SB 1310: Arizonans must reclaim sovereignty over our children’s education

By Brad McQueen

Arizonans must reclaim sovereignty over our children’s education. SB 1310, which would prohibit the implementation of the Common Core standards and test in Arizona, is a good start. Governor Brewer willingly handed over control of our state’s education to the Common Core group for 30 pieces of silver offered by the Obama Administration in exchange for changing our state’s education policies in 2010.

Brewer agreed to set up a data gathering system, the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), which allows all manner of information about our children to be suctioned into the Common Core machine. Then the Common Core Standards were adopted by the AZ State Board of Education, an unelected, Brewer appointed group, without a single vote before the state legislature. The Common Core standards were officially implemented this 2013/2014 school year.

Arizona previously owned and controlled 100% of its teacher authored education standards. Under the Common Core group, AZ has control of only 15% of its standards; the remaining 85% are copyrighted by the National Governors Association and cannot be changed. Since when is 15% control of our standards better than 100% control?

Arizona previously owned and controlled 100% of its teacher created state test. Arizona is a “governing board member” of the Common Core test group, PARCC, and has committed to pilot and implement its still to be created test. Arizona is 1 of 18 states having input on this unproven Common Core test. Since when is being 1 voice out of 18 better than being the only voice in creating Arizona’s test?

For the past 5 years, I worked on every facet of Arizona’s AIMS test from item creation, to writing passages, to analyzing the results. The AIMS testing group at our Department of Education was responsive to the needs of the students. Teachers could eliminate items, change items, or eliminate passages if there were any biases or if it just made sense in assessing Arizonan students.

Working on the PARCC/Common Core test was quite different and had the weight of 50 more shades of bureaucracy. I found myself at one committee defending my use of the term “Indians” when referring to Arizona’s huge various native populations to a Rhode Island administrator who thought the term was highly offensive.

Another time, several other teachers and I suggested a formatting change to a test item to make a vocabulary question make more sense to test takers. Our Common Core handlers told us that vocabulary test item formatting had already been decided by another acronymed committee. Common Core people really like speaking in acronyms.

There were several times where other teachers and I disagreed with how certain test items were worded because some Common Core test items and standards used terms that were confusing and did not reflect what we were teaching in the classroom. Our Common Core handlers told us that the standards were set by another acronymed committee and that teachers would have to “start using the Common Core terms in their classrooms to reflect the reality of the new standards” – a phrase that they often used. We were told that we were at the committee to provide feedback on the items, not to criticize the standards or make suggestions on formatting as that was not our specialty. I got the message loud and clear- we were window dressing, and the box marked “teachers were involved” was being checked.

The Common Core standards were not a “state led” effort any more than a child agreeing to clean his room in exchange for an allowance is a “child-led” effort. Cash strapped states were coerced by the federal government to agree to adopt the standards and set up student data suction systems as part of their application for a cut of $4.35 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for education reform back in 2009.

Private and charter school students cannot escape the Common Core leviathan either. One of the Common Core’s chief architects, David Coleman, now the head of the College Board, is already pulling college admission tests and requirements into the cult of the Common Core.

Bipartisan opposition to the Common Core group is growing. Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska have steadfastly refused to give control of their education to the Common Core group. Minnesota dropped the math standards. Ten states’ legislatures have joined in dropping the Common Core test, with four other states considering following suit. In liberal New York, legislators and the state’s public teachers union are now both in opposition to the Common Core. Nationally recognized standards guru, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, refused to validate the Common Core standards and has been crisscrossing the country in opposition to them.

Some of the strongest opposition is coming from parents whose children are experiencing Common Core’s implementation. Rather than listening to parent concerns, the Common Core group belittles them as “ill informed” and “white suburban moms” who are discovering that their kids are not as brilliant as they thought they were. Governor Brewer, in an attempt to blunt opposition to the Common Core standards, rebranded them “Arizona’s College and Career Readiness Standards.”

Many teachers oppose the Common Core group yet those who speak out against it, and the position of their State Secretary of Education and Governor, fear possible retribution. Stand up for Arizona’s children, be a voice for our teachers and demand that your legislators stand with you.

Annotations/Sources

1) Common Core not “state led” Stimulus Money tied to changing education policies (Race to the Top Announcement)
http://www2.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/07/07242009.html

2) Brewer agrees to adopt common core standards and test, and data gathering structure-Race to the Top Application( pp.21-22)
http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase2-applications/arizona.pdf

3) PARCC testing group-governing board membership defined-agreed to implement test
http://parcconline.org/governing-board

4) States agree to adopt 85% of CCore Standard (not open to be changed), states may augment state specific info on 15% of its standards(see p.5) http://www.k12center.org/rsc/pdf/Coming_Together_April_2012_Final.PDF

5) AZ standards and test formerly was 100% AZ teacher created
http://www.azed.gov/standards-development-assessment/files/2012/07/az-assessment-overview-sy-2012-2013.pdf

6) David Coleman key architect of Common Core
http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-development-work-group-and-feedback-group-announced.html

7)David Coleman becomes head of College Board – will align to Common Core
http://press.collegeboard.org/releases/2012/college-board-names-david-coleman-new-president

8) Suction of student data in violation of spirit of education privacy laws (FERPA)
http://www.hslda.org/commoncore/Topic10.aspx

9) Copyright for Common Core Standards belongs to Natl Governor’s Association
http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

10) NY state teachers union against Common Core
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/nyregion/new-york-early-champion-of-common-core-standards-joins-critics.html?_r=1

11) Dr. Sandra Stotsky is against the Common Core
http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/01/14/Expert-Dr-Sandra-Stotsky-On-Common-Core-We-Are-A-Very-Naive-People

12) Arne Duncan calls opposition to Common Core mostly “white suburban” moms who discover their kids are not as brilliant as they thought they were.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/16/arne-duncan-white-surburban-moms-upset-that-common-core-shows-their-kids-arent-brilliant/

13) Brewer changes name of Common Core in AZ to AZ College and Career Readiness Standards
http://azstarnet.com/news/local/education/common-core-name-changes-standards-remain/article_7a97e40c-bdbf-579f-960c-cbad2db9e9c4.html

14) Regulatory changes to FERPA laws(3/2011) by Dept of Ed allowing sharing of student data without parent notification to include contractors advising schools and assessment groups (Common Core)..” to organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the school making the disclosure for the purposes of administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs, or improving instruction;”
http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/parents.html

15) List of states dropping Common Core test/ states that never adopted CC standards or test                                                                           http://www.truthinamericaneducation.com

16) Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia, and Minnesota opt out of Common Core
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865593461/Opting-out-of-the-Common-Core.html?pg=all

17) State Board is unelected and appointed by governor
http://www.azed.gov/state-board-education/

18) SB 1310 attempting to prohibit implementation of Common core standards and tests.
http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/51leg/2r/summary/s.1310ed.pdf

Brad McQueen is an elementary teacher with 10 years teaching experience. For the past 5 years, he has worked on all facets of creating the AIMS test. He has worked on committees reviewing test items for the Common Core/PARCC test.

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About Letter to the Editor 353 Articles
Under the leadership of Editor in Chief Huey Freeman, the Editorial Board of the Arizona Daily Independent offers readers an opportunity to comment on current events and the pressing issues of the day. Occasionally, the Board weighs-in on issues of concern for the residents of Arizona and the US.