On Monday, the State Board of Education pushed forward and approved for the second time Arizona’s brand of Common Core. Superintendent Diane Douglas, who had previously been a vocal opponent of the national standards, joined the majority of the Board in approving the Common Core rebrand.
Board member Jared Taylor, who has been consistent in his opposition to Common Core, was the lone “no” vote.
“The bottom line is that I am very disappointed that we kicked the parents to the curb and ignored the will of the voters when they elected Diane Douglas. Yet she led the way today; we just renewed Common Core,” stated Taylor.
The move to adopt the rewrite surprised members of the Governor’s Arizona Standards Development Committee. Just last week, the Committee voted to delay their approval of the standards by one month so that parents, who has been denied an opportunity to address the Committee could review the hastily delivered rewrite and express any of their concerns that remained to the Committee.
The Governor’s instructions to the Committee were unambiguous. The process was to be transparent and the Committee was to receive recommendations and input from parents and incorporate them in the revisions. Instead, the process was driven by bureaucrats in the Arizona Department of Education and teachers from whom input was sought signed non-disclosure agreements that forced the work to be done outside the public’s view.
The writing was on the wall, according to Committee Chair, Scott Leska. A day after the Committee meeting on December 14, Leska, in an appearance on the James T. Harris show, explained how the process had become a sham and predicted the rewrite of the Common Core standards. “Unfortunately I feel betrayed, and you know what? Everyone who is trying to get rid of Common Core should feel betrayed by the Governor and Diane Douglas. It is a travesty. Wednesday is when we met. There are about 2,000 pages of the second draft that came out that they expected us to read all 2,000 pages in less than a week. We all have second jobs or primary jobs as this is a volunteer position. So we couldn’t certainly read 100% of it in its entirety with objectivity and clarity.”
Leska told Harris that he was advised that the “Governor’s office wanted this done by December so they could get it behind them.” To that end, Douglas voted against the Committee’s decision to delay approval. Still, she was in the minority and the Committee delayed approval by a vote of 8-7.
According to Leska, despite the fact that the standards are “riddled with errors,” the Committee hadn’t “had a candid discussion on anything for the last year and a half,” and the Committee asked for a delay, the State Board voted on the standards virtually sight unseen.
In a press release issued on Monday, Douglas claimed that the State Board of Education “(SBE) and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) worked together to gather, process and incorporate more than 10,000 comments related to the standards, an effort that took place both before and after releasing a first draft to the public. The first draft was also reviewed by several nationally recognized technical experts, including prominent anti-Common Core authorities. Where applicable, their feedback was included in the second draft along with thoughts shared by members of the public.”
Contrary to Douglas’ claims, there is virtually no evidence either in the red line documents or the standards themselves that any parent input was incorporated. In fact, the red line documents show multiple comments from “technical reviewer” Achieve, Inc., the Washington, DC-based organization that partnered with the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to develop and advance the original Common Core Standards.
Gina Ray, a member of the Mommy Lobby and former supporter of the Common Core standards, stated, “I testified to the Standards Development Committee last Wednesday. In my comments, I brought up a concern where there are two major holes in the standards. Patterns and sequences were missing in Kindergarten and prime factorization was missing in 6th grade. The Committee acknowledged that this was a major concern and agreed that these two items were so important that they should delay voting on the standards.” One committee member asked what else might be missing. “They only received the final draft less than 24 hours prior to the meeting,” Ray said referring to the Committee. “The Committee agreed to meet in one month to cast the final vote on whether or not if they should recommend the standards to the SBE for adoption. However, the SBE voted to adopt the Common Core rebrand without waiting for the Standards Development Committee to approve them. This act tells parents that their voices do not really matter and that they have no say in their child’s education at the end of the day. The purpose of the Standards Development Committee was to allow the public (and especially parents) to have a voice and we were promised that we would be heard. We were promised transparency. However, the vote by the SBE has proved otherwise.”
Jennifer Reynolds, leader of Arizonans Against Common Core, testified at the Arizona Standards Development Committee (ASDC), “These standards were bad standards because they lack clarity; what they require is not even measureable; and they are developmentally inappropriate across the grade levels. These standards are full of “the how’s” through the prescriptive examples, many of which were requested to be put back in by technical reviewers, since the standards were poorly written and lacked clarity.”
Reynolds reminded the group that Dr. James Milgram said of the standards, ‘I have found that almost half of the [math] standards I looked at were not really standards at all, but description of the kind of pedagogy that ‘should be’ employed in covering certain topics. (Additionally, almost without exception, there is no reproducible research that shows these pedagogy methods actually work by improving student understanding of the mathematics involved.)’
So Reynolds asked the Standards Working Groups, who were reporting to the Committee, “Where is the research to support the 2106 standards and the pedagogy methods you put back into the standards? Many of the concerns, through comments from parents on the standards, addressed these same pedagogy methods and the damage they were causing children in the in classroom. Why were parent’s comments ignored?”
Reynolds had provided the Arizona Standards Development Committee (ASDC), and SBE Executive Director Karol Schmidt, with the parents public comments on the math standards with “clear details on each one and how they were ignored in the 2nd draft of the standards. Based on these public comments I handed out, several members of the ASDC came up to me and said that is why they voted to continue reviewing these standards until January, and not approve them. By taking a vote at the SBE meeting this week, our public comments were again ignored and it shows they truly do not care what parents think about educating our children,” said a disappointed Reynolds.
Anita Christy of Gilbert Watch stated that both she and Lisa Fink, who is the mother of 6 children and serves as Board president of Choice Academies, Inc., provided hundreds of comments, none of which were cited in the final draft.
Committee member Olga Taro stated, “Throughout the process parents felt in general the standards were not developmentally appropriate, and repeatedly stated so on specific standards especially for K-3. No research was cited by the Committee about development appropriateness. The most specific a reviewer got was just typing a statement stating the “standards were developmentally appropriate.”
Sources report that Douglas, who came into office with little education experience, does not truly seem to understand the standards and as a result believes that they have changed. They report that Douglas, under tremendous pressure from the Governor to preserve Common Core, is eager to believe anything that will make the entire subject disappear.