The moderator: Organizer Senate President Andy Biggs.  President Biggs started out by saying he hopes the Legislature will run a Bill to eliminate Common Core in Arizona and is on the record as opposing this educational standards program.

The Panel:

Mr. Jared Taylor, Busness Manager of The Heritage Academy with two degrees in business, lecturer on Constitutional issues, well versed in Common Core Curriculum, known as innovative thinker

Mr. John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Served in the Senate, most of the time on or Chair of the Education Committee,  was instrumental in passing education Bills, MBA in Engineering

Mr. Jonathan Butcher, Education Director at Goldwater Institute, Director of Accountability in the South Carolina Charter School system, Research Assistant, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform in the Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas, holds 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality, Research Scholar in the School of Education at Northeastern University 

Here are their opening comments (more or less):

Jared Taylor:

Parents are reluctant to speak out about Common Core because educators aren't buying into their concerns.

We serve the children and they and their parents are the customers; parents pay the bill for this as taxpayers, many taxpayers know nothing about Common Core but are paying for it without even realizing it. Developers should have started with the customer - parents, instead of working with other developers of the program. Evidence is that it is not doing what was promised because in some cases, the curriculum standards were too low and some the material was inappropriate to the grade or the curriculum. Math programs are being decelerated. High intellect kids are bored with this program in math.  In the language arts, the curriculum focuses on text books. Those who love writing are not getting any writing skills unless all they are interested in writing are instruction manuals.

The curriculum was never field tested before putting it into the school systems so no one actually knows whether this works to move education forward. However, early reports are that it appears to move education backwards in many areas.

Common Core needs to be taken out because we need local control of our content, but CC is federalized/centralized.  (Huppenthal is on the record that he wants common core but does not want centralized education!)

The standards don't serve the values of education loving people in AZ and it goes against the Constitutional Republica in which we live.

Agrees that schools should be able to adopt CC on an individual basis for those parents who want it but should not be mandated.  That way, real choice is provided to parents to take their children where they think is best.

SPI John Huppenthal

In a changing world, where technology is changing so quickly with the advent of smart phone, Skype, iTunes, etc., there are new ways of exploring information and the challenge is how to navigate through how to get to that knowledge. First, create an educated citizenry and second, have a viable work force. Producing business leaders who can solve complex problems and think critically is important. K-12 should teach critical thinking skills but the military says 75% of students do not qualify to join todays military. Jobs that require only a high school diploma are gone forever so every kid must go to college or trade school and not need remedial courses as they do now. Taking a step backward is not the right thing to do and education must move forward with CC for students to be college and career and work force ready. He will refine the CC approach using feedback from teachers and parents and said he is convinced CC is the right way to go.

He spoke again about how CC was developed: in 2006, Bill Gates decided standards were too low so he had experts develop and review CC standards and included hundreds of others in that process. Arizona Board of Education held multiple hearings on these standards in 2010 with rich debate.  [We have not yet uncovered anyone who actually knew about any of these meetings] Curriculum decisions are made locally so teachers and parents can make adjustments. People need to understand that state standards and local curriculum choices are two different things. AZ parents enjoy more choices than any other state due to his involvement with schoold issues over last 20 years. Schools will set even higher standards than CC which is the curriculum floor. He said he is committed to staying the course while schools select their curriculum choices. He is confident AZ students will benefit enormously.

Butcher

Gave example of a parent looking for new school for her child. She chose a school because she knew what she wanted for her child. Some school teacher parents choose home schooling because they liked that system better than public schools. CC flies in the face of these parents because kids must learn the same thing on the same day at the same time and will invade the home school system at some point in the near future. We must resist the compulsion that outside experts know better than parents what their children need.

There are problems with CC for student success and education freedom: students should be challenged. Research shows there is no causal results from simply changing standards. The big problem is lack of skills not at what level they learn them  Brookings Institute found that CC will have no effective benefit for children some and that nations that don't have such standards out perform the USA. What is needed is additional interventions in the classroom and that is what moves the needle in the principle debate on standards. Standards based reform interferes with parents finding quality education for their children. The question is: will teachers be free in the classroom or not? No one knows. CC does not prepare students to take advanced calculus in college thus requiring remedial classes in college or a deficiency of high caliber math majors. The recommended fiction is way too immature for students in high school. Standards are not making efficient use of time in the classroom and is changing the costs of education.

He suggested schools should be allowed to opt out as other states do. Private schools should be exempt from CC. These schools should be allowed to choose more rigorous standards for their schools.

He says we should create educational flexibility and accountability at every level of education. Education savings accounts should be allowed to work as intended to give every chaild a great educaiton through choice.

Stotsky

She said she feels like a veteran of the CC wars where she was the dartboard! She saw problems with CC while on Massachusetts Board of Education and helped to develop K-12 standards. She is concerned with developing content knowledge in as many ways as possible and raising the floor for all children so the grade average for students will go up significantly.

What is needed is independent international test for the future, not the PARCC standardized test.

Stotsky was part of a Validation Committee (she claims it was an invalid committee). The purpose of the Validation Committee was to make sure the standards really did assess content properly. Most members of that committee were members of the education testing system, so naturally the recommendations reflected that. The assessments qualified for their programs but they were not, in her opinion, qualified to make assessments of proper educational content.

She assembled experts including a college professor to validate what was needed for college courses. Standards had been written by people who had no education content experience, not those who taught english or high school english teachers - they were deliberately excluded. No one on the assessment committee had experience in math content. Stotsky refused to sign off on the recommendations of the Validation Committee because in her opinion they were substandard. Most of what is contained in CC are content-free skills. Standards test questions are unclearly written to reflect that. Most standards in CC there are more about writing standards than reading content, but reading must come first before one can write effectively.  It's entirely backwards from rational learning methods.

CC expects teachers to spend more than half their time on text reading instead of literature reading. This reduces the opportunity to allow students to develop critical thinking skills. When reducing literature study, you reduce critical thinking skills that teachers have been trained to teach.

Stotsky went on to systematically take apart CC item by item, discipline by discipline, recommendation by recommendation.

Q&A followed with many questions:

Why was the name changed?  Huppenthal answered it was because as they were analyzing CC, they were finding that people were have difficulty distinguishing between standards and the curriculum being put in place to achieve the goals. They felt CC was not high quality standards so they dropped the CC name.

Does CC dictate the curriculum and if so how so?  Huppenthal again answered that in AZ you have complete control over the curriculum.  Teachers at all schools can choose their own material and methods to get to the test.  But of course, these methods and materials must eventually get to the CC test, PARCC.

Stotsky said CC actually is controlling the curriculum even though they claim not to. Teachers may have choice of the text book they use but the book must be in line with CC standards.

Taylor said curriculum has to be in line with the standards so they have to teach to the CC standards curriculum in very substantive ways.

Butcher said there are set standards because those standards drive what is on the test. There is a direct line between what is taught and the CC standards.

Huppenthal disagrees with these comments and claims that high school students will get great literature and great works of non-fiction to understand history.

Stotsky vehemently disclaimed those comments.  This debate went round and round ad nauseam for quite some time with a protracted  back and forth between Huppenthal and Stotsky.

Hupenthal said there are no statutory requirements at any level regarding the standards but Stotsky stated that CC standards must be adopted in total and cannot be changed and there is no venue for changing them because CSI, the company who brought this about, is out of business for that process. Standard are used because standards must be adhered to but Huppenthal said AZ is not using CC standards but is using AZ College and Career Ready standards. Stotsky then stated that on the copyright page of CC it clearly states that CC allows states to change the name to anything they want but the standards do not change.  All changing the name actually does is change the name!

There are currently no results on how CC affects students because the PARCC test has not been given so no one actually knows how effective it will be in testing students. 

Stotsky gave an example of a city in NH that voted to eliminate CC standards whereupon the state Board of Education said fine, but you still have to give the CC PARCC test. Effectively, they can do what they want so long as they teach CC!

Taylor asked, what's broken about our school system that CC is going to fix? With CC, we've had to shift, move money out of the classroom, etc. and CC disrupts these schools instead of adding benefits in the curriculum. Huppenthal said things have happened over the last few years. Federal money flowed in with stings attached.

Huppenthal likes the standard PARCC test because students can be compared against students in other states as to how students are doing. He claims our schools are among the best in the country already.

Will or will not these standards make students more college ready?

Stotsky:  Maybe they can pass the test but still only read at 8th grade level and called college ready. If that is the case, then they are college ready because that is the symantic game being played. The real prize is the number of students declared college ready, but many will need remediation to even the lowest reading or math standards.

Butcher: I don't know

Huppenthal: They work from the classes student take rather than the level of knowledge the student has but it doesn't take into effect critical thinking skills. The strength of these standards is that it does teach fundamentals to students at a basic level, not a weakness.

Taylor: None of the claims being made in favor of CC has been tested and why are we turning our children into guinea pigs? Let other states that really like CC test it and let's watch for a while until we get tested results.

Similar questions were asked and answered for the rest of the hearing but it seemed to us that the panel was caught in a circular debate. All questions led back to whether CC is a good program or is it just words that have no real meaning to the process of setting standards. Goals as set forth by Huppenthal seemed to be very elemental but, and this is a hypothetical editorial opinion, the case was not made that CC was the best and only way to properly educate students in Arizona. Huppenthal used great language to articulate his position but in our opinion, he never made an airtight case. And our kids in schools in AZ must have as close to an airtight education as possible.

Conclusion: while credible questions were asked by those in the gallery, all answers circled back to how good and how appropriately CC is to be instigated as the standard for AZ students and if there is something better that could and should be developed. Dr. Stotsky did a masterful job of laying out her sources, the high level people she has worked with to come to her decision and the academic approach she used to reach a conclusion. Her work focused on content standards, the core issue in educational excellence.

Huppenthal, on the other hand, focused on 'feel good' language about how great CC is to make his case.  The difference between these two is that one is immersed in education and the other is immersed in politics.

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Replies to This Discussion

Side note:  Recently, an owner of a Charter School in Maricopa County was the opposition speaker at a meeting where Huppenthal was the main speaker.  Needless to say, there was a good deal of head butting since the two are on opposite sides of the Common Core issue.  A week or so later, this Charter School was "selected" for a 2014 Field Test of the PARCC test.  We will be posting more on this shortly.

I was hoping there was in video too

We looked into whether this would be archived on the azleg.gov website but were told that because it was not an official "hearing" of the Senate doing business for the state that it would not be archived.  If we find out differently, we'll post that here.

If Joanne is right, there may be one on azleg.gov shortly.

If not, there is a video of Huppental in the Show Low shoot out against Janet Ryan and 80 mad parents and we are hoping to get that compressed and posted on youtube.  It is very compelling so I hope we can make that happen.  we will post it on this page if we can get it all to work.

Hello Everyone...reviewing the outcomes from the great common core seminar demonstrates clearly how we allow the debates to be focused, right? For example, where is the discussion about the millions in new costs to education because of common core standards? Few seem to discuss the costs in this dialogue. What about the costs for training, technology and additional uplift of testing costs?
Prof Gene

Don't you know that funding never seems to be a problem, although indeed this will draw money from the classroom and meritorious teachers?  There's always the proverbial money tree!  But now with hundreds of thousands of new Medicaid enrollees in AZ, the education budget in a few years will necessarily take a back seat to this illegal expansion.

The challenge is to make them articulate these costs because, according to the Pioneer Institute, the cost for the Common Core will be $16 billion for 45 states and the District of Columbia. Now, we can add the potential costs of education in AZ for those groups that keep asking the tax payer for more money by going around the state budget that holds the line. We need to elect people that are going to ask the tough questions!

There are so many school districts in the state asking for new bond issues or overrides that it makes one wonder: is this because of common core?  Do these districts want this money to put more computers into the lower grade classrooms?

I watched this live streaming yesterday, but I appreciate the comprehensive summary you provided.  I am grateful Dr. Stotsky participated because she had the most credibility discussing the entire CC issue.

This is Pat’s wife, Florence, here.

As a teacher who teaches K-8 students and is currently using the Common Core Standards, I feel there are several misrepresentations by the panel. 

Sandra Stotsky says, “Most standards in CC …are more about writing standards than reading content.”  Not true.  First grade has 9 Reading Literature standards, 10 Reading Informational Text standards, 4 Reading Foundational skills standards, 7 Writing standards, 6 speaking and listening standards, and 5 Language standards.  These numbers vary slightly over the years, but her statement is definitely false. 

She says “ CC actually is controlling the curriculum.”  I would disagree.  If we are teaching “main idea,” I can use materials about horses while you use materials about Benjamin Franklin.       

She says, “There are currently no results on how CC affects students…”  Wikipedia gave a report on Kentucky which was the first to implement the Common Core Standards.  Their graduation rate has increased, test scores went up, and the percentage of students considered to be ready for college or a career went up from 34% to 54%. 

She talks about many needing remediation.  This should not be if we follow the standards which each year has a statement similar to this 6th grade standard (RL.6.10) “By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently…”

She makes it sound like little critical thinking is going on.  I am finding quite the opposite.  Many, many standards start with “Analyze,”  “Compare and contrast,” “Evaluate,” etc.  There is a lot of thinking going on in these standards. 

It is stated that Jared Taylor is “well versed in Common Core Curriculum.”  There is no such thing as “Common Core Curriculum.”  There are Common Core Standards.  Over 100 publishing companies have produced curriculums that can be used with the standards. 

He states Common Core needs to be taken out because we need local control of our content.  We do have local control of our content while using Common Core Standards.   

There is nothing in the Common Core to back up Jonathan Butcher’s claim that kids must learn the same thing on the same day at the same time.  This is very false information. 

Just because some countries are doing well with no standards (I find this hard to believe.  We all have to aim for something to hope to make achievements.) does not mean that we should do away with standards.  We need goals to aim for.  I don’t know why standards based reform would interfere with parents finding quality education, or why use of time in the classroom would be less efficient with the standards.  (2 claims he made)

His statement that the recommended fiction is way too immature isn’t borne out by the lists.  Grades 9-10 have writings by Homer, Ovid, De Voltaire, Sophocles, Ibsen,  Shakespeare, and others.  Grade 11 has writings by Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and many other well known authors. 

As a teacher I feel the Common Core Standards are an excellent set of standards.  I would hope that they could be given a chance to prove themselves in the coming year.  I am very sorry to see that the detractors are passing around a lot of misinformation.                                                                  Florence Smith

The costs are not misinformation. They are very sound projections. I notice that your diatribe is focused as a practitioner, which is good, we need to flush out the real from the phony in this debate, but we cannot run from the costs and the reality because we do not need another failed ObamaCare program in education! The federal government should butt out of a national education anything. That is the over arching point. Economic development at the state level should include education so that companies that want to come to any state will find the employees ready to work for them, not a forty percent dropout rate of any given class of demographics, right? States should compete for those employers with good local education ideas and health care that takes care of all citizens through a system of competition. If education is to get better, then parents need to be fully engaged in the school program...including directing the local principal on where to spend the money. Some charter and innovative schools are doing this already. Then, I can assure you that schools will be locally controlled. No more tinkering with my child's mind by the Feds, period. I have taught in higher education and and secondary education for many years too. The system stinks and it is broken because we have too many people sitting in Washington, DC playing with our lives who know nothing about our lives. Education quality, like health care quality, can be measured by process, structure and, most importantly, outcomes. We love to focus our debates on structure and process issues around curriculum, but avoid the tough issue of outcomes or end-results of CC. That is why we should not continue with CC. The science for CC is not well developed. The outcomes of such a system are unclear, including the escalating costs of education that are not producing the outcomes we desire.

I feel compelled to join this discussion.  My neighbor is a 3rd grade teacher in the Chandler Schools.  My daugher is - was - a teacher in Scottsdale schools.  I have grandchildren in the Scottsdale and Phoenix districts.

When I asked my neighbor what she thought about the new common core, she said, "well, the thing I like is that when a new student comes into my class, I know they will be at the same place as I am in my class no matter where they moved from.  It makes it easier for me not to have to get that kid on the same page we are on."  That was late last summer just after the new school year started.  Sounds exactly like what was said in the symposium.  Furthermore, she no longer will discuss the matter giving credence to what I have heard that teachers, at least at some schools, are under a gag order.

My daughter actually quit teaching.  She rejected the entire body of common core as being so inferior that she refused to be part of it.  She was a high school teacher teaching "advanced students."   The brightest of the bright.  She needed that job but had to find, in a tough job market, something she could believe in.  She now makes less money than she did before and her daughters are still in high school in Scottsdale.  Fortunately, she has the capacity to re-teach them what they are now missing in public school.  Most parents do not have that capability or luxury.

It might be important to note that she also refused to join the teachers union because she herself did not want to be exposed to that indoctrination and dependency.  Unfortunately, many teachers cannot quit their jobs, like my neighbor who is a single mother of two, so they are stuck.

It depresses me to read that a teacher has so bought in to the progressive program of common core curriculum, it's original name, that she cannot see the forest for the trees.  It's rare to find progressives on this website but I appreciate the post so I can see what these people think.

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