By Brad McQueen
Ever wonder why more public classroom teachers don’t speak out against the Common Core and their Superintendents of Instruction and Governors who support it?
I am a Tucson teacher who wrote my first anti-Common Core op-ed this past February in the Arizona Daily Independent and it was subsequently reprinted by other online news sources. I followed up the publication of the op-ed with an interview on a local radio station. This was the reaction of the Arizona Department of Education bureaucrats in emails recently obtained by the Arizona Daily Independent:
From: Hrabluk, Kathy (Associate Superintendent)
Sent: Friday, February 28, 2014 2:37 PM
Subject: AZCCRS (Common Core) criticism
Fyi regarding a teacher named Brad McQueen. He is on a roll criticizing AZCCRS (Common Core)… he also has an article in the Capitol Times (2-27-14) stating many misconceptions that has been floating around. Just thought you might want to check your list of teacher teams (from which teachers are selected to work on tests at the Dept of Education). He is one unhappy camper.
From: Hunting, Irene (Deputy Associate Superintendent Assessments)
Subject: RE: AZCCRS (Common Core) criticism
Thank you. We have made a note in his record.
Irene Hunting, Deputy Associate Superintendent of Assessments, instantly “notes” my file to make sure I am never called again to work on tests at the AZ Department of Education.
I have worked on our state’s standardized test, the AIMS test, and other assessments for the last five years for several weeks over each summer break. Not only do I enjoy the challenging work and I enjoy contributing toward creating our students’ tests, but the summer work has always supplemented my teacher salary. But when you speak out against the cult of Common Core, they are punitive.
Sarah Gardner, AZ Director of PARCC Assessments, joins the conversation and also makes sure that I will never work on tests again at the AZ Department of Education or anywhere else for that matter.
From: Gardner, Sarah <Sarah.Gardner@azed.gov
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2014 1:46 PM
To: Stephanie Snyder (PARCC,Inc.)
Subject: RE: question
Given that Brad McQueen gave a negative statement to the press about Common Core and assessment, you may want to remove him from the invitation list…This was such a surprise for Arizona as Brad has been on many committees, both for our state assessment as well as involved with Common Core and formative assessment based on CC (Common Core) for our state.
Let’s make sure he is not going to Denver later this month. Please remove Brad McQueen from the list.
Sarah Gardner, MAEd-C/T
Director of PARCC and Innovative Assessments
ADE – Assessment Section
Angela Escobar then sends the following email, on taxpayer-paid time, after discovering that I had gone public with my anti-Common Core views during a radio interview:
From:Escobar, Angela (AZ Dept of Education)
Sent: Friday, February 28, 2014 2:44 PM
Subject:Brad McQueen is on the radio
What a f*cktard.
“What a f*cktard.” This pretty much sums up the feelings of the bureaucrat tyrants at the Dept of Education. How dare a teacher exercise his 1st Amendment right to express his views about Common Core. Never mind that his opinions are based on 10 years of teaching, 5 years working on state standardized tests, and working on the Common Core/PARCC test over the last year.
It doesn’t end there, the angry bureaucrats aren’t done yet. Leila Williams, yet another Associate Superintendent, talked to the people at Common Core/PARCC and they have suggested getting another teacher that has worked with me to write a counter op-ed.
From: Williams, Leila (Associate Superintendent)
Hi all today while at the PARCC meeting Jennifer Liewer (Communications Director Dept of Ed) sent an email about this. At the exact time PARCC pulled Sarah (Gardner) and I aside to see how they could help. One suggestion was to have another AZ teacher who had been involved write an editorial. Leila
Associate Superintendent for
Assessment & Accountability
Other emails show several Dept of Education staff members involved in trying to locate a person who worked with me to “write” a counter op-ed to mine.
They even enlist Christie Silverstein from Expect More Arizona, a private pro-Common Core group which often employs AZ Dept of Education employees once they leave public service as a reward for their support of the Common Core’s implementation in our state. Gov Jan Brewer’s former top education advisor and a former member of the AZ Board of Education currently nest there.
Christie Silverstein coordinated the effort to find another AZ teacher to write a counter op-ed to mine and eventually not only finds someone, but helps her write the op-ed, and coordinates with the AZ Capitol Times newspaper to place the op-ed in their next edition. Any wonder people are so cynical about the MSM today?
Here’s Christie Silverstein’s email with phone number in case anyone wants to thank her for her effort in going after an Arizonan public school teacher expressing his personal opinion:
From: Christie Silverstein [mailto:Christie@expectmorearizona.org]
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2014 9:31 AM
To: Liewer, Jennifer; Morley, Stacey
Cc: Williams, Leila; Gardner, Sarah
Subject: AZ Cap Times – just submitted a guest commentary from (name deleted)
FYI – I have been working with (name deleted) to draft a guest commentary for this week’s Arizona Capitol Times. Wefinished it up last night and I sent it in this morning. I’ll give the editor a call a little later today to see if he’s able to fit it in the print edition.
Christie Silverstein, APR
Vice President of Public Engagement
They still were not done. Sarah Gardner, AZ Director of PARCC, called into my classroom. In all of my 10 years of teaching I have not received a call from my superintendent, much less a high ranking official from the AZ Dept of Education.
Sarah Gardner started to grill be about my “problems” with the Common Core and proceeded to ask me if I was implementing the standards in my instruction. I felt like a trap was being set in an attempt to get me terminated from my teaching position. I eventually ended the call as my class was entering the room returning from recess. Needless to say, I was quite shaken.
This is Sarah Gardner’s email reporting back to her boss that she called me:
From: Gardner, Sarah (AZ Director of PARCC)
To: Williams, Leila (Associate Superintendent)
I did speak with Brad. I can fill you in on the conversation. I thought I already had.
In a strange bit of synchronicity, Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal was in Tucson a few days later holding a forum on Common Core. I confronted Mr. Huppenthal about his office calling me in my classroom.
He agreed that no one should be trying to intimidate me and that he would make it right. I followed up our conversation with an email. Needless to say, I never heard from Huppenthal or the Dept of Education again about this matter.
Here’s the email I sent to Mr. Huppenthal as obtained from the Dept of Education by the AZ Daily Independent:
From: Brad McQueen
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2014 9:05 PM
To: ADE Inbox
Subject: Mr. Huppenthal- Complaint re:Inappropriate phone call from ADE staff
Thank you for coming to Tucson today to talk with teachers about the Common Core. I wanted to follow up my complaint to you about the call from Director of PARCC, Sarah Gardner, on 3/3/14, with an email. Her call was in response to my Op Ed opposing the Common Core and the PARCC test and was published in the AZ Capitol Times on 2/27/14.
I echo your sentiment that it was a call meant to intimidate me into silence. I felt intimidated receiving a call from the AZ Dept of Education in my classroom. Just to clarify, she called and left a voicemail on my classroom phone identifying herself and that she was from ADE and she asked me to call her back because she had some questions for me. I called the following day3/4/14. She acknowledged that her phone call was due to my Op Ed. She asked me some initial questions and then asked if I understood the standards and if I was implementing/teaching them in the classroom. That is when I ended the call. I am trusting that this will never happen again.
My emailed complaint was followed by a flurry of additional emails between all the previously mentioned bureaucrats. No emails of apology were sent to me. They were in the process of writing yet another article to try and discredit me, but the receipt of my complaint email caused them to rethink their strategy. Here’s the email:
From: Morley, Stacey
Re: Mr. Huppenthal- Complaint re:Inappropriate phone call from ADE staff
… I spoke w/ Jennifer (Liewer, Director of Communications, Dept of Education) and she agrees with me that we should not have another article refuting his, but we should have the info since he does not seem to be going away.
You got that right Stacey, I am not going away.
In several other emails, Sarah Gardner claims that she never intimidated me. She doesn’t get that just a phone call from a high level official from the Dept of Education about my op-ed and questioning me about my instruction is intimidation. Never mind the interrogator’s tone.
The other thing she doesn’t get is that our whole conversation took place on speaker phone. Luckily, a co-worker entered my classroom at the beginning of the phone call and witnessed the entire thing. This co-worker was in shock at Sarah Gardner’s monotone, interrogation-like manner and expressed her fear that Sarah was trying to entrap me in an effort to have me terminated.
I have to admit that I was quite intimidated for the rest of the day. Then I got angry. I decided that it would be just those bureaucrats’ style to try and silently remove me in the future. I also decided that it would be more difficult to remove me if I was screaming really loud against Common Core. Besides, it was the right thing to do for the kids in my classroom and their parents.
I sat down and wrote “The Cult of Common Core” in three weeks to get down everything I knew about the Common Core and its evil intent for our children and our country’s exceptionalism. Since then I’ve written over twenty articles, given three radio interviews, a television interview, and even travelled to the Ohio statehouse to speak at an anti-Common Core rally.
My experience shows the world of Common Core in action. A world run by out of control bureaucrats who feel it is perfectly okay to hunt down anyone who expresses anti-Common Core views and attempt to discredit them. There were countless other emails I did not include in this article, most of them written by very high level Dept of Education officials.
Perhaps if they spent that time and effort analyzing the damage that Common Core is causing to our children they would rethink their complicity in its implementation. That’s between them and their consciences, where they exist.
Perhaps if these angry, jack-booted bureaucrats had a Superintendent of Public Instruction that didn’t encourage their atmosphere of deception and anonymous retribution, as was uncovered in Huppenthal’s recent anonymous postings, the Department of Education could return to its job of acting in the best interests of our kids here in Arizona.
Still wonder why no teachers speak out against Common Core?
Arizona deserves so much better.
Brad McQueen is a former Common Core insider and current public school teacher in Tucson, Arizona and is the author of the anti-Common Core book “The Cult of Common Core”. Connect with Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org