Now that the great tsunami election of 2014 is over let’s not forget that those who rode that wave of discontent into the Governor’s office, the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office, and the Arizona Legislature need to act quickly with comprehensive legislation/executive orders to pull the federal Common Core education implementation machine from our state and return us to a 100% Arizona created and controlled education delivery system.
Since the election, many of us have been disheartened as our new Governor Doug Ducey surrounded himself with pro-Common Core education advisors. We have also witnessed our new Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, signaling business as usual, make no major staffing changes at the Department of Education while mentioning in interviews that the Common Core standards won’t be changed quickly and that any changes that do occur will start with the current Common Core standards.
The Common Core is like a cancer
The Common Core is like a cancer. You can’t just trim out the ugly parts and bring the patient back to full health using the cancer as a starting point. You cut the cancer, in this case Common Core, out immediately preventing its roots from growing even deeper. Especially when in this figurative example the “patient” is our education system, our state/parental sovereignty over education and student data, and our kids’ minds. A little urgency is in order, please.
There are many new legislators that are chomping at the bit to end the Common Core machine in our state and they need our support against the entrenched interests of the establishment politicians in both parties, along with their Chamber of Commerce buddies, who will railroad them at every turn.
We have had a Republican majority in the legislature for as long as we have had Common Core and still this Common Core predator remains alive in our state. The Common Core crowd has had over 5 years and billions of dollars to convince us that their untested, stealthily installed ideas of centralized control of education is a good one.
We are not buying it. The more parents, teachers, and students learn about and experience Common Core, the more they detest it. Game over.
So it is within this context of shaken confidence in some elected officials and with a sense of increased urgency that I put forth the need to remind our public servants to stay laser focused on our desire to repeal in full the Common Core from our state now, not later, immediately, not gradually.
For what it’s worth, rather than waiting until our leaders come up with multiple Common Core repeal measures or anti-measures, I want to posit some suggestions on how to rid our state of the Common Core in full from the viewpoint of a public school teacher and Common Core opponent.
The bill to repeal Common Core must be comprehensive
There needs to be a comprehensive repeal of the Common Core. Too often we have had overlapping and sometimes competing bills in the AZ House and Senate that attempted in piecemeal fashion to repeal select parts of Common Core. In other states, legislators do this purposefully to say that they voted against the Common Core while knowing their legislation will have no real overall impact to remove it.
We have a Republican majority in both houses of our state legislature and some in the Democrat party who oppose the Common Core, so the leaders of each house need to work together to craft a comprehensive repeal bill.
This repeal bill must include not only ending the federal Common Core learning standards in our state but also ending the Common Coretest (AZMerit). In addition, the bill must also prevent the NSA-like data suctioning systems () installed in our state from sending personally identifiable student data to the federal government and private companies without notifying parents or asking their permission.
The Oklahoma law repealing Common Core is a good reference for our lawmakers
In June 2014 the Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill that repealed Common Core and Governor Mary Fallin signed it into law . The Oklahoma law would be a good reference for Arizona lawmakers to use as a starting point in crafting its own Common Core repeal bill.
Oklahoma will revert back to their previous state standards and test for two years while a select committee of stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and other experts, will rewrite/update their state learning standards which will then have to be approved by the state legislature. Unlike the Common Core standards writing process, the Oklahoma standards process will be inclusive, transparent, and deliberative.
The Oklahoma law also prevents the state from entering into any agreement that cedes any state control or sovereignty over their state test.
Oklahoma’s law survived a state Supreme Court challenge and the state also had their standards certified by their State Regents for Higher Education preventing a threat from the U.S. Department of Education to pull federal education funding.
Oklahoma already had a separate law dealing with student data collection and sharing, but an Ohio bill repealing Common Core, set to be voted on this year, includes a comprehensive student data security component and may serve as a guideline for Arizona’s comprehensive bill.
When I talk about removing the Common Core standards I’m only talking about the math and language arts standards. Our Arizona created and owned, AZ Academic Content Standards, are still in place for the six subject areas of social studies, science , foreign languages, education technology, the arts, health education, and physical education.
Unlike the Common Core standards, these standards are easy to understand at first glance as standards should be. A teacher or a parent should be able to read their state’s learning standards and know what their children are expected to do without massive explanation or tutorials.
Children also still take the AIMS test to assess their knowledge of science in our state and the graduating class of 2016 is still taking the AIMS test in order to graduate. Both of these tests align to our current AZ Academic Content Standards.
Returning to our previous math and language arts standards is doable
Returning back to our previous math and language arts standards for two years, as we update all of our learning standards, is doable. Remember, the Common Core standards have only been fully in place since last year for math and language arts and the Department of Education is already updating the other six content areas mentioned above. For a laugh check out AZ’s Common Core math standards, just take some antacid first.
Like Oklahoma, our previous math/language arts standards were judged, according to a 2010 comparison study conducted by the Common Core funded Fordham Institute, to be on par with the Common Core standards in math, receiving an A-, and very close in language arts, receiving a B+. The report speaks quite highly of our AZ Academic Standards. Read it for yourself here.
However, unlike the Common Core standards, our previous AZ Academic Standards, have more than a decade of data to show for themselves. I can vouch that our previous math/language arts standards were easy to understand and were developmentally appropriate for our kids.
The new AZ Common Core standards, on the other hand, required a year of professional development classes for teachers so they could understand how terrible they are and discover how developmentally innappropriate they still are for our students. The AZ Common Core math standards are lower than our previous math standards leaving our kids two years behind most other industrialized nations according to world renowned mathematician Dr. James Milgram .
At a Common Core forum held last year in Mesa by Arizonans Against Common Core, Dr. Sandra Stotsky said she would return to Arizona to help rewrite our state standards should we ever repeal the Common Core standards.
Dr. Stotsky is a renowned standards expert who crafted the world class Massachusetts learning standards. She is also a nationally known opponent of the Common Core who refused to validate the standards, along with Dr. Milgram, when she was a member of the Common Core standards validation committee.
Any mention of repealing Common Core will be met with howls of protest from some of course
Of course any mention of repealing the Common Core standards in Arizona will be met with howls of protest from the likes of former Governor Brewer and her buddies at the Chamber of Commerce who hope to profit massively from this takeover of our education system. The Chamber would also love to use our k-12 school system as their own private human resource department to shape children into their future worker bees.
Governor Brewer went around the legislature and used her appointed State Board of Education to adopt the federally created and privately copyrighted Common Core standards in late June 2010 only three weeks after a secretive committee of non-educators in Washington, D.C. released them in early June 2010 with no real discussion, debate, or input from stakeholders such as classroom teachers.
No public discussion or statewide forums guided this decision, rather the lust for federal money guided Governor Brewer’s decision three week deliberation. I apologize for using the word “lust” and “Jan Brewer” in the same sentence.
Reverting back to our AZ created and owned Academic Standards and tests in math, reading, and writing for two years while we update those standards can be done quickly and with little disruption. Teachers like me will welcome the return to sanity and there will be a collective sigh of relief from those same teachers and parents alike.
Teachers hate Common Core by the way
By the way, teachers hate the Common Core. That’s right, I said it! The only people I have heard that even tolerate the Common Core standards are administrators, bureaucrats, and curriculum people who are paid to run Common Core workshops and who will never have to implement the standards in a classroom.
If teachers could be honest they would tell you that they are teaching the same way as they always have, when possible, and are waiting to see the Common Core test to judge how to tweak their instruction in the class so their kids will do well on the test so that their salary isn’t impacted by low student test scores. They are also doing their best to protect their classes from some of idiocy present in the Common Core standards and their “aligned” textbooks, especially in math. Not exactly a vote of confidence.
But don’t ask teachers how they feel about the Common Core on campus because those who speak out against Common Core set themselves up for retaliation while those who cheer for it are given pom-poms and a megaphone. I’ve got the emails from the Department of Education to prove it.
As I said earlier, the Common Core crowd has had five years and billions of dollars to convince the rest of us of the usefulness of their Common Core machine, yet still the anti-Common Core tide continues to rise. Your time is up.
Any adoption of or changes to our learning standards should be approved by the State Legislature
In the future, our legislature should provide oversight to the AZ State Board of Education and should mandate that any future changes to learning standards or tests must be approved by the legislature who are accountable to the voters.
All supplemental materials being used in our schools must also be vetted to make sure they align to our AZ Academic Content Standards during the updating period. Many classrooms in Arizona use supplemental materials like newspapers from Social Studies and Science Weekly in place of their textbooks circumventing the vetting process which makes sure they align to our standards. This is a backdoor way to keep Common Core in our schools and that door must be closed.
The new Common Core Test, AZMerit, was quickly adopted two months ago and they plan to give it starting in March. There is no time to field test it to determine if it is a reliable measure for anything. Teachers still don’t have a “practice test” to help prepare our students and we are still in the dark about many things related to the new test.
In response, our State Board of Education has already signaled that it may provide a “ safe harbor” year where the results of the test will not be used for much of anything such as promotion, graduation, teacher evaluations, or school report cards.
If there will be a “safe harbor” year where the Common Core test results will not be used for anything anyways, why not use the next two years to update our AZ created and owned Academic Content Standards in math, reading, and writing? We will regain ownership and control of our state standards and test immediately and we will have test results that will provide actual usable data during the transition period.
Bottom line is Governor Brewer was able to quickly adopt these federal Common Core standards, dropped out of the PARCC testing consortium overnight when it suited her, and waited until four months before we were due to give her Common Core aligned state test to our kids to adopt a AZMerit test.
Obviously when there was a will to get federal funding Governor Brewer and other governors quickly found a way. The quality of our kids education be damned.
Many like to erroneously claim our pre-Common Core standards were subpar
Many politician types like to purposefully confuse our previous standards with the low achievement of our graduates in recent years. Politicians decided to dumb down graduation requirements and lowered the requirements to pass the AIMS test rather than demanding that kids truly be required to demonstrate a mastery of the our learning standards.
I’ll let you in on a little test creation secret as I’ve worked on committees that recommended passing scores on our AIMS test for writing. The “passing score” on the AIMS or the new AZMerit test is not determined by your kids answering say 70% of all questions on the reading/writing test.
Rather, the the test is given and then the data gurus employed by the testing company run the student test data through their formulas and tell the State Education Board, “if we set the cut score at say ‘450’ then 80% of your students will fail. But if we set the pass score at say ‘380’, then 80% of your students will pass.”
They present the decision makers with multiple potential passing score scenarios so that they can choose the score that works for them politically. The score doesn’t always show that your kids necessarily mastered the standards.
I guarantee the Common Core crowd will set the pass score artificially low on the Common Core test in an attempt to blunt criticism and so that there isn’t a huge outcry from parents. An outcry happened in New York over the last couple of years when there was a huge failure rate on their Common Core test resulting in demonstrations against the Common Core.
Parents opted out of testing, teacher unions’ support for the Common Core weakened as the test scores threatened to affect teacher evaluations and pay (and union dues), and Arne Duncan made his now infamous quote that the white suburban moms were just mad because they found out that their kids weren’t as brilliant as they thought they were.
The Common Core standards have only been fully in place for math and language arts since last year and it will take several years of our kids being used as guinea pigs to see if they even increase student learning. If the crusty old bureaucrats at the Department of Education were honest they would admit that they are building the plane in mid-air.
There is a strong desire to rid our state of the Common Core and now our elected officials must find the way to accomplish the will of the voters. If they don’t ,they will be shown the way out of office by voters either by recall or at the next election.
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