Arizona Republican lawmakers are trying to kill Common Core academic standards and eventually replace them with a to-be-determined set of new standards. The effort is not a surprise, but the change will harm students and our state’s opportunities for economic development.
The legislation, HB 2190, would keep the state Board of Education and the Arizona Department of Education from going forward with the Common Core standards; the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (which is what former Gov. Jan Brewer renamed the Common Core for Arizona); any standards that align with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and “any standards or assessments that are the same or substantially similar to standards or assessments used by 20 or more other states.”
Arizona would revert to using the academic standards in place May 31, 2010, until a newly formed committee of parents, educators and information-technology experts can come up with new standards by 2017.
If this bill passes it means Arizona students would be faced with the third iterations of what material they’re supposed to know by grade-level in the past approximately six years. That’s confusing and detrimental to students.
Each version requires schools and teachers to make changes — it’s not a simple or inexpensive process. Determining how the standards are taught — the curriculum — is determined by local school districts, not the state.
Rescinding Common Core academic standards has been a popular conservative political tack, and it’s the only issue that new state Superintendent Diane Douglas had in her campaign. She’s now in a skirmish with the state Board of Education and Gov. Doug Ducey over her attempt to fire two board staffers who were proceeding with plans to roll out the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards and testing, as they’d been instructed by the board.
Ditching Common Core would be a reversal by the Arizona Legislature, which voted in 2010 to adopt Common Core after it was developed by a national governors association. Last November state education officials allocated $19 million for a new standardized test that students are supposed to take this spring.
It’s unclear in the legislation what would happen to classes underway at the time the bill becomes law. Would teachers have to abandon their planned lessons because they’re pegged to the Common Core standards? Again, the change would be confusing and detrimental to students.
Changing the system now would undo years of work, without any clear reason to do so, other than the belief of some conservatives that Common Core is a “federal overreach.”
Some on the left oppose Common Core because of concerns that it’s been rushed and that, if used to evaluate teachers’ performance, will be inaccurate and punitive.
No system is perfect, especially not a new standardized testing regime, and the state Board of Education has already proposed making the tests administered this spring not count against students and schools if their scores drop sharply.
The legislation doesn’t purport to fix a problem with the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, or to improve the testing program. It simply outlaws the existing standards and makes sure Arizona can’t be part of a large group effort on academic standards.
Many Arizona business leaders and educators have come out in support of Common Core for a logical reason: it helps Arizona be competitive with other states. The standards emphasize critical thinking skills, not simply rote memorization.
It makes sense that a sophomore in North Carolina should be learning the same material, though not necessarily using the same curriculum, as a sophomore in Arizona. That kind of educational consistency is attractive to businesses looking to expand here, and for parents considering a family move.
Arizona’s education reputation is not good: we’re on the bottom of achievement and funding lists.
Throwing our academic standards into question by scrapping four years of work and starting over — again — will add to the sense that Arizona is reactionary, politicizes education and isn’t on a solid path toward improving schools.