“Noncognitive” Factors: Are they Fair Game for Data Collection and Instruction?

In February 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a draft of Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. To many who were aware of this report, it was alarming and controversial. In the summary of this report it says. “There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success.” It seems typical that when the U.S. Department of Education releases a report like this the groundwork has already been laid for implementation of the ideas, if they have not already been embedded into existing and newly proposed practice. (this report does not seem to be available on the ed.gov website anymore)

The Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA S227) would allow for the collection of data on “noncognitive” factors like those mentioned in the summary (see above). Karen Effrem has done a wonderful job of presenting issues and recommendations for SETRA in the brief she has prepared called Issues of Data Privacy, Parental Rights, and Federally Sponsored Psychological Screening in the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA)/Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) in the Context of Current Federal Law and Programs. Karen Effrem, M.D., is the president of Education Liberty Watch and Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition. She identifies and expands on four major issues and makes recommendations about them. The four major issues she addresses in this document are:

  1. SETRA seeks to expand federal psychological profiling of our children.
  2. SETRA only appears to prohibit a national database.
  3. There is continued reliance on a severely outdated and weakened FERPA.
  4. Reliance on PPRA that allows sensitive data prohibited in surveys to be collected in curriculum and assessments.

The Summary Response to the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee March Hearing “Strengthening Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students” is a brief summary that Karen has prepared.

A one page handout has been prepared for people to download and share. This one pager is a good initial attention getter that may be followed up with Karen Effrem’s brief.

You should be able to download a pdf copy of this one pager by clicking in the upper right hand corner of the document or by clicking here.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) intends to begin assessing “noncognitive” factors. To do so, they will collect data on socio-economic status, technology use, school climate, grit, and desire for learning. The NAEP is making a leap from gathering academic content knowledge data to gathering “noncognitive” data. In making this move to gather data on “mindsets” that could be used for psychological profiling, NAEP will likely be in violation of federal law. For more information about this, you are encouraged to read the letter RE: Proposed National Education Assessment Plan and student/parental rights that the Liberty Counsel has addressed to Dr. Karen Effrem.

There seems to be a whole industry involved in the collection, storage, and sharing of student data, including “noncognitive” factors. Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins have written an article called The War on Student Privacy that features some of the players in this industry.

The education system, legislative bodies, government agencies, and industry all seem to think and act as if they are entitled to student data, including student-level (personally identifiable information) and “noncognitive” factors. Are student data, including student-level (personally identifiable information) and “noncognitive” factors really fair game? Many parents would not think so.


Common Core Is Not Getting Kids College Ready

Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The New York Times reports that High School Seniors have dipped in both their NAEP math and reading scores.  This is especially discouraging since their scores were not stellar to begin with.

The results, from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also showed a drop in the percentage of students in private and public schools who are considered prepared for college-level work in reading and math. In 2013, the last time the test was given, 39 percent of students were estimated to be ready in math and 38 percent in reading; in 2015, 37 percent were judged prepared in each subject.

In a survey attached to the test, 42 percent of students said they had been accepted to a four-year college, suggesting that the need for remedial courses in college will remain stubborn.

“This trend of stagnating scores is worrisome,” said Terry Mazany, the chairman of the governing board for the test. Mr. Mazany is also a former public schools superintendent in California, Michigan and Illinois and is now the president of the Chicago Community Trust, a large foundation.

“A strong foundation in math and reading is essential to a student being prepared for college academics and for most careers,” he said.

Scores improved for students at the top percentile in reading, but scores in both subjects dropped for students in the lowest percentiles. And the number of students scoring below “basic” in both subjects increased from 2013.

This corresponds with a drop we’ve seen among 4th and 8th graders. This should be Common Core’s death knell among reasonable people. We were promised by David Coleman et al, that their approach to literacy with a focus on informational text would increase reading proficiency. That is obviously not the case. The drop in math scores is not surprising as we’ve warned that the math standards ultimately put students behind and it certainly would not help students going into college STEM programs.

There are a lot of factors that can drive test scores, but I think we can safely say that Common Core hasn’t helped.  Top-down education reforms never do.

Michigan Takes Step to Repeal Common Core

Michigan State Capitol in Winter 2005 Photo credit: Philip Hofmeister (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Michigan State Capitol in Winter 2005
Photo credit: Philip Hofmeister (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Michigan’s Common Core Repeal Bill just made it over a a major hurdle. The Senate Education Committee voted to pass SB 826, a bill that would repeal Common Core and replace them with Massachusetts pre-Common Core standards.

MLive.com reports:

Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, says repealing Common Core is important because the standards haven’t done enough to improve student achievement in Michigan.

“We’re going to repeal Common Core standards, which is kind of a race to the middle, and replace them with standards that actually get us to the top echelon,” said Colbeck, the bill’s sponsor. “If you review the standards, they’re solid.”…

…. Sen. Phil Pavlov, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the Common Core has been a “disastrous national experiment.”

“It is time to end the disastrous national experiment that is Common Core and let Michigan manage its own destiny to achieve excellence in our education system,” Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, said in a statement. “This bill sets quality, Michigan-controlled standards that give our schools consistency for the future and give local communities a voice in their children’s education.”

Karen Braun at Stop Common Core in Michigan gave several reasons why Michigan should adopt Massachusetts pre-Common Core standards:

1. Massachusetts pre-Common Core standards in ELA, mathematics, science, and history/social science are the only sets of K-12 state standards in the country with empirical evidence to support their effectiveness. They are also among the few sets of K-12 standards thoroughly vetted by high school teachers and academic experts in the subject areas they address.

2. A statewide organization of parents, legislators, and others (www.endcommoncorema.com) has gathered enough signatures to place a question on the November election ballot that would repeal the state’s adoption of Common Core’s standards, restore its pre-Common Core standards, and provide guidelines for revising them in the future.

3. The costs for switching are minimal. The standards are free, and most of the original test items from 1998 to 2007 are free and available, requiring a company only to assemble them and handle logistics and reporting. Moreover, no extra professional development was needed by the state’s teachers to teach to them. The lists of recommended authors by educational level in Appendix A and Appendix B in the ELA curriculum framework were approved by a large majority of the state’s English teachers, and all test items were vetted by them.

4. State tests based on the Bay State’s pre-Common Core standards evoked no complaints from parents or students, and took up much less preparation and testing time than Common Core-based tests seem to need. All used test items (except “anchor” items) were released annually and used by teachers for instructional purposes.

5. The content of all the Massachusetts pre-Common Core standards and tests was vetted by a number of academic experts, and standards were placed by the state’s teachers at appropriate grade levels. They also participated in setting passing scores and performance levels, along with parents and legislators.

6. Michigan has a demographic profile that is not too different from that of the Bay State. Michigan’s minority population is a bit larger, but not that different. Moreover, all demographic groups improved in the Bay State and could do so in Michigan, especially if there were similar reforms in your education schools and in licensure tests. Michigan could easily adopt the required reading fundamentals test still used in Massachusetts (I helped to design it, based on my graduate work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education). It has been adopted by CT, NH, NC, MS, and WI.

7. I strongly recommend adoption of the MA 2003 History and Social Science standards, or at least a close look at them before the state considers any other set of history standards. The MA standards were checked by a multitude of scholars to ensure they were historically accurate as well as fair in their coverage of geography, economics, and civic concepts and required civic reading.

They share a couple of action steps for Michigan citizens:

We encourage parents and citizens to contact their Michigan Senator and Senator Meekhof at (517) 373-6920 or by email at SenAMeekhof@senate.michigan.gov and tell them to vote YES on 826.

Please also contact Representative Amanda Price, the chair of the House Education Committee: Strongly, but respectfully urge her to move this important bill forward to a vote in her committee. Her phone number is 517-373-0838 or by email at AmandaPrice@house.mi.gov

Data Quality Campaign Wants to “Make Data Work for Students”


The Data Quality Campaign just released a report entitled Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students.

They describe the report this way:

When information about students is provided in a timely, useful manner, every adult working with a child is able to support that student’s learning more effectively. This vision can and must become a reality for every student. States have a unique and critical role to play in bringing it to life. In partnership with leaders from across the education field, the Data Quality Campaign has developed Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students—a set of recommendations to help states enact policies that are critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning.

In the executive summary they list their four priorities:

In partnership with leaders from across the education field, the Data Quality Campaign has developed a set of recommendations to help states enact policies that are critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning. The Four Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students presented in this paper are the following:

  • Measure What Matters: Be clear about what students must achieve and have the data to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.
  • Make Data Use Possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
  • Be Transparent and Earn Trust: Ensure that every community understands how its schools and students are doing, why data is valuable, and how it is protected and used.
  • Guarantee Access and Protect Privacy: Provide teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.

Data has the potential to transform education from a model of mass production to a personalized experience that meets the needs of individuals and ensures that no student is lost along the way. But for this transformation to happen, the focus needs to pivot from collecting data to prioritizing the e ective use of data at all levels, from kitchen tables to school boards to state houses.

Leading states and districts are already making data work for students to some degree—and they are beginning to see results in student outcomes. The country has made great progress building systems, improving data quality, and encouraging data use. But without a focus on the needs of the people who are going to use the information, the impact on student achievement will be minimal. It is time to make data work for students.

The talk of privacy is simply laughable, on page 9 they write, “Link and govern data across all agencies critical to student success, from early childhood and K–12 to postsecondary and the workforce, including other state agencies that support students (e.g., child welfare).”

Oh yeah, that isn’t creepy at all.

They also write, “The public also deserves to know what data is collected, how it is used to support students, and how it is protected.”

That’s nice, we’ve yet to see that kind of transparency.

The thing that I see missing in this discussion is the idea of getting permission. States and local school districts should have to not just “help parents understand,” but they should be required to have parental consent before ANY data is collected on their child beyond what is absolutely necessary for their local school to have.

Anyway, if you want to see what Big Data is up to take time to read the report.

Tracking Common Core Spending in California is Problematic


How much has California schools spent on implementing Common Core? Who knows? EdSource reports that budget laws have made tracking the money difficult.

We are shocked….

They report:

The Fresno and Visalia school districts are spending $10 million each on new schools.

San Jose Unified put about $12 million toward staff bonuses, while Santa Ana Unified spent $9 million on retiree benefits.

The money is coming from about $3.6 billion in tax revenues California’s more than 1,000 school districts received over the past two years. The Legislature specified that it “intended” for districts to “prioritize” spending of the one-time funds on implementing academic standards, including Common Core standards in math and English.

But lawmakers also told districts that they first had to spend the funds to pay for any unreimbursed claims for programs and services mandated by the state. They could also spend the funds for “any other purpose.”

That multipronged and even confusing message has prompted several advocates, along with a key legislator on education matters, to argue that the funds should have been targeted for more specific purposes – and that districts should be required to report more precisely how they spent the funds.

Unlike what we’ve seen in other states apparently unfunded mandates in California are not allowed.

Under the California Constitution, the state must reimburse school districts for new programs or higher levels of service the state imposes on them. Over the years, the state has imposed dozens of them, ranging from student health screenings to the California High School Exit Exam.

On one hand it’s great that local school districts are not on the hook for state mandates. On the other hand California loves its additional mandates on local school districts and taxpayers are still on the hook.

Local school districts should have flexibility on how it spends money, but they also need to be transparent about how much money is spent on Common Core implementation. We need to know what this monstrosity of an education reform is costing taxpayers in California and elsewhere.

New Jersey Postpones PARCC Testing Due to Outage


New Jersey students experienced a system error as they tried to log-in to take their PARCC assessment, and now the assessments have been delayed.

NJ.com reports:

New Jersey schools were forced to postpone PARCC testing in grades 3 through 11 Wednesday morning because of a technical error that prevented students from logging on to the computerized exams, state Education Commissioner David Hespe said.

The problem is with the testing platform provided by Pearson, the company that creates the exams, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, Hespe said.

Hespe called the technical error “totally unacceptable” but did not provide specific details of what went wrong.

“This is not a problem on our end,” Hespe said. “This is a problem on Pearson’s end.”

Pearson of course then blamed the PARCC consortium.

Testing has been postponed. This isn’t the first time PARCC has experienced glitches. Smarter Balanced has also experienced them to. How embarrassing for a state that has doubled down on the PARCC assessment to the point they are making it a graduation requirement, but speaking of that.

In other bad news for the state of New Jersey (but good news for parents and students), an administrative law judge indicates that New Jersey may have violated the law in making passing PARCC a graduation requirement.

From the Morristown Patch:

The judge suggested the state violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires public notice, periods of public comment and a variety of steps when the Department of Education makes a change in assessment testing.

“Changing them without revising the statute is a violation of the law,” said Stan Karp of the Education Law Center.

The lawsuit also claims the state possibly violated due process laws when it did away with the High School Proficiency Assessment and adopted PARCC and other tests as graduation requirements. Concerns also have been raised about the potential impact of the proposed policies, especially on at-risk students.

What a department of education did something without public notice or comment? I’m shocked… shocked that would be illegal in New Jersey that is.

“Warmed Over” Standards Approved in Missouri


The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Missouri State Board of Education have approved the state’s “new” standards in English language arts and math along with standards in social studies and science.

Lawmakers in 2014 required the state board to adopt new standards in an attempt to drop the Common Core guidelines.

Conservatives have criticized those standards as being adopted without enough input from Missourians.

Changes in new standards include added emphasis on research in language arts and adding cursive writing to elementary school expectations.

Schools will need to start implementing the standards this fall. Students won’t be tested on the revised learning standards until spring of 2018.

Again, it seems (I haven’t read their new standards yet) that this is another rebrand as they started with the Common Core State Standards and tweaked them. Missouri Education Watchdog warned that this was likely to happen here, here and here.

Duane Lester reported about a meeting where members of the group did not want to hear testimony from anyone outside of the workgroups:

When she was asked a question by a member of the ELA workgroup, though, there was stiff resistance from members of the group, beginning with Ann Franklin, who was placed on the the workgroup by the Missouri School Boards Association. When Heather Drury attempted to ask Stotsky a question, Franklin immediately objected.

“No. No. That’s not the way the legislation reads,” she said.

HB 1490 has text in it that would allow outside experts to be allowed to be considered by the workgroup. It not just allows it, it compels it:

When this was pointed out, Franklin then made a motion.

“I’d like to move that only workgroup members participate in the discussion,” Franklin said.

There was quite a bit of debate over whether Stotsky would be allowed to address the question she was asked. Those opposed to letting her speak were mainly appointed to the group by the educational industrial complex. In the end, they took a vote on Franklin’s motion and it failed by a 7-7 vote.

 That’s right. Seven members of this group didn’t want to hear from a noted expert on education standards. Not only that, but if this motion passed, they wouldn’t even have allowed the Governor or Lt. Governor to participate. If there’s a better example of the arrogant attitude from the institutional members of the group, I don’t know what it is.

(Now that I think about it, I wish this would have passed. I would have enjoyed watching these ladies tell Gov. Nixon to pipe down. Or better yet, watch them try that on Lt. Gov. Kinder.) Here’s video of when Dr. Stotsky was invited to speak, and the resulting protest by the educational establishment.

….Later, when she (Stotsky) was addressing a group in the Capitol, she told them this was the first time she had ever had a group try to refuse to let her speak. She added that what she observed in the workgroups led her to conclude they were simply producing “warmed over Common Core.”The intent of HB 1490 was to prevent the implementation of Common Core in Missouri. If Stotsky is correct, it’s probable we’ll see more legislation next session to address this issue.

The deck was stacked it would appear.

So basically Missourians likely have Common Core with cursive… oh goody. I don’t think this is what the Missouri Legislature had in mind.

Will the Iowa Legislature Block Smarter Balanced?


The Iowa Legislature is on the verge of passing an education appropriations bill that doesn’t fund the Smarter Balanced Assessments, that was adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education, but doesn’t block it either. The education appropriations subcommittee last week put forward a bill that didn’t include funding. The Iowa Senate passed the bill out of their appropriations committee on a party-line vote with Democrats voting for the bill, and Republicans voting against.

The Iowa Legislature has the opportunity to block the adoption of Smarter Balanced, back in December the joint administrative rules committee voted unanimously on a session delay for the assessment expressing disappointment that the State Board of Education had adopted an assessment, and were especially concerned with the cost. If the Legislature does nothing this session then the administrative rules governing the implementation of Smarter Balanced will go into effect and every public school and state-accredited non-public school will be required to administer the test.

It is important that Iowans contact their legislators today and let them know that Iowa’s schools can’t afford this assessment, and the legislature needs to block it.

Iowa has never funded assessments for local school districts, but the cost of Smarter Balanced compared to the Iowa Assessments is a significant increase. I wrote last week at Caffeinated Thoughts:

The problem is that the current Iowa Assessments only cost school districts between $4.25-$6.25 per assessment per student. Smarter Balanced which the Iowa State Board of Education approved last fall will cost districts at minimum $22.50 per assessment per student for just the summative assessment in English language arts and math, and up to $27.30 if the school districts use the full suite of formative, interim and summative assessments.

This didn’t even include the new science assessment that will be needed with the Iowa State Board of Education approving the Next Generation Science Standards. The current estimate for that assessment is $15.00 per student per assessment.

The Iowa Assessments include English language arts, math and science.

So school districts are facing paying a minimum of 3 1/2 times more for assessments. Where is this money going to come from? When the science assessment is added schools at minimum will be paying 6 times more.

Some points for legislators to consider…

Hard costs estimates to districts based on 2013-2014 enrollment:

  • SBAC summative: nearly a $5.5 million increase (500% increase)
  • SBAC summative, interim, digital library: over a $6.8 million increase (nearly 700% increase)
  • Next Generation Iowa Assessment: over a $3.2 million increase (300% increase)

Soft costs to each district: 

  • Common Core assessments are online-only assessments. They will require significant increases in both technology (computer equipment, software and maintenance) as well as internet bandwidth in all school districts just to accommodate that many students taking these tests. These costs are unknown and were not considered by the assessment task force.
  • The SBAC assessment does not include science. The additional costs for adding a science test are unknown and were not considered by the assessment task force. 
  • The SBAC assessment only measures the National Common Core Standards – it will not measure any of the required additional state standards that still remain as part of the Iowa Core (approximately 10-15%), nor any standards that local districts may be allowed to add (15%)

Who controls?

  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s governing board is based at the University of California, and its fiscal agent is the State of Washington’s Superintendent’s office. It is funded primarily by the federal government via the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. No Iowa educators or legislators participated in the writing or development of this test, nor will they be able to review, approve or make changes to it in order to align with Iowa standards.
  • This assessment will remove both local control and state control. It will drive both local and state standards, and ultimately curriculum, to align with what is important to the federal government and other states, rather than what is important to Iowans. 
  • It will only test those portions of Iowa Core that are the same as Common Core; no additional Iowa local or state standards will be tested.
  • Iowa teachers will be held accountable to test results from an assessment Iowans did not create, based on standards Iowa legislators and elected school boards did not approve.

Then the fact that this assessment is neither validated and reliable.

Iowa can do better for students, for parents and for Iowa’s taxpayers.

Tennessee Didn’t Repeal Common Core, They Rebranded It


Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that started a “review and replacement” of the Common Core State Standards in August. Even when the bill was signed the result was uncertain:

It’s unclear whether the process set out by the new law will result in a significant step away from Common Core, or if it will represent a rebranding with minor tweaks. Tennessee school superintendentsin February sent state lawmakers a letter backing Common Core, although support for the standards has been waning among teachers – a September survey showed most Tennessee teachers now oppose Common Core.

I had concerns when the bill first passed the Tennessee House that it still left the State Board of Education in charge of approving the new standards. There wasn’t any legislative oversight to the process.

As the review committees were put together there was not unity on the end goal – a revision of the Common Core or  repeal?

Last week’s fiery press release by Ramsey, who named three people to the panel, refers in the headline to the “Common Core repeal committee” and then states in the release: “The committee was established by the Tennessee General Assembly for the explicit purpose of repealing and replacing the Common Core Standards established in 2010.” He described one of his appointees, Shirley Curry, as a “conservative activist” and invoked “Tennessee values” as being central to the need for an academic overhaul.

By contrast, this week’s statement by Haslam, who appointed four people to the group, called the same body a “Standards Recommendation Committee” and never mentions the words “Common Core” or “repeal.”

“We are committed to obtaining the highest possible standards in Tennessee’s schools, and I am grateful to these dedicated educators for agreeing to serve in this effort,”Haslam said in a more muted statement. “All Tennesseans want the best for our students, and this process will build on the historic gains we have made in education.”

Haslam stated that his problem was more with the name Common Core, than the actual standards themselves:

If the latter, the standards will undoubtedly be rebranded, as Haslam acknowledged earlier this year that the name “Common Core” is problematic for many groups. “I just realized that fixing the brand is too hard,” Haslam told editors and publishers at a Tennessee Press Association meeting in February. “There’s certainly hills you should die on, but dying on a brand that people feel that way about, I don’t think is smart.”

Last fall, Haslam initiated a year-long review process to scrutinize the current enhanced standards, so that the standards, which were fully implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, do not get gutted alongside the Common Core label.

So now The Tennesseean declares that the Common Core has been “phased out.”

The state developed a more rigorous review process to assess the standards, including two online public reviews, educator review and legislative input. The review process took almost two years.

“We started with the current state standards. From there we executed an unprecedented transparent, comprehensive review and replacement process,” State Board of Education Executive Director Sara Heyburn said.

“The results were a set of new, Tennessee-specific standards brought to us by the Standards Recommendation Committee, whose members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives and confirmed by the General Assembly,” Heyburn said.

Starting with the Common Core is the problem. A true repeal would set the standards and the committees would start from scratch. This process would just lead to tweaks. Granted there may be some improvements, but let’s be clear this wasn’t a repeal and Tennessee has adopted Common Core lite sans the name Common Core.

Grading Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Common Core

Doug Ducey at a campaign rally in Phoenix, AZ.Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Doug Ducey at a campaign rally in Phoenix, AZ.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Editor’s note: Below is a Common Core report card on Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) complied by Lisa Hudson, an attorney and mother who is a leader fighting Common Core with Arizonans Against Common Core.

1. Has he spoken out and acted against Common Core?

Governor Ducey’s 2014 campaign platform mirrored that of every Republican gubernatorial candidate across the country; the economy, jobs, immigration, and shrinking government, to name a few.  The most hotly contested issue on the would-be governor’s platform was the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the impact of federal government intrusion in matters of local authority.  It was an issue that had the potential to make or break a candidate’s campaign, and it remains an issue that will impact a governor’s legacy.  Common Core had divided voters on both sides of the political spectrum, and the aspiring governor’s position was clear.  He opposed Common Core and was going to do something about it.

At every opportunity along the campaign trail, then-candidate Ducey expressed his anti-Common Core sentiments.  His website lauded plans to “…. resist overreach from the federal government, including Common Core, and protect our schools from federal intrusion into the state and local responsibility of local education.”

As Ducey stumped through Arizona in quest of the governorship, he used anti-Common Core rhetoric to boost his popularity and lead him to a comfortable win.  Unfortunately, that was the last voters heard of “overreach” and “federal intrusion”.  Almost immediately, the freshly minted governor appointed Common Core cheerleader Lisa Graham Keegan to his subcommittee on education.  He also appointed Matthew Ladner to the subcommittee.  Ladner is a close associate of Jeb Bush, whose stance on Common Core was an albatross around his neck throughout his failed bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

Now, more than a year later, the Governor looks more like an establishment Republican politician who won’t publically embrace national standards, but hasn’t exactly fought valiantly against them.  Politicians have short memories when it comes to campaign promises.  Ducey, who had no real political experience until his run for Treasurer in 2010, seems no different.

In March 2015, legislation was proposed to repeal and replace the already beleaguered Common Core.  HB2190 passed in the House, and the Senate Education Committee.  The bill had strong support from parents, teachers, and, obviously, legislators.  Governor Ducey, however, came out against HB2190, going so far as saying he would not support a legislative effort to eliminate the standards.

“I don’t think that legislation is necessary because we’re going to fix what’s wrong with these standards,” Ducey told reporters after speaking before the state Board of Education, referring to Common Core as a “distraction.”  Not surprisingly, the bill died in the Senate following a 16-13 vote.  In the end, Common Core survived at the hands of Governor Ducey.

To appease the vocal bill supporters, and because standards “review” remains the soup du jour of governors throughout the country, Ducey ordered the State Board of Education to “redevelop” statewide academic standards and assessments.  An Education Standards Development Committee was created with instructions from the Governor: “Begin by reviewing the English language, arts and mathematics standards in their entirety to ensure that our children are well-served by the standards you develop with full transparency, standards that are Arizona’s standards.  In any instance during your review you find situations where Arizona standards can outperform or improve our current standards, I ask you recommend replacement immediately.”

Curiously, on the same day Ducey made the token gesture to review standards, he told reporters that Arizona would keep the AzMERIT; the standardized test adopted by the Board of Education to assess students on the Common Core standards.  “AzMERIT is going to be in all our schools,” he said. “And it’s going to continue to be in all our schools.”  He suggested the vocal objections to the standards were, “misdirected and mistaken.”

Ducey’s comments back-peddled from his original anti- Common Core rhetoric and dug Arizona deeper into an education quagmire.  While he came out of the blocks solidly opposed to Common Core, and later ordered a review of the standards, nothing has been done to move the process forward and parents remain under considerable stress as testing season begins again.  The conflicting messages bear significantly on his score.

Grade:  D+

2. Does he understand and has he made a specific commitment to protect state and local control of education from further federal intrusion?

Anything Governor Ducey has done or said since taking office has been little more than lip service.  Ducey wanted Washington out of local education decision making but overlooked (ignored?) an early opportunity to cancel Arizona’s Memorandum of Understanding with the National Governor’s Association (NGA), and the Chief Counsel of State School Officers (CCSSO), signed by then-Governor Jan Brewer, and former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne.  While the point is now moot pursuant to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it highlights the Governor’s tendency to tread water on the issue and keep Arizona bound to the Common Core machine.

With the bell tolled on HB2190, Governor Ducey ordered the creation of the Standards Development Committee (see above), but failed to put a timeline in place for completion of the review.  At a recent meeting of committee members, Arizona Department of Education representative, Carol Lippert, stated that they are “. . . only now starting on the standards,” and have “…really just begun to do the revision.”  One year later, the committee’s failure to carry out the Governor’s order is obstructionist.  Governor Ducey is aware no progress has been made yet has withheld public comment.  His silence is deafening: Common Core is going nowhere fast.

On a side note, in March 2015, a little known bill passed unanimously in the Senate.  Ostensibly, the bill was designed to add a small business owner to the governor’s Regulatory Review Council.  A floor amendment in the Senate expanded the governor’s authority to remove board and commission appointees – including those previously appointed by other governors and whose jobs were protected by the length of their terms.  The bill, signed in to law by the governor in April 2015, makes the members of government entities at-will employees; including the State Board of Education.

Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey’s Deputy Chief of Staff, said, “Ultimately the governor is held to account for the conduct and performance of these boards and commissions, so it stands to reason that he has the ability to get rid of bad apples.”

If ever there was a bad apple on a state board, it would be the President of the State Board of Education and appointee of former Governor Jan Brewer, Greg Miller.  Miller sat on the Board of Education when the standards were adopted.  He has been a staunch (and caustic) proponent ever since, breeding hostility between board members and fighting to maintain Common Core at every turn.

Governor Ducey, despite statutory authority, has not removed the virulent Miller.  In fact, there are currently three open seats on the State Board of Education to which the Governor needs to make appointments.  It’s unclear why he hasn’t filled the positions, but his failure to do so begs the question: what, exactly, is he hoping to avoid?

The current legislative session has been equally disappointing for voters who trusted the Governor’s promises.  Strongly backed by voters, SB1455 would have allowed a parental opt out of state standardized testing without subjecting parents and/or students to punitive actions.  The bill died on the senate floor, but has been brought back for reconsideration.  Sources say Governor Ducey will veto the bill if it lands on his desk, which has made it difficult to secure the necessary votes.  This isn’t the first education bill to die a mysterious death once the Governor hints he won’t sign it.

Another education bill proposes to override the will of the voters and strip power from Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas, under the guise of “clarifying” duties.  There is no love lost between the establishment Governor and a Superintendent who has been very proactive in her mission to remove Common Core from the state and reinstate local control. After legislative maneuvering, a new bill number, and a 20-page amendment, the bill was released to the House Education Committee after subtle pressure from both the Senate President and the Governor’s office, according to sources.  The bill has since been held in committee after it was vehemently opposed by voters.  But given the bad blood brewing between Ducey and the one person who has publically called him out for his failure to fight federal intrusion in education, no one will be surprised if it eventually resurfaces.

Governor Ducey has continued to disappoint his constituents and can no longer be seen as friendly to the grassroots effort to remove the standards and maintain local control of education.  If anything, his actions paint him as strongly in favor of Common Core despite claims to the contrary.  Looking ahead, the Next Generation Science Standards have been released by the CCSSO and the NGA.  Arizona has not adopted them as of this writing.  Whether Governor Ducey takes a stand against adoption of another Common Core standard, or whether he will contine to tread water remains to be seen.

Grade:  D+

3. What efforts has the Governor made to protect student and family privacy interests against the rising demands of industry and central planners for more personal student data?

Governor Ducey has done nothing to protect students and their families from data collection and release of personally identifiable information.  Not just a little nothing.  A lot of nothing.

In April 2015, a group of grassroots lobbyists met with the Governor to put together a plan to remove the Common Core standards from Arizona.  During that meeting, Governor Ducey was questioned about the Arizona Department of Education’s ongoing release of student personally identifiable information (PII) to third parties without parental consent.  The governor seemed generally uninformed on the issue, but promised to investigate.

About two months later, the governor spoke at a luncheon of southern Arizona constituents and afterwards made himself available for questions.  Referring back to the April meeting, I personally asked the governor what actions, if any, he had taken to protect the privacy of Arizona students and their parents from the release of their private, personal information.  Governor Ducey dodged the question by pointing the finger of responsibility at another un-named “duly elected official.”  It didn’t take algorithms or data points to identify the official about whom he was speaking, or to recognize how uncomfortable the question made him in a room full of his constituents, most of them parents and grandparents.  Suffice it to say, an investigation has not taken place.

The Governor has never made a public comment about the need to protect students from intrusive data collection or the release of personally identifiable information without parental consent; the proliferation of which has continued under his leadership.  On a positive note, the grassroots movement was allowed to weigh in on proposed online student data privacy legislation, which allowed a successful push back on legislation that left a gaping hole in privacy protection.

As concerns over student privacy are mounting, Arizona has an opportunity to lead the fight to protect students and their families, as well as teachers, from the invasive collection and distribution of private data.  Governor Ducey has all but ignored the dilemma facing parents whose children’s privacy is at risk, only avoiding a failing grade in this category by giving activists notice of a bill that would have further compromised student privacy.

Grade: D


Overall, Governor Ducey has failed in his handling of the most sweeping and disastrous changes in education policy in history.  The strings attached to education funding turned states into puppets of the Department of Education.  Voters believed the Governor’s campaign rhetoric that Arizona would not be held hostage to what he referred to as “purchased obedience.”  But his promises have amounted to nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors.  Governor Ducey is a darling of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Chamber loves Common Core.  The Governor would have to make a nearly 180 degree shift in his allegiance to the Chamber and make voter’s concerns his priority before his score could improve.  At this time, a change seems unlikely.

Ending the Common Core System: D+
Protecting State and Local Decision Making: D+
Protecting Child and Family Privacy: D

Overall Grade: D+