Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said in a public question and answer session at the Oro Valley Public Library this weekend that he was open to feedback regarding the state’s recently implemented College and Career Ready Standards.
He got plenty of that, and more.
While Huppenthal said polls show that only a significantly small percentage of Arizonans oppose the new teaching standards formerly known as Common Core, far more were critical than supportive during the three-hour meeting on Sunday.
The standards, which were adopted in 2010 and being implemented this school year, are designed to make curriculums consistent throughout the country, but critics – many of them teachers – say they’re not working.
Some parents in the meeting felt the same, many voicing a common theme.
“Common Core tells teachers what they will teach and how they will teach it. To be told you have to teach this way when you have students that learn in different ways is wrong,” said one parent.
Huppenthal said while the standards are designed to make students meet specific benchmarks by the end of each grade, the individual school and teachers still have the power to determine how the lessons are taught.
“The standard is a skill set, the knowledge the students need to have, and that is completely set apart from curriculum, and that is completely set apart from lesson planning,” Huppenthal said, adding, “That is the reason I chose to rename our standards to College and Career Ready.”
Many took issue with the fact the standards have yet to be tested prior to being implemented, saying students are being used as guinea pigs to enforce standards that have no track record of success.
Ten-year teacher Brad McQueen pointed out that the test for College and Career Standards is still unfinished, creating an even hazier picture of what lies ahead for Arizona’s students.
“We don’t know if these standards are so great,” said McQueen. “People are saying they are, but they haven’t been tested or shown to be that.”
McQueen added that while poll numbers may show support for the standards, the truth is that teachers, in large part, do not back them.
Many, he said, are simply afraid to speak up.
“There are a lot of teachers against these standards,” McQueen said. “Teachers aren’t comfortable opposing you and Jan Brewer. You’re our boss’ boss’ boss’ boss.”
Few voiced support for the standards. Those who did said they see nothing wrong with creating consistent, measurable goals for students across the nation, and that the College and Career Standards allow students to think more conceptually about classroom subjects.
While Huppenthal said if problems arise the standards could be adjusted, he also said that as of now he “sees nothing wrong” with them and does not plan to budge because it would “throw the system into chaos.” According to Huppenthal, the College and Career Standards are more coherent, more rigorous, and more understandable than past standards, such as AIMS.
To some, like McQueen, the lack of compromise means Huppenthal needs to go.
“The only thing I can do now is work against you,” said McQueen. “I’m going to vote, and I’m going to advocate. I’m going to make you budge at the ballot box.”