Common Core Advocates Used Questionable Tactics, Ward Oblivious

On April 12, former Governor Jan Brewer, in an op-ed piece published in the Arizona Republic, admonished parents, teachers, and lawmakers to “Stop fighting Common Core and focus on issues.”

Brewer penned the piece with Rebecca Gau, Executive Director of Stand for Children Arizona. Stand for Children Arizona, a pro-Common Core group headed up by retired Chair of Intel, Craig Barrett, spent well over $130,000 on an anti-Diane Douglas campaign during the 2014 Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction race. Douglas ran against Common Core.

Barrett, owner of the elite Basis charter school chain, and the chambers of commerce, through groups like Stand for Children Arizona have been fighting to preserve the technology based, data mining testing which is core of Common Core.

With so much at stake, money is no object and it takes money to drive the pro-common Core narrative on every level. Nowhere was control of the narrative more vital than, during the Regular Session of the 52nd Arizona Legislature.

According to Murray Edelman, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in his piece entitled Political Language and Political Reality:

“The critical element and political maneuver for advantage is the creation of meaning the construction of beliefs about the significance of events of problems of crises policy changes and of leaders. The strategic need is to mobilize opposition and mobilize support. While coercion and intimidation help to check resistance and all political systems the key tactic must always be the evocation of meanings that legitimize favored courses of action and threaten or reassure people so as to encourage them to be supportive…”

Or to remain quiet. Buzz words and phrases were key to the campaign against lawmakers who had hoped to defeat the federal standards adopted in 2010 during Brewer’s tenure.

In that effort, even before the session started, on January 7, Emily Gullickson of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce wrote Common Core proponents including Kelly McManus of Stand for Arizona, Lisa Graham Keegan, Director of A for Arizona, Christine Thompson, Executive Director of the Arizona State Board of Education, Pearl Chang Esau President & CEO of Expect More Arizona which is funded in part by the Apollo Education Group (owner of Carnegie Learning), among other corporate giants, to construct that language to be used by and against lawmakers.

From: Emily Gullickson []
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2015 5:39 PM
To:;;;; Pearl Chang Esau; Eileen Sigmund
Cc: Lisa Keegan; Becky Hill; Katie Fischer; Thompson, Christine
Subject: Re: Education Key Terms for 2015

Here is an updated draft based on some meaningful feedback thus far. We would love any additional contributions or revisions.


On Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 9:48 AM, Emily Gullickson <> wrote:
Hello Education Advocates!

We thought it would be helpful for new and old legislators to receive a list of a few key education terms that will be frequently used this session. While we have some different interests, we thought it would be helpful to show that we all agree on these definitions. It would be great to add your organization logos to the document to really show the collective voice before we distribute copies.

If you have recommendations of additional terms or modifications to the existing ones, please let us know as soon as possible. We were trying to keep it short and sweet to one page to quick access to education terms but also want our leaders to be properly informed about all important concepts in 2015.

Thanks so much!


Emily Anne Gullickson
Program Director
A for Arizona
Arizona Chamber Foundation
3200 N. Central Avenue | Suite 1125 | Phoenix, AZ 85012
p: (602) 248-9172 x121 | e:

According to the documents, Gullickson was “working closely” with the Arizona State Board of Education assistant executive director, Sabrina Vasquez. The terms included Achievement Gap, Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (Accrs), Azmerit, Assessments, Career-Ready, College-Ready and Curriculum.

Definitions included key words and phrases like “concise,” “accountable for improving the academic achievement of students,” “improve instructional quality,” and “21st century skills.” On their face, they generally appeared innocuous. Who could object to them? So, when used against lawmakers who opposed the “less-than-rigorous federal standards designed to create worker bees,” as Common Core opponent Rep. Mark Finchem put it, the vocabulary list was effective.

Lawmakers were made to understand, through the use of key words and phrases,that the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core) dumbing down standards were superior to standards of the past.

The confusion created by the narrative made passage in the House difficult. As pro-Common Core lawmakers like Rep. Doug Coleman deliberately tried to muddy the waters and exert their “expert” status as educators, those not trained in edubabble were left with few resources on which to base their opinions. Lobbyists and non-lobbyists were sent out to prey upon the unsuspecting and overwhelmed lawmakers offering their sage advice.

As a result, HB2190, repeal and replace Common Core, sponsored by Finchem, had a tough road towards passage in the House. Despite all odds, and the tremendous resources used to defeat it, the bill did pass on a partisan vote. It won the support of even the most chamber friendly Republicans, due to the fact that their constituents demand such.

Sen. Kelli Ward, a staunch Common Core opponent, responded to the concerns and demands from House and Senate members who said that the bill be amended before they could fully support it. Some of those concerns were legitimate, and some contrived. However, Ward moved to develop an amendment to “correct” the bill.

She got a lot of help – that wasn’t helpful at all. The conscientious Duke grad and physician was offered “help” from the “experts,” and sought out help from the Legislature’s staff.

On January 30, Amanda McAdams “reached out” to Ward, Sen. Kimberly Yee, and Rep. Paul Boyer to “follow up from our great initial conversation a couple of weeks ago.”

McAdams, as noted by educator and Common Core testing expert, Brad McQueen, is part of the “secret cadre of Common Core propagandists from the Teacher of the Year program.” McQueen reveals that the “National Teacher of the Year program is actually a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO ), which authored the Common Core Standards and holds its copyright.”

In service of that cause, McAdams, who has been held up as an expert teacher by the Common Core crowd, forwards Ward’s tough questions to Chang and Thompson:

——– Original message ——–
From: Amanda McAdams
Date:02/04/2015 6:24 PM (GMT-07:00)
To: “‘'”
Cc: State Board Inbox ,”Thompson, Christine”
Subject: FW: Repeal of AZCCR

Please review below and give advice. I am glad for the open line of communication, but we don’t seem to be on the same page. Is Sen Ward referring to the AZ Merit contract? If she is, then I need help. Is she correct?

From: Kelli Ward []
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 4:10 PM
To: Amanda McAdams
Cc: Kimberly Yee; Paul Boyer
Subject: RE: Repeal of AZCCR

You aren’t understanding – we can add up to 15% to our standards; however, we CANNOT change the other 85% which are the ones that are tested. This is in the contract. Perhaps the extra 15% will be tested by AZMerit, but that remains to be seen. I recommend you check in with the Dept of Ed on your interpretation of CCSS now called AZCCRS (the name change is the only thing allowed in the contract).

Kelli Ward
Senator Kelli Ward, DO, MPH

Ward worked hard to get the straight answers for constituents and herself from anyone, and expected that she would from Senate staff. On February 6, Ward forwarded a constituent’s questions about AZMerit to Legislative staffer Matt Simon:

1. Was it from Pearson Educational services, McGraw-Hill, Acheive Inc, PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?

2. Are any other states using the same test but with different labels?

3. Who administers it?

4. What involvement does the Fed Dept of Ed have in this (The DOE paid for and managed PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium)?

5. Do you know if it only tests the student in the Cognitive Domain or does it involve the Affective Domain of the student as well?

6. Are parents or the public allowed to view the whole test and/or assessment?

In response, Simon forwards them to Vasquez for assistance:

From: Matt Simon []
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2015 9:48 AM
To: Vazquez, Sabrina
Subject: RE: AzMERIT

Do these sound appropriate and to the point enough.
1. Was it from Pearson Educational services, McGraw-Hill, Acheive Inc, PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?
1. A vendor was procured using general procurement laws and rules. The American Institutes of Research (AIR) were contracted with for the purposes of AzMERIT.
Answer: No. The State Board of Education (Board) awarded the contract for the new statewide achievement test (AzMERIT) to American Institutes for Research (AIR) a not-for-profit organization with decades of experience in K-12 educational assessments. AIR is not affiliated with any of the organizations listed above. The procurement process for this new test was in compliance with all Arizona procurement laws and rules.

2. Are any other states using the same test but with different labels?
1. This is an AZ specific test. AZ contracted with AIR on its own and is not part of an assessment consortium.
Answer: No, Arizona is partnering with AIR to develop tests which are unique to Arizona. These exams will be aligned with the Arizona English Language Arts and Mathematics standards. Arizona controls the decision making for all aspects of the exams including test design, test and item content, scoring, and reporting. Due to time constraints, the first administration of AzMERIT will include questions from item banks previously developed by AIR. In December the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) convened a group of 90 Arizona educators to review and approve every item which will appear on the first administration of AzMERIT. Items that appear on AzMERIT may also appear on tests in other states, but the complete test form is unique to Arizona. No student outside of Arizona will take a test that is identical to an AzMERIT test. Moving forward AIR has a plan to develop questions specifically for AzMERIT which will be used in subsequent years. Arizona educators will have extensive involvement in this process.

3. Who administers it?
1. Per our contract with AIR, AIR will perform grading and administrative functions but the test will be administered by local school district personnel in paper or computer based form.

4. What involvement does the Fed Dept of Ed have in this (The DOE paid for and managed PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium)?
Answer: The United State Department of Education (USDOE) was not involved in the selection, development or administration of AzMERIT. Arizona law requires the Board to adopt and implement a test to measure pupil achievement. AzMERIT is controlled by Arizona and measures Arizona’s standards. Arizona receives some federal funding to administer a statewide assessment, this funding was also provided for the administration of AIMS.

5. Do you know if it only tests the student in the Cognitive Domain or does it involve the Affective Domain of the student as well?
Answer: AzMERIT does not measure the Affective Domain. AzMERIT will solely assess a student’s mastery on Arizona English Language Arts and Mathematics standards.

6. Are parents or the public allowed to view the whole test and/or assessment?
Answer: AzMERIT Sample tests will be released later this month. There is a plan for an annual release of AzMERIT items. This details of this release have not yet been determined.

For additional information on AzMERIT please visit

Simon did not respond to multiple requests for information as to what other sources he might have used to inform legislators.

The efforts to stop HB2190 did not work in the House. As a result, the performance by Lisa Graham Keegan in front of the Senate Education Committee, appeared to be a desperate attempt to beat back the anti-Common Core barbarians.

Check back on Friday for Part III: Common Core Machine rolls over Arizona

Part I: Expect More Arizona wants public to expect less

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