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We must stay the course with Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards

SI’ve been implementing Arizona’s College and Career Ready standards for three years in my fifth grade classroom. But I’m going to let you in on a secret: it hasn’t changed my teaching very much. In fact, the standards finally caught up with what many good educators have been trying to do for a long time –move away from rote memorization and isolated skills and return to creativity and in-depth learning in the classroom.

We are finally seeing a return to cross-curricular, integrated learning which help students build connections to the real world outside of the classroom.

Unfortunately, these standards have been used as a tool to increase the divisiveness involved with current politics while completely overshadowing our priorities as teachers and parents to provide the best education for our children. To give the standards an honest evaluation, we must separate them from the political issues that have surrounded them.

The educational environment varies greatly from one classroom to the next, and that variety continues and expands at the school, district, state and national level. These new standards help unify educators from around the United States in a way that will ensure continued excellence from accomplished teachers while motivating all teachers to expect the best from our children.

Here’s what I appreciate about the standards as both a parent and a teacher:

  • They define what students should know and be able to do – not how teachers should teach. The standards are not a curriculum – we will maintain local control of how the standards are taught and with what materials through our local school districts, school boards and teachers. I can tailor my teaching to the needs and interests of the individual learners in front of me each year.
  • We’re hearing from colleges and employers that our students must be able to read and analyze complex information. Our graduates need to be widely literate to be college ready and employable. The standards emphasize non-fiction, fiction, literature, reading and writing to provide our students with what they will need as graduates.
  • They raise expectations for all students. We have to raise the floor so we can raise the ceiling. A common set of standards is one of the hallmarks of top performing countries around the world.
  • The standards emphasize less discrete skills and honor the whole child. In implementing our previous state standards, I felt like I had to race through with little time for the depth my students deserved. Now there are fewer standards so I can take the time to delve in.

Do I want my daughter or my students to regurgitate facts on a test like a computer? No! That’s what Google is for. I want my daughter to have an education where she can be an independent learner and critical thinker where she uses evidence to form opinions and make decisions.

Arizona students also need an assessment that moves beyond ordinary memorization and filling in the bubbles. A new test should allow them to demonstrate what they know, including deeper learning skills that will help students be prepared for college and career. These means less teaching to the test and more class time to delve deeper into the subject matter.

Not to mention that the AIMS test does not match what students are learning in the classroom now. A new assessment needs to be aligned to the standards so teachers have a tool to better understand how our students are actually doing.

We are heading in the right direction. We are building a high-quality educational foundation for every student in Arizona and the nation. Let’s stay the course.

- Beth Maloney is the 2014 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year and a National Board Certified Teacher. She teaches fifth grade at Sunset Hills Elementary School in Surprise.

5 comments

  1. Brad McQueen-Every day teacher

    This commentary adds nothing of substance to the Common Core debate, rather it is a regurgitation of the Common Core talking points-exactly the type of learning the writer claims the “new” common core standards will eliminate.
    Let me let you in on a little secret, America’s greatness lies in its diversity of its “educational environments” that the writer seems to find is our weakness as a nation. Our decentralized diversity breeds originality and individualism, the exact opposite of the centralized, one-size-fits-all national Common Core model.
    A “common set of standards is the hallmark of top performing countries”? Let me let you in on another secret, the hallmark of a top country isn’t having good test takers , but rather “doing things” like putting a man on the moon, creating Google, Apple, and the world’s top military and economy. That’s what we “do” as Americans and the rest of the world should be copying us not the other way around.
    I’ll let the readers in on another secret, every teacher in AZ gets an email asking us to apply for “teacher of the year”. It involves much time completing an application and jumping through hoops in front of an interview committee in exchange for a shiny title and thousands of dollars in prizes much like Gov Brewer did when she sold our sovereignty over education in exchange for money and other “prizes” when adopting the Common Core. So it is not surprising that the writer who is a “teacher of the year” is a perfect spokesperson for the Common Core.
    Most AZ teachers are quietly “teachers of the year” every day in the classroom and are too humble to play the political game of going for the shiny title and the thousands of dollars and gifts that accompany it. AZ teachers deserve so much better than the Common Core.

  2. Brad McQueen-Every day teacher

    The writer says she has been implementing the AZ Common Core standards for “3 years”? Three years ago 5th grade teachers, according to the AZ Dept of Education, were supposed to be teaching the previous standards, the AZ Academic Content Standards which the AIMS test assessed-not the Common Core. See the Dept of Ed Common Core Implementation time line: http://www.azed.gov/wp-content/uploads/PDF/Timeline.pdf

    Last year (2012/2013) in the 5th grade, the Common Core Standards were to begin to be phased in but the previous AZ Academic Content Standards were still to be taught and the AIMS was given last year to test those standards as well.

    Only this year (2013/2014)were the Common Core standards to be fully implemented in 5th grade with this year’s AIMS test being a” transitional test” with facets of the Common Core to accommodate the transitional nature of this year.

    If this years AIMS test “does not match what kids are learning in the classroom now” it’s because Gov Brewer and Education Sec Huppenthal have not bothered to officially adopt a Common Core test yet for the state even though next year is when the Common Core/PARCC test will be used to supposedly test the fully implemented Common Core standards. I know this because I have worked on both the AIMS tests and the Common Core/PARCC tests.

    Hopefully this clears up the confusion.

  3. Mr. McQueen makes some good points in his comments about Arizona Teacher of the Year Beth Maloney’s opinion piece, including the importance of diversity in educational environments, the acknowledgement that most teachers in Arizona are outstanding and how some of our great achievements as a nation should be celebrated. However, as the organization responsible for awarding the Arizona Teacher of the Year award, the Arizona Educational Foundation/AEF would like to clarify a few misconceptions in his comments.

    AEF does not send an email to every teacher in Arizona asking them to apply for the award. In fact, we do not solicit applications from any teacher. We do reach out to school administrators, other educational organizations and the public inviting them to nominate an outstanding public school teacher if they so wish. The Arizona Educational Foundation is a nonprofit organization unaffiliated with any political party or governmental agency. Yes, there is an in-depth application and selection process that involves interviews for the 10 finalists, but it is not a process of jumping through hoops, rather it is a process designed to evaluate, select and recognize exemplary teachers and advocates for public education across Arizona. To imply that winners of the Teacher of the Year award are players in a political game in search of a shiny title is demeaning, disrespectful to all teachers and simply untrue.

  4. Brad McQueen-Regular Teacher

    In the interest of FULL DISCLOSURE shouldn’t the writer of this article have disclosed that the “Teacher of the Year” program administered in AZ by the Arizona Education Foundation (AEF) is a project of the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) who wrote the Common Core Standards and owns the copy write for the standards? Read here: http://azedfoundation.org/programs/teacher-of-the-year/ And read about the copy write here: http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

    The teachers of the year are supposedly advocates for teachers and the profession. Not all teachers support the Common Core, yet the AEF and the teacher who wrote this article only advocate in support of the standards, never offering a voice to those who oppose the Core. Their FaceBook page thanks all the current and past teachers of the year who helped defeat SB1310 which was an anti-Common Core bill. Doesn’t sound like AEF is very non-political. Read here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Arizona-Educational-Foundation/75328797874

    Teachers of the year receive $15000 from the CCSSO among other cash and prizes. Read here:http://azedfoundation.org/programs/teacher-of-the-year/ Does anyone seriously think that the AEF would choose a teacher of the year who opposes the Common Core in their interview or application for this shiny title?

    I’m not trying to ” imply that winners of the Teacher of the Year award are players in a political game”, I am stating emphatically that they are. The AEF is the one disrespecting teachers by continually advocating on behalf of the Common Core.

  5. Brad McQueen-Regular Teacher

    I noticed that the AEF Teacher of the Year’s Facebook page has now deleted the posting congratulating their teachers of the year past and present for helping to defeat the anti-common core bill SB1310. Feeling a bit political guys? Something to hide? Luckily computers have a “screen print” function.

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