Education activists are questioning the actions of the State Board of Education and its apparent inability to perform its most basic functions in light of Governor Doug Ducey’s decision to increase its power. While SB1416, which would expand the Board’s power, appears to be stalled after passing in the Senate, scrutiny of the Board’s failures persist.
Nothing has become more symbolic of the Board’s ineptitude than its management of the Arizona State Board of Education’s (SBE) Academic Standards Development Committee and the Mathematics Standards and English Language Arts (ELA) Standards review process.
In March 2015, Ducey tasked the SBE with reviewing the standards in order to ensure that they were vetted, approved, and controlled by Arizona. In April 2015, the SBE established the Arizona Academic Standards Development Committee to oversee the process.
In an inexplicable move, the SBE ordered a new website to be developed dedicated solely to that process. Few understood the need for the site. Some said the site was needed for public comment, however there is no apparent reason why the comments could not be collected through the SBE site. Many believed it served no other function other than to divert attention away from the SBE site and create one more hurdle in the public’s path of participation in the overhaul of the standards.
Those concerns were justified as members of the Committee received complaints from frantic members of the public who tried to weigh-in on the standards before the comment period expired on November 20, 2015. Naturally most people went to the SBE site first, only to find no obvious access to the standards or anywhere to comment on them. The lucky ones “in the know” were steered to the site, while countless others gave up completely and their voices were never included in the conversation.
The “Comment” page was also plagued with errors where the site wouldn’t accept public comment and despite “contacting the administrator” via the link on the page to “report problems,” it is believed that they never got back to any parents.
During the last week, parents would receive “rejection messages” based on the fact that the word count was exceeded when the site itself kept count and revealed parents were well within the word limits. Because of the site’s glitch, comments which didn’t exceed the word count were “not accepted.” The Governor’s Staff had to input dozens and dozens of comments when parents complained. How many more comments went ignored by the the site administrator is unknown.
After SBE Chair Greg Miller tried to paint the Superintendent and her team at the Arizona Department of Education as incompetents with specious assertions that they had failed to open the Move on When Reading portal in August, one would think the SBE would take great care to prevent public anxiety and increase input.
That was not the case, and on February 10, 2016, in response to various complaints about the site, the Arizona Daily Independent requested information on what organization built the site, when it was built, and the total cost of the site.
Finally, March 4, Meagan Rose with the Arizona Dept. of Administration advised the ADI that ASET (Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology) division assisted SBE with the website. The site developer, Eagle Creek of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, completed the 4-page site on August 14, 2015 at a cost of $7,680.
Yet the pre-fab-type template pages could still be found on the “completed” site. As late as February 23, the “Resource” page was still written in the Latin language. Web designers use “Latin text as a placeholder or “filler” content until the client has provided us with actual content to use, according to KOA Consulting. That page mysteriously disappeared after an ADI article was published that included a screen shot of the site.
It is one thing to have a poorly crafted website; it is another matter to have spent over $7000 on a 4-page, minimally functional website.
According to howmuchdoesawebsitecost.com, “Some web designers charge a flat rate per page; this can be as low as $50 although most designers in the USA will charge $100 – $200 per page. This pricing is usually for basic static brochure web sites that do not require a lot of custom features. “The “Site Map” on the Standards’ website reveals virtually no custom features, and there is no visible original artwork.
Based on that figure, SBE or ASET paid nearly 9 times that amount, and then didn’t bother to thoroughly review or test the site.
The Governor did little to help the situation. The Standards Development Committee is not also prominently displayed on the governor’s “Education” page. A quick look at the bottom of that page shows all the other programs the governor hails except the one intended to fulfill his promise of reviewing and replacing the Arizona standards in their entirety.
Given the fact that the SBE has not properly managed the teacher certification and disciplinary system, it is not surprising that it couldn’t manage a website. What is surprising is that the same Republicans who said that the disastrous Obamacare website was proof that the administration could not possibly manage healthcare, now want to increase the functions of the SBE.