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.
Diane M. Douglas Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction