Douglas begs for more as schools go without
Nearly once a week, during this legislative session Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has issued statements regarding the need for funding for one program or another. Last week, Douglas caused a firestorm when she “shared her concerns regarding the lack of important funding for statewide support of K-12 academic standards in the House of Representatives’ initial draft budget framework.”
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The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) made a $1.1 million request to the Governor and Legislature for its K-12 Academic Standards Division. She claimed that without the money, the Department would lose up to 10 full-time employees, “who provide essential support and resources in the development, revision and implementation of the state’s academic standards.”
Douglas, who has done little to fight for funding on the school level, stated that Arizona “ended up with Common Core because Arizona was not funding standards support and instead turned to the federal government for money several years ago.” Douglas then tries to continue the false narrative that Arizona replaced “Common Core with standards that truly belong to Arizona.”
Three groups: Arizonans Against Common Core, the Mommy Lobby AZ, and Opt Out AZ, that represent the 30 legislative districts throughout Arizona, are now challenging Douglas false claim. They argue:
● Arizona parents started asking questions about Common Core in 2013 when our schools fully implemented these standards. Since then, we have heard numerous excuses as to why Common Core isn’t a resounding success. Bad implementation by teachers was cited by Common Core financier Bill Gates. His goal was for the standards, curriculum and testing to align. John Kasich called Common Core opposition a negative runaway internet campaign. Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education, started a war on Moms telling us our kids just weren’t as bright as we thought. Bill Gates said Big Textbook was creating books poorly. Jason Zimba, a Common Core developer, said even his kids’ NY teachers were implementing the standards incorrectly so he must tutor his daughters in Math on Saturday mornings. Zimba has a double standard for the rest of us parents as he cautions that we shouldn’t help our children with Math homework. A few weeks ago, Bill Gates chimed in again to blame Common Core’s failure on “fake” parents speaking out on Twitter.
● What is missing is school leadership at all levels being accountable to parents who are also taxpayers. None of us asked for our standards to be completely upended with standards no one had seen and had not been vetted. We were simply asked to go along and blindly trust those elected and appointed within the State and quietly let them make decisions while we pay the bills.
● Parents began asking questions of their teachers, principals, and school boards all of whom pointed at the State. The State pointed to the Feds and everyone seemed powerless to make any meaningful changes and pointed the finger at someone else.
● Both Governor Ducey and Superintendent Douglas ran with education platforms aimed to remove Common Core from Arizona. Parents rallied behind these candidates based on their promises. Our children still wait for the promise to be fulfilled.
● The AZ Department of Education press release gives the impression that 10 FTE’s are needed each year to revise or update standards yet, on ADE’s own website, there is a schedule posted indicating which year a school subject will be up for review. For example, PE isn’t scheduled for review until 2020, why would AZ taxpayers fund that particular FTE in years where those standards are not changed? How many years of training in implementing standards does ADE think certified teachers need in each subject each year?
● AZ didn’t accept Common Core because the Legislature didn’t fund reviewing or changing standards. In fact, in 2008, AZ adopted new Math standards only to discard them in favor of the sight unseen Common Core standards. Somehow AZ Department of Education created Math standards without 10 FTE employees working on them. AZ and 45 other states adopted CC for a whole host of other reasons during the Great Recession.
● Douglas says: “After finally replacing Common Core with standards that truly belong to Arizona, it would do our children a major disservice to let all of that progress fall by the wayside. We owe it to our students and our schools to fund our standards so that we finish what we started and complete the critical work that is yet to come.”
● These “new” 2016 standards belong to AZ only because they were forced through by AZ State Board of Education against the wishes and vote of the committee overseeing the standards review. Moreover, these “new” standards are virtually identical to Common Core adopted by AZ in 2010. Here is the link to the side by side comparisons to judge for yourself: http://optoutaz.org/news/arizona-new-standards-common-core/
● If seven years later, Arizona’s teachers and district trainers are implementing Common Core incorrectly, then $1 M wouldn’t be enough money to make a dent in serving AZ’s 1 M school kids in 240+ school districts. If standards are so complex that ADE believes veteran teachers are still implementing CC incorrectly, how much more time and money is needed to serve our kids who have only 180 school days to master standards?
● Superintendent Douglas has indicated that parents should demand better curriculum from school districts if they are still unhappy with what is being taught. What is missing from this dialogue is that we know of no school districts or charter schools asking their school boards for NEW curriculum to match the “new” 2016 standards. Last month, one large local Arizona curriculum provider-Beyond Textbooks was happy to report: “Good news, there are only minimal changes as a whole to the existing standards.”
● Seven years later, we are full circle being sent back to our school districts asking for new curriculum that no one in the marketplace is producing–everything is Common Core aligned just as Bill Gates projected. Looking at the side by side comparisons of the “before and after review standards” reveals little has changed despite the efforts of many people and many man hours. AZ Department of Education implies without more funding, implementation will be poor and teachers will not know how or what to teach. Parents concerns are still being marginalized and ignored.
● Honesty and accountability are needed to place $1 M into AZ’s education budget. How many people have looked at the side by side comparisons to see how similar the Common Core standards are to the “new” 2016 standards? Perhaps some of the House Representatives have and realized little has changed after more than 18 months of working on Math and English Language Arts standards.
● Arizona parents against Common Core wanted meaningful changes to the standards. It didn’t happen.
Douglas says it “would do our children a major disservice to let all of that progress fall by the wayside” but it is she that is doing the disservice to the State by claiming that the standards are anything but a minor edit of the Common Core.