Response to Common Core Replacement Concerns

This week my office has received numerous concerns about our state standards and I would like to address the issues that have been raised. Unfortunately, there appears to have been some misinformation surrounding the standards that were adopted by the Arizona State Board of Education on Monday, December 19.

The adoption of the new 2016 Arizona English Language Arts and Mathematics standards marked the final step in the repeal and replacement of Common Core in Arizona, an effort that began when I took office in January 2015. This was one of my main campaign promises and has progressed from securing Arizona’s release from the Common Core copyright in March 2015 to the State Board of Education formally reversing their 2010 adoption of Common Core by a 6-2 vote on October 26, 2015.

With the December 19 vote, Common Core is officially gone from Arizona schools. In its place is a set of Arizona standards developed with input from thousands of Arizona parents, teachers and citizens. The next step is to ensure locally elected school boards mandate the removal of the awful curricula that followed Common Core into classrooms.

Input from parent groups like the Mommy Lobby led to important changes like the addition of cursive, a stronger emphasis on phonics, the removal of language that was determined to influence curricula, and a renewed emphasis on developmental appropriateness. Additionally, three anti-Common Core technical reviewers were asked to provide feedback on the first draft of the standards. Their input was included in the adopted draft of the standards where appropriate.

The Literacy Standards that drove Common Core into other subject areas, such as History, Social Studies, Science and Technology, have been removed. The infamous Appendix A which brought inappropriate, dare I say, pornographic literature such as Dreaming in Cuban or The Bluest Eye into our children’s classrooms has been completely eliminated. These are just a few examples of the momentous changes that have removed Common Core from Arizona’s education landscape.

In addition to these new standards, my team at the Arizona Department of Education is hard at work developing higher mathematics standards for subjects like Calculus and Trigonometry. These areas were notably absent in the Common Core standards, even though they purported to be “college and career ready.” These vital standards for students seeking to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and careers will be presented to the State Board in the near future.

I know that assessments are also a concern for many Arizonans. While my office does not have the legal authority to remove testing from schools altogether, a bill passed last legislative session will allow school districts to choose from a menu of assessments when evaluating students. With respect to the AzMERIT assessment, the questions on that test are vetted each year by a parent and community committee to ensure that they are appropriate for Arizona children. In addition, I am in full support of legislation that allows parents to opt their children out of standardized testing.

Lastly, the protection of student data is one of the most important issues that I have taken on as Superintendent. As a matter of policy, the Department of Education does not release personally identifiable student information to third parties. As Superintendent, I intend to continue to strengthen student data privacy and protection.

With this information, you can see that the changes made by the State Board are not a “rebranding of Common Core.” A rebrand is what took place in 2013 when former Governor Brewer renamed the standards from Common Core to Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (see third attachment). In March 2015, Governor Ducey directed the State Board of Education to “begin by reviewing the English Language and Mathematics standards in their entirety.” That is exactly what happened. The new standards are the result of 230 Arizona educators volunteering more than 7,300 hours to consider more than 10,000 public comments from “parents, teachers, principals and content experts” as mandated by the Governor. They ensure that teachers will decide how to teach their students, not the federal government, and most importantly they represent the best interests of our children.

I look forward to discussing the removal of Common Core in greater detail as I have the opportunity to visit LD meetings over the course of the upcoming year.

Sincerely,

Diane M. Douglas
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

State Board Votes to Replace Common Core Standards

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today supported the State Board of Education’s (SBE’s) decision to replace the Common Core Standards by formally adopting the second draft of the 2016 Arizona English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Standards.

“These new standards represent the final step in the repeal and replacement of Common Core in Arizona and they reflect the thoughts and recommendations of thousands of Arizona citizens,” said Superintendent Douglas. “I would like to thank everyone involved in this important work for their contributions, from the more than 200 teachers who donated thousands of hours in working groups to the parents whose input helped shape these documents. I would also like to thank my amazing K-12 Standards team here at the Department for making this process possible.”

As part of the standards development process, the 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.

“The federally mandated Common Core Standards were initially adopted by the SBE in 2010 without a thorough public review, which deeply frustrated many Arizonans,” continued Superintendent Douglas. “That lack of public input became an even larger concern as problems with the standards were identified, many of which were related to the resulting curricula. Thankfully, through this process I am proud to say that Common Core has at last been eliminated and that we now have excellent ELA and math standards developed by Arizonans for Arizona students. I look forward to using a similar continuous improvement process to ensure that all of our standards are updated as needed with extensive public input.”

The SBE’s action comes just over a year after it voted on Oct. 26, 2015 to formally reverse its 2010 decision to adopt the Common Core Standards, a result that effectively severed Arizona’s ties to them. Superintendent Douglas called for that vote as part of her 2016 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan, which was released on Oct. 1, 2015, and earlier in 2015 secured Arizona’s release from the copyright that would have prevented the state from making changes to the standards.

Superintendent Douglas invites all Arizonans to review the newly adopted standards at https://k12standards.az.gov/second-draft-2016-arizona-standards. The documents include red-lined changes that make it very easy to see where modifications were made and to identify the origin of the comments that led to those changes.

Parents, educators and members of the public can visit www.azed.gov/standards-practices/k-12-standards-feedback/ to provide additional feedback on any of Arizona’s academic standards.

Superintendent Diane Douglas Releases 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! Education Plan

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today released her 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! education plan, which presents a comprehensive vision for improving education in Arizona.

“I am thrilled to share this updated version of my AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan with Arizonans,” said Superintendent Douglas. “The plan represents how the people of Arizona believe we can make our schools the best in the nation, and I am very proud of everyone who came together to make the plan a reality.”

Based on feedback gathered during the Superintendent’s 2016 We Are Listening Tour, the 2017 plan includes new proposals, accomplishments from last year’s plan and progress updates for several ongoing initiatives. Because the focus of this year’s Listening Tour was #ParentsMustBeHeard, the Superintendent has also provided an executive summary of the plan that is designed to give parents a quick look at the proposals that are most likely to be of interest to them.

Highlighting the new proposals are several funding requests, which range from additional base funding for schools to use as they see fit to teacher salary increases and additional support for rural schools and capital needs. Funding was still the most common topic on the minds of those who attended the We Are Listening Tour or shared their feedback in other ways.

“It seems to me that as leaders in education we must ask ourselves, do we want Arizona to have the best education system in the world or simply the cheapest system we can get by with politically?” said the Superintendent. “For me, the answer is simple―I want the best for our students and I will partner with education stakeholders, Governor Ducey, and the Legislature to make that vision a reality.”

The 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan is available online at http://www.azed.gov/beheardaz/azkids/.

Arizona Leads the Nation in Fourth Grade Growth on NAEP Science Assessment

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today announced that from 2009 to 2015 Arizona’s fourth graders led the nation in growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science test. Science scores for eighth grade students also increased significantly over the same time period.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for our students and their hardworking teachers,” said Superintendent Douglas. “While our state still has room to grow, these scores show that we are on the right track. I am also pleased that this progress has been made without sweeping changes to our science standards, which we now have the opportunity to build upon and improve.”

The average score for Arizona fourth graders increased by 11 points between 2009 and 2015 while the eighth grade average increased by seven. Of the seven states that showed the most dramatic growth over the same time period, none had adopted the national Next Generation Science Standards before the 2015 NAEP administration.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) recently opened the review process for the state’s Science standards, which were last updated in 2005. The public comment period on the standards is available through Dec. 3 and feedback can be submitted on ADE’s public feedback page.

Arizona also emerged as a leader in closing the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students, with Hispanic eighth graders making an 11 point gain and the gap shrinking significantly by six points. Additionally, no gender gap was present in either the fourth or eighth grade 2015 Science results.

“Supporting the success of all students is my top priority, so it is very encouraging to see that some of our state’s achievement gaps are narrowing,” said the Superintendent. “I will continue working with our schools and communities to ensure they have the resources necessary to make further progress in these efforts.”

Arizona is still scoring lower than the national average in both fourth and eighth grade, but has made significant progress toward matching the nation’s average performance.

The average NAEP Science score for Arizona fourth grade students was 149, while the average for the nation’s public schools was 153. For Arizona eighth graders, the average score was 148 compared to a national average of 153.

NAEP is designed to inform the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. The full report of the 2015 NAEP Science Results is available at https://www.nagb.org/.

2009 vs. 2015 NAEP Average Scale Scores

4th Grade Science Arizona National
2009 138*^ 149
2015 149^ 153
8th Grade Science Arizona National
2009 141*^ 149
2011 144*^ 151
2015 148^ 153

*Statistically significant from AZ 2015 at p < .05
^Statistically significant from National scores at p < .05


2009 vs. 2015 NAEP Average Scale Scores – Arizona Demographic Breakdowns

4th Grade Science White Hispanic Native American Black
2009 155* 124* 123 129
2015 166 137 128 139
8th Grade Science White Hispanic Native American Black
2009 157* 127* 126 126
2011 158 132 129 128
2015 162 138 130 131

*Statistically significant from AZ 2015 at p < .05

Draft English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards Now Available for Public Review and Comment

(Phoenix, Ariz., Aug. 19, 2016) – The Arizona State Board of Education and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today invited all Arizonans to share their feedback on draft versions of updated Arizona English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards.

“I am excited that Arizona is finally moving away from the federally imposed Common Core standards,” said Superintendent Douglas. “The drafting of higher and more rigorous standards that are developmentally appropriate at every grade level brings us one step closer to giving Arizona students the excellent education they deserve. While I have not yet completed my final review of the drafts, I am pleased with the direction we are taking based on the briefings I have had so far.”

“Last March, Governor Ducey charged the Board with a rigorous review of the standards and securing input from individuals throughout the state to develop Arizona academic standards,” State Board of Education President Reginald M. Ballantyne III stated. “I applaud the essential, thoughtful and tireless efforts of the dedicated educators from across the state in reviewing the comments and crafting this draft. The release of the 2016 draft English Language Arts and Mathematics standards certainly responds to the Governor’s call and I encourage the citizens of Arizona to offer their input. This is a terrific step forward.”

The updated draft standards are now available for review on the Arizona State Board of Education website at https://k12standards.az.gov/. The comment period will remain open for 45 days and will close on October 3, 2016. To solicit additional feedback, the State Board has also scheduled 17 public hearings to take place across 13 counties from Sept. 12-21, 2016. A list of hearing dates, times and locations is available at https://k12standards.az.gov/public-meetings-2016-arizona-draft-standards.

“Arizona parents, teachers and citizens now have an opportunity to share their thoughts and help improve these new drafts,” Superintendent Douglas continued. “Our goal is to deliver exceptional standards that truly belong to Arizonans, and the feedback we gather through this process is critical to achieving that objective.”

The State Board and the Superintendent also expressed their appreciation for the English Language Arts and Mathematics Working Groups, which were made up of over 200 Arizona educators from 10 counties. These educators reviewed over 2,000 public comments on the 2010 English Language Arts and Math standards and used that input along with their own grade-level expertise to review each standard. Throughout the review process, Arizona educators donated over 6,000 hours of their time.

Superintendent Douglas Invites Arizonans to Provide Feedback on ESSA

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today invited all Arizonans to share their feedback with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) on the upcoming implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA, which will replace No Child Left Behind as the primary federal legislation addressing America’s public education system, is scheduled to be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

“All Arizonans must play an important role as our state plan for ESSA is developed, so I look forward to hearing the thoughts of parents, teachers, members of the public and many others,” said Superintendent Douglas. “My commitment is to make this process highly transparent and collaborative, and ADE is working hard to provide all stakeholders with as many avenues as possible to make their feelings known.”

General feedback regarding ESSA and the transition process, which will be used over the next several months to help draft and develop Arizona’s state plan for ESSA, can be submitted via a survey at www.azed.gov/essa. That dedicated ESSA website also contains links to additional ESSA resources and gives stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the proposed ESSA rulemaking that was introduced in late May. The site will be updated frequently with information on stakeholder engagement opportunities and examples of comments as they are gathered.

Feedback also can be submitted via email at [email protected] and Arizonans are invited to join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ESSAinAZ.

Interested stakeholders will have additional opportunities to share their thoughts on ESSA with Superintendent Douglas at any of her upcoming We Are Listening Tour events, which continue this month in Pinetop-Lakeside on July 19 and Payson on July 21. More events are planned through the fall and a full schedule is available at www.azed.gov/weheardyou. Further chances to provide feedback in person will be announced as they are scheduled.

Anyone interested in receiving regular ESSA updates from ADE can sign up at www.azed.gov/essa/essa-updates/.

Arizona Joins Texas in Lawsuit to Stop Federal Overreach

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and State Superintendent Diane Douglas Announce that Arizona will Join Texas in Lawsuit to Stop Federal Overreach

(Phoenix, Ariz.) – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today announced that they have joined ten other States in a federal lawsuit to challenge President Obama’s mandate requiring all public K-12 and postsecondary schools to open up boys’ and girls’ locker rooms and restrooms to students of the opposite sex, based on students’ perceptions of their “gender identity.” The Heber-Overgaard Unified School District has also joined the State’s lawsuit as a plaintiff.

Since the President has threatened to deny federal funding to all schools that object to this outrageous decree, Arizona has joined Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin in a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The lawsuit is focused on who should set these sensitive policies – the federal government via unaccountable agencies or States and local school districts. The challenge seeks declaratory relief against a number of federal agencies in order to block the implementation of the administration’s unprecedented interpretation of the law.

“President Obama has no business setting locker room and restroom policies for our schools,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “Deciding how to protect our children and preserve their privacy, while balancing these complicated issues, is best done locally and not by some one-size-fits-all decree from Washington.”

“When Arizona students attend school, they deserve a safe environment that is free from bullying and discrimination, regardless of their gender identity,” said Superintendent Douglas. “I know that our districts and schools have policies in place to ensure that is the case. The fact that the federal government has yet again decided that it knows what is best for every one of our local communities is insulting and, quite frankly, intolerable.”

On May 13, the President issued so-called “significant guidance” to K-12 and postsecondary schools nationwide instructing those schools to grant students access to Title IX facilities including restrooms, locker rooms, and showers based on their gender identity. The non-binding guidance broadly defines “gender identity” as “an individual’s internal sense of gender,” regardless of “the person’s sex assignment at birth.” The guidance also carried the threat of withholding federal funding if schools are found by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to be out of compliance.

The formal filing is available here.

Superintendent Douglas Praises Signing of HB 2620, Invites Parents to Participate in 2016 We Are Listening Tour

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today shared her thoughts on the passage and signing of HB 2620, which will end the ongoing litigation between her office and the Arizona State Board of Education (SBE).

“I would like to thank everyone involved in the process of settling this disagreement, from the early negotiations to the passage of the final bill that was signed into law today,” said Superintendent Douglas. “I look forward to welcoming our investigators back to the Department and working with them to ensure the safety of Arizona students.”

Based on draft language provided by Superintendent Douglas, HB 2620’s final adopted provisions state that SBE will be responsible for the hiring and supervision of its four employees, while the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) will oversee the investigators responsible for reviewing cases of educator misconduct.

“With the lawsuits now behind us, I am very excited to invite all Arizonans, and particularly parents of school-age children, to join me as I travel across the state on my 2016 We Are Listening Tour,” the Superintendent continued. “The tour will be an opportunity for community members to share with me their thoughts on K-12 education and learn more about my AZ Kids Can’t Wait! education plan.”

The tour kicked off this week on May 9 at the Buckeye Public Library, Coyote Branch and continues tomorrow, May 12 at the Canyon Breeze Elementary School cafeteria in Avondale. Tomorrow’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m. Details for each tour stop and a copy of the plan are available on the ADE website at www.azed.gov/weheardyou/.

Superintendent Diane Douglas and State Board of Education Announce Legislation to Resolve Ongoing Litigation

(Phoenix, Ariz., May 3, 2016) – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and the Arizona State Board of Education (SBE) today announced that pending legislation supported by legislative leadership and the Governor’s Office will settle the ongoing litigation between the two parties.

The legislative amendment to HB 2620 is designed to eliminate the need for continued legal proceedings. The legislation specifies that SBE will be responsible for the hiring and supervision of its four employees, while the Department of Education will have the sole authority to employ and oversee the work of all investigators responsible for reviewing cases of educator misconduct.

Both parties remain committed to doing what is best for Arizona students and are calling on all legislators to support the legislation. With the adoption of the agreement, the Superintendent and SBE will avoid spending more time and money in court and can continue working together to ensure that every Arizona student has access to an excellent education.

Superintendent Douglas Supports Anti-Bullying Efforts

Press Release – Superintendent Douglas Supports Anti-Bullying Efforts