As states across the country move away from the federally mandated Common Core standards the question quickly turns to what to put in its place.
As with other states, Arizona is taking a fine-tooth comb to its language arts and math standards to develop something that is more rigorous and developmentally appropriate at every grade level.
Spearheading the effort is the Department of Public Instruction and its Superintendent Diane Douglas. After more than one year of work, in August the department released a draft version of the proposed changes.
“I don’t expect there will be radical changes,” Douglas said. “One of the problems with Common Core was that it moved too much in the area of curriculum. The standards are what should be taught and curriculum is how it will be taught. In Arizona that’s done at the local level through district school boards. One of the things that was so egregious about Common Core is the way it drove curriculum, so I expect to see those kinds of things would be corrected.”
By driving curriculum, some educators maintain, Common Core created gaps in student knowledge.
“One of the buzzwords to sell Common Core was to make our students critical thinkers, but the problem is in order to think critically you have to have something to think about,” Douglas said. “If you are asking kids to think critically and they don’t have the facts or the knowledge of the subject how can they possible achieve this goal?”
By all accounts, prior to Arizona adopting Common Core in 2010 the state’s education standards were considered to be some of the best in the nation.
Many educators throughout the state thought the federal government’s mandated standards, which were tied to funding, represented a colossal overreach.
“It’s really unfortunate that Common Core played out the way it did, but I look at it from a broader perspective,” Douglas said. “It’s not just the Common Core standards itself, it was the intrusion by the federal government into our education system, one in which they have no constitutional role to play and yet they created or were party to creating national standards that we all had to adopt.”
What works in Arizona, Douglas added, doesn’t necessarily work in New York.
“One of the glaring omissions of Common Core standards in math was that it was claimed they were college and career ready, yet there were no standards for higher level math,” Douglas said. “By the end of this year, my department expects to release draft standards addressing this issue. So, we’re moving in a good direction.”