Arizona’s fight for K-12 education standards

Photo Courtesy of woodleywonderworks
Photo Courtesy of woodleywonderworks.

Will Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards give Arizona students the skills to be competitive in the job market and excel in leadership?

In June of 2010, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards to ensure all students are prepared for college and career options, according to the Arizona Department of Education.

“Having these standards is really valuable because it helps identify what is important for children to be learning,” said Donna Jurich, a professor of practice in the UA Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies.

The standards were implemented to advance the understanding of rigorous content in mathematics and language arts for grades kindergarten through 12th.

In order to further prepare teachers to educate the upcoming generation, Jurich said, teachers need to be made aware of these content area standards.

The standards were developed by experts from Arizona such as teachers, superintendents, staff from the Arizona Department of Education, among others. They are not federally mandated and Arizona, along with 46 other states, voluntarily adopted the standards. States that adopted the standards received federal educational funding, but the federal government was not involved in the creation of the standards.

Before these standards were implemented, states had standards and the quality of the standards varied by the state, Jurich said.

Arizona’s newly elected state superintendent of public instruction, Diane Douglas, ran on a platform of getting rid of the standards.

“My education plan for Arizona will return common sense to the classroom, local control to our schools and ensure that parents have the best educational choices for our children,” Douglas said on her campaign website.

Yet, Douglas never proposed what would take in place of the standards if she becomes successful at abolishing them, Jurich said.

The Arizona Republican Party stated that it doesn’t take specific policy stances, said Tim Sifert, director of communication of the party.

When asked if the party agrees with pushing for the elimination of the standards, Sifert said that he “wouldn’t be able to make a comment about that.”

“During [Douglas’] campaign when she said that the common core was not good and that she would do away with them, remember that their was a State School Board that accepted them and a legislation that passed them,” Jurich said.

These same standards were originally called the Common Core standards, but movements among conservatives against Obama’s administration in the state of Arizona said, “we don’t want to call those standards the Common Core because that’s Obama standards,” Jurich said.

Gov. Jan Brewer renamed the standards to “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards” in response to the conservative movement. But Brewer continues to support the standards.

The standards are to help provide consistent learning goals and demonstrate what students are expected to learn, Jurich said.

“Teachers are basing their lesson plans and curriculum on the Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” Jurich said. “These standards impact what to teach and how we are going to teach in order to impact the child’s educational development.”

“I think every time we adopt standards they are going to be controversial,” Jurich said. “Not everyone is going to agree with them 100 percent but they are pushing K-12 learning.”

These standards have been adopted by the state to ensure every child obtains the necessary skills to continue from K-12 education to a career or post-secondary education, according to Arizona Department of Education.

“The content is going to be the same for schools across the state but the curriculum, the organization of the content, is going to be different,” Jurich said. “Because teachers have different approaches to teaching, these standards are helpful in terms of having children across the state learning similar content.”

Yara Askar is a reporter at Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Contact her at  yaskar@email.arizona.edu.

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