, will cost 50 percent more according to PARCC. The test will cost $29.50 per student, while AIMS cost $18 to $20 per student, depending on the grade level.

The Arizona Republic reported:

“….58 percent of Arizona voters, who were surveyed by Rodel and Expect More in December, had “little to no idea” what the new standards are. The two organizations partnered in contracting for a statewide phone survey of 500 likely voters in December. Among other survey results, 43 percent of voters said they favored implementation of the standards “based on what you know about them.”

But 71 percent said they favored the standards after being read the following description: “These new standards have been set to internationally competitive levels in English and math. This means that students may be more challenged by the material they study, and the tests they take will measure more advanced concepts and require students to show their work.””

“In other words, the majority of people have no clue what the standards are but once we told them the standards are wonderful (with no substantiation), then 71% agreed the standards are wonderful, ” said Douglas, a former Arizona school governing board member.

One former educator concluded, “We know it is not wonderful, but as long as the powers-that-be continue to spin what is happening, we can’t avoid Common Core.”

“Do local School Boards really have a real choice when presented with the multiple new “Common Core Compliant” text books? The Boards know they have to meet the standards; how else can they do it except by buying books with “Common Core Compliant” stamped on them? If they all have that in “common”, how is that a choice?” asks Annette Hesselink, parent in the Amphi School District and member of the Arizona Coalition for Student Excellence.

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