A slew of bills before the Arizona Legislature that would allow school districts to opt out of federal Common Core Standards, but this week the Senate spiked the first of those bills — Senate Bill 1310.
Republicans have long insisted the Common Core Standards represent a federal take-over of education. Some Tea Party Republicans have even denounced the Common Core Standards as an Agenda 21 plot by the United Nations.
The hue and cry prompted Governor Jan Brewer to officially change the name of Common Core to Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards to diffuse the perception the reforms come from the federal government.
In actuality, The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers created the standards.
Arizona adopted the standards in 2010. Schools have in the past three years scrambled to train teachers and administrators, although school staff has often balked and complained.
Senator Chester Crandell (R-Heber), who represents the Rim Country, said he believes in local control and so supports alternatives to the Common Core.
“I’m very opposed to a national assessment,” said Crandell. “You end up with a national curriculum, that takes away the ability of local control with the slant of the morays of the community.”
Arizona plans to scrap the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test in favor of a nationally recognized test such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) test.
Crandell would rather the state rely on assessment tests colleges and trade schools already use. He worries a national test would only encourage educators to teach to the test.
Payson Unified Director of Student Achievement Brenda Case said opting out of Common Core at this point will cost the district a lot of money.
“If states/districts are allowed to develop their own standards and assessment tools, it will require a lot of money,” she said. “The standards have to be researched, and carefully written, then correlated. Assessments would have to be developed based on the standards (for all grade levels), then sent out to be tested for validity and reliability. This is an extremely complicated (and time consuming) process.”
With this first vote, state legislators seem to agree with Case, but three more bills await action.
Those three have passed the Senate Education Committee (SB1388, SB1395 and SB1396), but none have gone to the floor for a final vote because many of them conflict with each other. They all seek to limit Common Core and hand responsibility over to school districts.
Case said the district has struggled in the past year to convert over to the new standards and predicts more challenging times for the future.
“I am sure that the state of Arizona will fight it (Common Core), as will many other states,” she said. “That does not mean that the AZSCCR (Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards) won’t change. It just means that to implement what is being discussed at the Legislative level would take years. Many are unhappy. Many are looking for change. Many want support that just is not there. It is a challenging day in public education.”
The following bills passed out of committee on a 6-3 party-line vote and will be combined into a single bill before facing a floor vote in the senate.
SB1388 - Takes control of standards and assessments away from the State Board of Education and gives it to school districts and charter schools.
SB1396 - Requires school districts and charter schools to adopt standards/assessments that meet or exceed the 1999 state standards.
SB1395 - Allows school districts or charter schools to “opt out” of State Board of Education standards.