One-sided Assertions About Common Core Threaten Arizona Education

By Dale Brethower

Some say: “Common Core is about having standards.  Shouldn’t we at least have minimum standards that are uniform across this great land of ours?”

The “about standards” people argue that education is of great national importance.  It is unreasonable to believe that school districts everywhere in the country have access to all the important information about education that is available to national experts; it is unreasonable to believe that school districts everywhere in the country know enough and care enough to do a good job of educating the nation’s children.  We should have a set of common standards, arrived at by a careful process involving national experts and state governments that guide every school in every state in the nation toward, at least, a minimum common core of academic standards.

Some say: “Common Core is a threat to local control of our schools. Centralized control always and everywhere assures inefficiencies and invites abuses. Shouldn’t parents, community members, and local taxpayers have more say about what happens to the children in our local schools than nameless unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?”

The “local control” people argue that no matter how much experts in general know about educating children, those experts do not know the children living right here, in our local community.  Children living in urban America have different life experiences than children living in rural America. The families served by big city schools live in vastly different cultures than the families served by small town schools.  Distant experts cannot set relevant and reasonable standards for this unique community.  Communities all across this great land have exercised local control for more than 200 years.  What problems would Common Core standards solve?  And are Common Core standards the best way to solve them?

I could probably patch up both sets of arguments to make them stronger or more persuasive but that is not my purpose here.  My purpose is to say that there are good arguments on both sides.  Preparing better arguments supporting “my side” of the issues and attacking “the other side” is an absurd, though common, approach to any controversial topic. It is especially harmful in discussing a topic as important to my family and my community and my nation as education.

We in Arizona know firsthand that Common Core is a hot button issue.  Diane Douglas, AZ Superintendent of Education, was elected based upon an anti-Common Core campaign.  Influential politicians, including Governor Ducey,  elected Governor in the same campaign cycle, and his people campaigned against Douglas and for Common Core.  Perhaps that was because the Feds offered significant financial inducements to state governments in return for support of Common Core.  Or perhaps Governor Ducey had other reasons.  But it is clear that the interactions between Superintendent Douglas and Governor Ducey have not been helpful in support of education in AZ.  Our elected leaders are in conflict. I am quite sure that the conflict is not truly in my best interests or the best interest of the children and taxpayers of Arizona.

Experts in conflict resolution know a lot about resolving conflicts—I’m not such an expert, but I read a lot.  The procedures are sensible but not easy.  One procedure goes something like this:

  1. First, agree on what is at issue. (Maybe educational quality? state funding?  local control? legal or constitutional issues? political power? There are likely to be several issues.)
  2. Second, each side states the views/arguments of the other side as clearly and simply as possible. The starting point for discussion is reached once each side can state “the other side’s” views (to the other side’s satisfaction).
  3. Third, gather the facts and principles relevant to each issue. Some facts and some principles will be disputed.  Simply record what is agreed upon and what is disputed.  Devote significant, perhaps most, consideration to what is agreed upon; public policy should be built on areas of relative agreement.
  4. Fourth, publish the results of the first three steps so the parents, politicians, and taxpayers have an opportunity to inform themselves.
  5. Fifth, blast at “the other side” mindlessly in public or behind the scenes; political beasts can’t help it.

The fifth step will happen whether or not I like it.   But if steps like the first 4 are followed we-the-people have a chance to be informed and weigh in.  That would be better than the one-sided exercise in futility we are witnessing now; it does not bode  well for Arizona education. But it is standard fare in the press and among politicians.



  1. Why not ask math, science, and engineering teaching faculty at AZ institutions of higher education to analyze and report on their professional judgment about CC’s high school math standards and the NGSS science standards? Let’s find out what they think college readiness should mean.

  2. @ Mr. Brethower: What follows are some random thoughts triggered by your remarks.

    As CC transpired into the public eye and protests emerged the protestors were verbally roasted as not qualified to protest. Who begins a critique with “White Suburban Moms …”? (Well Greg Miller did during another of his incessant tirades against Dianne Douglas. Which by the way he “stole” the floor from Douglas by talking over her, who at that moment had been recognized and was speaking. Douglas did not interrupt Miller -Miller interrupted Douglas)

    NCLB failed so the mantra goes. Yet it was replete with standards and performance evaluations at every step. Grants were dependent on performance. Teachers teach to the test they cried.

    Another way to say that and probably more accurate, Boards teach to the grants by writing rules to the grant therefore teachers teach to the grants because their principals teach to the grants because the local board is ruled to teach to the grant because they must or lose their funding.

    By focusing on NCLB as the “cause”, our attention is drawn away from the plethora of official board policy (rules) mandates,(originating in Washington by the way),that torpedo our children. CC will not change that since sure as heck funding is dependant on mandates. Very little time for teaching and awful lot of time devoted to indoctrinating.

    Storm clouds on the horizon. The attrition rate among long term teachers is high, I mean who the world wants to march lock step to mandated dystopic narratives born in Washington.

    Today’s teacher at 10 years is an more and more old timer with the balance much less. What is on it’s is a wave of teachers fully immersed in the “modern” revisionism of social mores,family revisionism, historical revisionism, gender revisionism, religious revisionism and quite used to looking the “government” for guidance.

    We might call it the pending Birth of the American Stalag.

  3. This column would be wonderful except for its failure to recognize some important facts. Here are just a few:
    1. Standards are not set locally. Under No Child Left Behind, EACH AND EVERY STATE HAD TO ESTABLISH STANDARDS. Local districts had to follow state standards and the tests used for accountability purposes had to be aligned to those state standards.
    2. There is no correlation between standards and student learning. Students from states with supposedly weak standards can do just as well in college as students from states with supposedly strong standards. No matter which standards are used, learning comes down to students, their parents and their teachers.
    3. The Common Core standards were not developed by educators. They were developed by bureaucrats and politicians. Teachers were not even brought into the process until it was time to develop curricula around the standards.
    4. There is no evidence that students from states that use curricula based on Common Core standards do better than students from states that continue to use the previous state developed standards.
    5. The tests used to assess how well students learned have been flawed from day one. They are so bad that Massachusetts, the state with the highest performing students in the country, has changed its collective mind and decided not to use those tests and, instead, develop its own.
    6. The only ones who have demonstrably benefited from the adoption of the Common Core standards are the companies, like Pearson, that produce textbooks and standardized tests. The US Department of Education, by literally bullying states into adopting the Common Core, has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits to the educational publishing industry. Only a very naive person would believe this is coincidental.

    And, for LEO in TSN, the NEA no longer supports the Common Core, especially as it has been implemented. They did when the standards were first announced, but the way they have been used and misused in the states that went with them has forced NEA to change its stance. In short, the members of the NEA were so adamant that the Common Core was far from the panacea the leadership had led them to believe that NEA was forced to back away from support.

  4. Common Core is not about standards but about control and data mining and collection about children from pre-K to adulthood: future population control. Why does the federal government, which is prohibited by law from interfering with curriculum, books and standards in K-12, want so much information? Common Core is a ruse which has been discredited by the very experts who were involved with it from the beginning.

  5. How nice – can’t we all just get along? A nice discourse, but in this case fatally flawed because it assumes there are some good things about Common Core. There are none.

    The Common Core Standards were created to confuse and control American educators, administrators, and students and to prevent any scrutiny or oversight by parents, legislators and citizens. The CC Standards were created to dumb down American education to make US just another controllable nation-state under the New World Order. Common Core is the American extension of the UN Global Education Agenda, and the Leftists have been preparing for this for decades and pushing it out through union education.

    Common Core Standards also require the Common Core Curriculum, which has been totally obscured by the Standards discussion. The Curriculum consists of marxist gibberish delivered over the internet in secret training pods, designed to brainwash helpless students while sucking out the personal information about the student, family and community. The “testing” is done in secret, with content hidden from oversight and only “scores” available to the student and education community. This was first brought to public light in Texas, where S-Core teachers were forced to sign “non-disclosure contracts” in which they were subject to termination and criminal prosecution for disclosing any of the secret curriculum or testing to parents or other “outsiders.”

    And of course, the CC Curriculum will be delivered by the modern computer systems being designed by the leftist computer magnates who are funding Common Core, lobbying unsuspecting legislators and administrators, and who stand to make hundreds of billions from our tax dollars. These are the same computer magnates who support open borders, AMNESTY, Queer Nation, abortion and the War on Religion.

    Nope, there’s just no good about Common Core. That should be ultimately obvious by the people pushing it (Barack Hussein Obamao, Bill Gates, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Arne Duncan, Raul Grijalva, TUSD, NEA, the UN and etc).

    God bless America.

  6. Some of the dissatisfaction with Common Core is the method of instruction. What I’ve seen of the math methods is that they are much more complicated than they need to be. This is a disincentive to learning.

  7. I cannot understand this local control issue. Survey the best performing educational institutions together with the outcomes needed to help all students to be prepared for their chosen prep is not the answer for all. Reinstitute vocational training and teach to the professional needs of each student.

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