Several bills are beginning to make their way through the Arizona legislature’s first regular session of 2015. Some are designed to defeat and replace the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) also known as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS). This series of nine articles has been written to inform you about why Common Core needs to be defeated and replaced. These articles only scratch the surface, because the tentacles go on forever. Tucson teacher and author Brad McQueen rightly calls it the “Common Core Leviathan.”
Part 1 of 9 covers "How Arizona Got Tangled up In Common Core" and "Race to the Top (RTTT) Money – Did the Arizona State Board of Education Ignore Arizona Law?"
How Arizona Got Tangled up in Common Core
With the stroke of a pen on January 5, 2010, five months before the Common Core Standards were written, two people handed control of Arizona’s K-12 public education standards to entities outside Arizona.
Those two people were former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and former Governor Jan Brewer, when they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association, promising to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Adopting those standards meant that Arizona would have to follow all the rules for implementation and testing, and pay for all of it. At the time, Arizona was vying for Phase 1 Race to the Top Money. See pages 61-63 for the MOU in the RTTT Phase 1 Appendices.
Did Superintendent Horne, Governor Brewer, the State Board of Education, or anyone consider the financial impact of making changes to the "minimum course of study"?
Arizona didn’t dare make any changes or deletions to the national standards. That was because the tests were not under Arizona’s control either. The common assessments would be developed by two national consortia to test the CCSS as written.
“You cannot change one word of the Common Core standards,” says Tuttle. “You can only add 15 percent. That is different than in the past, where if a standard was problematic, we could change it. Now we can’t do that. Our standards are adopted verbatim. They are copyrighted. There are licensing and uses requirements as part of that adoption.’
“Colby says that’s not quite right — states can make subtractions and changes. But they do so at their own peril, as common assessments being developed by two national consortia test the Common Core as it’s written.” See Core Question: Does Copyright Mean States Can’t Change The Common Core?
The two national "consortia" were private companies Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced. See also Incompetent Pearson Wins PARCC Contract: Big Surprise. See also Rupert Murdoch Wins Contract to Develop Common Core Tests: Smarter Balanced.
Back in 2012, Arizona State Board of Education President Jaime Molera announced that Arizona would abandon the state’s standardized testing assessment, AIMS, for a new next generation K-12 assessment: PARCC. He described it as the "Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a 24 state consortium working together to assess student’s readiness in reading and math. The assessments will be ready to be administered to all Arizona school students during the 2014-15 school year." See Arizona AIMS testing: PARCC to replace AIMS in 2014.
How many bureaucrats does it take to figure out how to test students in reading and math? I suppose my answer, leave it to the teachers, isn’t a viable option.
In his article titled AZ Chooses its new Common Core Test, Six of One Half Dozen of the Other, Brad McQueen writes:
"The Arizona Board of Education announced that it has awarded the contract to deliver its new Common Core test to AIR (American Institutes for Research) ‘one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.’
"There is nothing fresh about this AIR. Rather AIR is the same old stale Common Core company that has a contract with the Smarter Balanced testing group that, along with the PARCC testing group that Arizona used to be a part of, received over $350 million from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a Common Core test to assess the privately owned and secretly created federal Common Core standards. They do keep it all in the family of the cult of Common Core."
The only standards that Arizona could control independently were the 15% additional standards they were allowed by the Common Core Standards Initiative. See State Adoption of the Common Core Standards: the 15% Rule.
Arizona could also change the name, which Governor Brewer did in September 2013, to Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS). It was obviously not wise to delete or change the standards as written. See Some States Rebrand Controversial Common Core Education Standards. Also Common Core Name Changes, Standards Remain.
On June 2, 2010, the National Governors Association released the CCSS.
On June 28, 2010, the Arizona State Board of Education formally adopted the Common Core State Standards.
On July 26, 2010: Arizona State Board of Education President Dr. Vicki Ballentine assured the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Race to the Top Committee that Arizona had formally adopted CCSS on June 28, 2010. Please note that Dr. Ballentine highlights ARS 15-701. A. 1., which seems to give the State Board complete, total authority to adopt academic standards of their choosing. That’s all, really, that the federal government cared about. Any other responsibilities of the State Board, to the people of Arizona for example, was immaterial.
Race to the Top (RTTT) Money – Did the Arizona State Board of Education Ignore Arizona Law?
In February 2009, at President Obama’s urging, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). About $800 billion was to be spent to “stimulate the economy.” In July 2009, the Obama Administration announced that some of this money would be available to “advance school reform.” This was a competition for Race to the Top (RTTT) funds.
The MOU signed by Brewer and Horne in January 2010 was required as part of Arizona’s application for Phase 1 federal RTTT money. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) declined Arizona’s request, but encouraged them to try again.
So, on March 28, 2010, Arizona applied for Phase 2 funding, but were again declined.
Finally, the U.S. Dept. of Education awarded Arizona $25 million per Arizona’s Dec. 13, 2011 application for Phase 3 RTTT funds.
No one at the Arizona State Board asked: "That’s nice that we got $25 million to adopt the CCSS. What will it cost to implement them"? Yet, didn’t ARS 15-203.A.12.13. require them to provide a fiscal impact statement prior to making any changes to the "minimum course of study"?
Even though the Arizona State Legislature had no say in the decision to adopt the CCSS, they would end up with both the costs and the bad press. Did the schools know how much these changes would cost them? The Arizona taxpayers had no say in the decision to adopt CCSS either, but ultimately, the bill will be presented to them.
On October 18, 2013, at the request of Rep. Bob Thorpe (LD6), Steve Schimpp, staff member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) provided him with estimates from both the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO). Schimpp states in his email:
"ADE estimates that it would cost $131 million over 2 years (FY14 and FY15) to implement Common Core, not including related costs for additional Internet access and computers needed for testing. See ADE Common Core Implementation Estimate
"Corresponding AASBO estimates, are $157 million for instruction-related costs plus $230 million for additional Internet access and computers ($387 million total). See Schools Prepare to Implement Common Core Without new Funding.
So, Arizona received $25 million to adopt CCSS, but it’s going to cost Arizona $387 million to implement CCSS. Some believe that these estimates are too low.
Even though, according to ARS 15-701, the State Board has complete, total, legal authority to "prescribe a minimum course of study, as defined in section 15-101 and incorporate the academic standards to be taught in the common schools, the State Board also has the responsibility, according to ARS 15-203.A.12.13, to "prepare a fiscal impact statement of any proposed changes to the minimum course of study or competency requirements and, on completion, shall send a copy to the director of the joint legislative budget committee and the executive director of the school facilities board. The state board of education shall not adopt any changes in the minimum course of study or competency requirements in effect on July 1, 1998 that will have a fiscal impact on school capital costs."
Ms. Jennifer Reynolds and Mr. Wes Harris believe that many violations of Arizona Statutes have taken place, with no one holding anyone accountable. This is outlined in the "Petition for Redress of Grievances" that they circulated to Governor Brewer, Superintendent Huppenthal, Attorney General Tom Horne, Senate President Biggs, and House Majority Leader Andy Tobin at the time. It has been completely ignored.
Please email and call your Arizona senators and representatives to get us out of Common Core! Click HERE to find your senator’s contact information. Click HERE to find your representatives’ contact information.
How Arizona Got Tangled up in Common Core
The Memorandum of Understanding signed by Tom Horne and Jan Brewer can be found on pages 61-63 in the RTTT Phase 1 Appendices.