New Arizona Standards?

Activists on the ground are calling the new Arizona standards just approved by the Arizona State Board of Education a rebranding of Common Core.

They are also concerned about the lack of transparency since they had the understanding there would be another month to review standards.

The Common Core has been revised in Arizona, and unfortunately whenever Common Core is the starting point for new standards what you will get is a rebranding. That’s not to say there are not significant changes, as there were with New York’s rewrite. Unfortunately New York’s changes appear to be more comprehensive than what we see in Arizona.

The Arizona Republic reports about some of the changes:

Cursive writing appears to be the biggest change in terms of what things kids will be required to learn. There’s been unanimous support for making cursive writing a requirement.

Beyond that, many of the revisions had to do with changing the phrasing of the actual standards that, while unassuming to the average person, are meant to give teachers more freedom over how to teach their students.

Some phrases that appear to instruct teachers how to teach a certain standard were changed. As were phrasings that appeared too vague or unclear.

For example, one phrase in the first-grade reading standards that said students should know how to ask and answer questions about key details in a text was expanded to include the “who, what, when, why and how about key details in a text.”

Educators who worked on the revisions said parts of them have been restructured so that parents can clearly see how the reading and math skills learned in one grade are expanded on in the next.

The revisions will be reflected on AzMERIT, the state’s standardized test, in 2018.

Most of the actual requirements in the standards remain unchanged.

Standards to learn time and money, the high school standards are ordered differently to reflect Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. There are also additional standards added to the high school standards that are not required for graduation so I assume they will not end up on AZMerit.

So there has been some technical changes, but as far as I can see most of the foundational problems still exist. The early elementary standards are still age-inappropriate. There is still an over emphasis on informational text. The math standards still do not adequately prepare students for STEM programs in college.

It’s unfortunate that Superintendent Diane Douglas, who campaigned on ending Common Core, put her stamp of approval on this process and these standards. It is also disconcerting that these standards were voted on instead of allowing an additional month of review and public comment. Arizona can do better than this.

Read the final draft of Arizona’s ELA and Math standards.

AZMerit’s Stagnant Scores

arizona-state-flag

The Arizona Republic reported that Arizona students did not see much improvement in their AZMerit assessment scores from the 2014-2015 school year. AZMerit is the Common Core-aligned assessment that the state of Arizona has used for the last two school years.

They write:

Most grade levels improved their statewide reading and math passing percentages by single digits — and the overall positive trajectory shows Arizona did well to raise its bar, educators said.

But the second year of AzMerit scores, which were released Monday by the Arizona Department of Education, also brought more of the same as the 2014-15 school year.

More than 60 percent of the state’s students failed the math and reading portions of AzMERIT in 2015-16. In the inaugural year, nearly two-thirds of Arizona pupils failed the test.

In math, six out of the nine grade levels tested had most of their students score “minimally proficient.” In English language arts, eight out of nine grades mostly scored at the test’s lowest performance level.

AzMERIT scores are divided into four performance levels: minimally proficient, partially proficient, proficient and highly proficient. The latter two categories are considered passing. The test is given to students in grades 3-11.

Arizonans Against Common Core founder and parent activist Jennifer Reynolds said in a statement to supporters:

The Arizona Department of Education released the preliminary results from the 2016 AzMERIT exam as compared to the 2015 results. As you can see below there is no stark improvement in test scores and this is no surprise! This test has never been validated nor field tested that it will assess the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS), and is in fact Utah’s Common Core Assessment or the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) test that we bought from them in December of 2014! Opt out Arizona, this is our natural right to do so on an invalid test!

Below is a comparison of the scores:

Screenshot 2016-06-29 22.54.02

Arizona House Rekindles Common Core Fight

arizona-state-flagLast week there were two bills that were filed in the Arizona House of Representatives dealing with the Common Core State Standards.  HB 2190  was introduced by State Representative Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) and co-sponsored by State Representatives Brenda Barton (R-Payson), Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale), and Noel W. Campbell (R-Prescott).

First paragraph caught my eye:

Notwithstanding any other law, the State Board of Education may not adopt and the Department of Education may not implement the Common Core Standards, this state’s college and career ready standards or any other standards or assessments that are aligned with standards or assessments proposed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.  Any actions that were previously taken to adopt or implement standards or assessments that conflict with this section are void on the effective date of this section.

That pretty much covers it, but just in case…

The state board of education is the sole authority for adopting academic content standards for this state’s public schools and shall adopt academic content standards of the state board’s choosing.  An official of this state, whether appointed or elected, may not join any consortium, association or other entity on behalf of this state or a state agency if the membership would require this state to cede any measure of control over education, including academic content standards and assessments of those standards.

The bill then addresses how new state standards would be adopted and implemented requiring public hearings.  It also states clearly that state education funds can not be held over the heads of schools that do not implement the standards.  There is also data protection language in the bill.  Be sure to read it for yourself.

State Representative Lawrence also sponsored his own legislation HB 2392 that is much shorter.

Notwithstanding any other law, the State Board of Education may not implement the Common Core State Standards, this state’s college and career ready standards or any other standards or assessments that are developed outside this state.  Any rules that were previously adopted by the State Board of Education and that conflict with this subsection are void on the effective date of this section.

And in case this bill wasn’t clear enough – no rebranding!

Not withstanding any other law, the State Board of Education may not adopt or revise standards in a manner that would effectively implement the Common Core Standards, this state’s college and career ready standards or any other standards or assessments that are developed outside this state.  Any rules that were previously adopted by the State Board of Education and that conflict with this subsection are void on the effective date of this section.