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Common Core standards are common sense

Common sense, common ground, common good and common standards — why is there such a ruckus about common standards? Common standards make sense — they are the ground level of achievement for good grades across all years of schooling. They will raise the bar and improve the educational experiences and academic achievement for the 1 million Arizona public school students.  

Whether we call them “standards” or “learnings” or “common” or “core” or “basic” their purpose remains the same —to develop academic, career and life skills. These standards include a focus on thinking critically and deriving answers from careful analysis of information, relevant documents and text. In addition to deeper levels of thought, the standards recognize the importance of speaking and writing skills and effective communication and collaboration with others.

These are the skills students of the 21st century need in order to be successful and competitive in a world society. 

The State Standards Initiative was a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and content experts. They provide a clear and consistent framework across grades and content areas from which teachers develop instructional plans.

The framework is developed so that governing boards can incorporate local curriculum areas of interest to prepare their students for success beyond high school. However, there is an expectation that the common standards will provide the foundation of knowledge and skills that students across the nation will acquire in the important areas of language and math. According to Grant Wiggins, recognized educational expert, “…I am a strong supporter of Standards generally and the Common Core specifically. To me it is simply a no-brainer:  There is no such thing as Georgia Algebra or Montana Writing. In a mobile society, and based on economies of scale, common national standards make a lot of sense.”

Arizona’s Common Core English/Language Arts and Mathematics Standards identify for teachers, parents and students what is expected at various grade levels.  They demand deeper and more focused instruction. Rather than trying to get through as much content as possible, teachers will focus on creating greater understanding in key areas. 

Both reading and math coursework will emphasize knowledge and understanding of relevant information in science, social studies and other content areas. More reading material will be non-fiction with the purpose to gather information. Instruction in mathematics will include working and solving challenging non-routine problems.

Teachers across all content areas will use their own subject area expertise to help students learn to read, write and communicate effectively in their specific field. Arizona’s Common Core Standards create a stair step from kindergarten through 12th grade — achievement at each level will assure readiness for what comes next.

Many of the educational groups across the state, including the Arizona School Administrators, are working together to help Arizona’s students, educators and families become aware, understand, and be prepared to implement the Common Core Standards. As part of the implementation schedule, students will reap the benefits of the instructional shifts that are taking place in their classroom this year as implementation across all grades has begun.

As a result, classwork and homework may become more difficult and grading practices more stringent, but the end result for our students will be higher levels of thinking and a deeper understanding of content. No longer is the curriculum a mile wide and an inch deep. This is a significant change from the fill-in-the-blank or teach-to-the-test emphasis we have seen in recent years.  

  This educational reform effort needs a strong base to insure its success. The Arizona Department of Education in partnership with many statewide organizations, including the Arizona School Administrators, Inc., provides information and resources to parents, educators, students and community and business leaders about the standards.

When we focus on the result, Arizona’s Common Core Standards is merely a term used to describe what we want for every child: rigorous standards, excellence in classroom instruction, and learning environments that engage and motivate students to grow and develop to their potential.  

-Debra Duvall, executive director, Arizona School Administrators Association.


  1. This is a stellar piece of propaganda, complete with all of the common core buzzwords. How about we speak truth instead of talking points from the NGA and CCSSO? http://www.futurereadyproject.org/messaging

    The common core standards are NOT state-led. They were initiated by the NGA and CCSSO, two non-profits supported with our tax dollars, along with major funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Trust and the Broad Foundation. http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core

    Gates has been cooking up this plan for common core since at least 2004 when he signed an agreement with UNESCO. The plan was to use public schools to build a planned economy. http://www.eagleforum.org/column/2005/nov05/05-11-30.html

    The meetings of the NGA and CCSSO were closed to the public, even though they are supported by tax dollars. http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/01/03/tax-sponsored-common-core-meetings-closed-public

    CCSSO is influenced by “corporate partners” and is nothing more than a lobbying organization. http://www.ccsso.org/Who_We_Are/Business_and_Industry_Partnerships/Corporate_Partners.html

    Calling them “Arizona’s Common Core Standards” is a joke. They are not Arizona’s, they are copyrighted by the NGA/CCSSO. The standards are exactly the same as the other states who have adopted them. States can only add 15% to the copyrighted standards and cannot remove any of the standards.

    Common Core is a national curriculum, all educators know that standards drive curriculum. Bill Gates even said it himself–http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/bill-gates-common-core-must-align-standards-to-curriculum-and-tests-video/.

    All textbooks and learning materials now available to schools have “Common Core Aligned” plastered on the cover. There will be no difference in curriculum between school districts or between states.

    You didn’t even mention the massive amount of data that will be collected on every child from preschool to the workforce (P20W), essentially creating a national database of citizens. http://politichicks.tv/column/obama-wants-childrens-data-common-core-early-learning-initiative/

    Here’s the massive list of data points to be collected on AZ children. https://ceds.ed.gov/elements.aspx This is a link directly from azed.gov

    You also forgot to mention that the Obama administration stripped parental consent from FERPA, effective Jan. 2012, allowing schools and state ed depts to share students’ personally identifiable information with virtually anyone with an “educational interest”.

    You also neglected to mention that the PARCC assessment will cost AZ taxpayers 50% more. http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/29/in-arizona-testing-costs-jump-50-percent-under-common-core/

    Your guest opinion article is grossly bereft of the real facts of common core. It’s clear that your intent is not to educate, but rather only influence the reader to support common core.

  2. While I have some concerns about Common Core, I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Duvall and Mr. Wiggins on this point: “There is no such thing as Georgia Algebra or Montana Writing. In a mobile society, and based on economies of scale, common national standards make a lot of sense.”

    We have moved with our business through a number of US states. The lack of cohesive basic national standards — not a curriculum, but a basic outline of what each K-12 grade should be covering — doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t doing our economy any favors in this era of high mobility.

    The rhetoric and fear-mongering against Common Core seems to be more of a bigger campaign against our current President than a measured, factual debate. The irony of the post above labeling Ms. Duvall’s post as ‘propaganda’ is pretty rich, given that many of Ms. Hyde’s “facts” are culled from places like the Heartland Institute – a group that was used by Philip Morris in the 1990’s to publish “policy studies” to deny the health hazards of secondhand smoke.

  3. Debra Duvall, executive director, Arizona School Administrators Association wrote: “The State Standards Initiative was a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and content experts”.
    In fact, most states adopted the common core in order to receive Race to the Top funding. According to Arizona’s College- and Career-Ready Commitment (www.achieve.org/Arizona) Common Core was adopted in Arizona in 2010. This was not a state originated project. The Obama administrated granted waivers to No Child Left Behind requirements to states adopting the common core. The money granted to states for adopting the common core was minimal and does not cover the cost of implementation. States are required to adopt the common core standards word for word. So the idea that much work was done to create or adapt the standards to Arizona’s needs is at best a misconception.

    Debra Duvall, executive director, Arizona School Administrators Association asks, “…why is there such a ruckus about common standards?” Among others noted by Kathy Hyde, some primary sources of the “ruckus” are outlined in the testimony excerpted below. Follow the links to read the entire testimony.

    Given Ms. Duvall asks the question, I wonder if she is informed enough to adequately advocate for education policy. The fact that she even asks the question leads me to believe she has not fully researched the issue. I hope she takes the time to do the research and provides a rebuttal to the criticisms outlined below in the excerpted testimony from members of the Common Core Validation committee. I hope also that readers do not assume that, because of her cited current job position, that her opinion represents the opinion of the majority of Arizona school administrators. My guess is that her opinion does not represent the majority opinion.

    Written Testimony for Indiana Senate Education Panel for Hearing on Senate Bill 373
    R. James Milgram, Ph.D.
    Emeritus Professor
    Department of Mathematics
    Stanford University
    January 23, 2012

    1. Why would we want to adopt Common Core Math Standards over Indiana Math Standards?
    Mathematically, there is no good reason to adopt Common Core Math Standards over the Indiana Standards.

    The Common Core standards claim to be “benchmarked against to international standards” but this phrase is meaningless. They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8 – 12. Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in an solid geometry course, or in the second year algebra course.

    2. What are the differences between Common Core Math Standards and Indiana Standards?
    … as someone who was at the middle of overseeing the writing process – my main duty on the CCSSO Validation Committee — it became clear that the professional math community input to CCSSI was often ignored, which seemed not to be the case with the Indiana Standards. A particularly egregious example of this occurred in the sixth and seventh grade standards and commentary on ratios, rates, proportion and percents, where there are a number of serious errors and questionable examples. But the same issues are also present in the development of the basic algorithms for whole number arithmetic – the most important topic in grades 1 -5.
    It was argued by some people on the Validation Committee that we should ignore such errors and misunderstandings as they will be cleared up in later versions, but I didn’t buy into this argument, and currently there is no movement at all towards any revisions.

    3. How do they compare with international standards?
    As I indicated above, they are more than two years behind international expectations by eighth grade. The top countries are starting algebra in seventh grade and geometry in eighth or ninth. By the end of ninth grade the students will have learned all of the material in a standard geometry course, all the material in a standard algebra I course, and some of the most important material in a standard algebra II course.


    Invited Testimony for a Hearing on Indiana Senate Bill No. 193
    Sandra Stotsky
    Professor of Education Reform Emerita
    University of Arkansas
    January 16, 2013

    My professional background:
    . Finally, I served on Common Core’s Validation Committee from 2009-2010.

    1. Why Common Core’s English language arts standards won’t lead to college readiness:
    Common Core’s “college readiness” standards for ELA are chiefly empty skill sets and cannot lead to even a meaningful high school diploma. Only a literature-rich curriculum can. College readiness has always depended on the complexity of the literary texts teachers teach and a coherent literature curriculum.

    Common Core expects English teachers to spend over 50 percent of their reading instructional time on informational texts at every grade level. It sets forth 10 reading standards for informational texts and 9 standards for literary texts at every grade level, K-12. This is not what English teachers are trained to do in any college English department or teacher preparation program. College readiness will likely decrease if the secondary English curriculum prioritizes informational reading and reduces the study of complex
    literary texts.

    Common Core’s 50/50 mandate makes it impossible for English teachers to construct a coherent literature curriculum. Common Core prevents a coherent curriculum from emerging since over 50 percent of their reading instructional time must address nonfiction or informational texts. What information are English teachers responsible for teaching?
    Common Core’s middle school writing standards are an intellectual impossibility for average middle school students. Adults have a much better idea of what “claims,” “relevant evidence,” and academic “arguments” are. But most children have a limited understanding of these concepts, even if Common Core’s writing standards were linked to appropriate reading standards and prose models. Nor does the document clarify the difference between an academic argument (explanatory writing) and persuasive writing,
    confusing teachers and students alike.

    2. Why Common Core’s standards lack a research base and international benchmarking:
    Common Core’s Validation Committee, on which I served, was supposed to ensure that its standards were internationally benchmarked and supported by a body of research evidence. Even though several of us regularly asked for the names of the countries the standards were supposedly benchmarked to and for citations to the supposed body of evidence supporting the organization and content of its standards, our requests were ignored. I can only surmise that we received no reply because Common Core’s standards are not internationally benchmarked and there is no research to support the 50/50 mandate.
    Reading researchers have since acknowledged there is no research to support Common Core’s claim that an increase in instruction in informational reading in English or other classes will make students college-ready. In addition, the organizations that developed these standards, as well as recent reports on the “validity” of Common Core’s standards financed by the Bill and Melinda
    Gates Foundation, have failed to provide evidence that Common Core’s standards

    5. Why Common Core’s standards cannot be changed: The two organizations that developed Common Core’s standards have copyrighted their documents. States that have adopted Common Core’s standards cannot change one word of the standards in them, even if their teachers find the standards confusing, placed at inappropriate levels, or poorly written. States can add up to 15% of their own standards but must assess this 15% themselves. Indiana needs public schools responsive to Indiana parents, teachers, and other citizens.


    Jim Staffnik EdD NCSP
    School Psychologist

  4. Arizona Mom: According to census data, less than 2% of students move from state to state. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_1YR_S0701&prodType=table

    Criticism of common core has nothing to do with our current president. These reform efforts were underway years before he was elected to office. He involved himself by enticing the states to adopt the CC with stimulus money (Race to the Top), by making regulatory changes to the FERPA law and his funding of the 2 testing consortium. Criticism of common core is not a left or a right issue. It is not hard to find examples of people across the political spectrum who are opposed to CC.
    You initially stated you have some concerns with common core, I encourage you to take some time to research it fully. (Actually read the dept of ed documents, read AZ’s RttT application, etc.) Measured, factual debate is taking place in legislatures, school board meetings and homes across this country. Several states have initiated legislation to pause CC implementation until ALL the information is presented. For example, how much will implementation actually cost each state and how will it be paid for since most of the states are broke? If the CC is copyrighted, how do parents and elected school board members make changes that they consider to be best for their students (local control)? How is it that governor’s and state education departments committed their states to CC BEFORE the standards were actually written and released to the public? Why can so much personally identifiable information unrelated to education be collected on students? How can that data be protected? I could go on and on. There are many unanswered questions.

  5. Debra Duvall is obviously spewing propaganda to avoid the truth, hoping the people are too dumb to notice and will just go away.

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