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Raising expectations for Arizona’s schools

As a product of Arizona public schools and former resident, I am saddened by the bill recently passed in the Arizona House of Representatives on March 11 to repeal the implementation of Common Core State Standards. This bill, House Bill 2190, is not in the best interest of children in Arizona, and I firmly believe it will only pull the state’s ranking in education quality down further. I am an advocate for the Common Core Standards and am reaching out to invite other educators, parents, and residents to stand together in support of establishing higher expectations for students in Arizona.

Rebecca Hipps

Rebecca Hipps

In 2012, my husband and I moved to Washington, D.C.  I had many goals for this move, including developing my teaching practice. After teaching for three years in Arizona, I was disappointed by the level of professional development I received. What I did not expect to experience in my transition was the stark difference between expectations of students and rigor of curriculum.

I have a vested interest in Arizona’s success. As the descendent of some of Arizona’s founding pioneers, it disappoints me that we have failed the Arizona founding families. The west was once viewed as place of progress and hope. Instead, legislators are making decisions for Arizona that keep its students stuck in the past, far below their potential.

Arizona students need the Common Core Standards for many reasons.

First, these standards empower students to think critically about texts placed before them. This is an essential skill, not only for college and career readiness, but to prepare our students to be thoughtful, engaged citizens in our country. As future voters, I hope all children develop the ability to study and weigh options for themselves and make an informed decision. Additionally, the Common Core English Language Arts standards require students to be proficient in writing and speaking and listening skills. The ability to write or deliver well-supported, evidence-based arguments will open college and career opportunities for Arizona’s students. Finally, the CCSS Math standards demand more mathematical reasoning from our students.

There is a lot of misinformation surfacing on social media portraying the “new math” as confusing or illogical. In reality, the standards expect students to not simply memorize and regurgitate formulas and algorithms, but to articulate the logic and reasoning behind these processes. In my experience, students proficient in these standards develop flexible thinking, where they can apply mathematical processes to a variety of situations and problems. This kind of flexible problem solving is an asset in most careers.

As a former teacher in Arizona, I can testify that the previous standards were not only less rigorous, but more prescriptive. The CCSS are actually more flexible and leave more room for schools and teachers to study standards together and make decisions about best practices for implementation. These standards are more about depth than breadth.  Teachers are not assigned a laundry list of arbitrary facts to cover within a school year, but instead can teach a deeper set of essential skills, necessary for becoming life-long thinkers and learners.

My greatest fear in Arizona repealing the CCSS is that poorly developed standards with a hidden agenda will take its place. The development and rollout of CCSS has been in the works for years. The Senate will hold hearings on House Bill 2190 this month, and if Arizona chooses to repeal, I ask its legislators to answer these questions: “What now?  How much longer can our students wait to receive the high quality education they deserve? How does the state plan to fund new standards, especially after the recent cut to state education funding?”

Instead of repealing and replacing the standards with something the state will scramble to develop, the State Department of Education should revise its plan for supporting the standards. In reviewing much of the anti-Common Core literature and videos surfacing on the Internet, I have found that many people are citing materials as “Common Core-aligned” that I would argue are not aligned to the standards at all. Districts and school leaders should invest in training that empowers stakeholders to identify high-quality, Common Core-aligned lessons and professional development. Instead of handing teachers “Common Core approved” curriculum, they should engage teachers in looking at best practices and developing rigorous materials themselves.  Choosing to implement Common Core is not giving into “overreach from the federal government.” Rather it is choosing to become a part of a national conversation about what great teaching looks like.

–Rebecca Hipps, who received a BA in elementary education and an MA in literacy curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University, teaches 2nd grade at Maury Elementary School in Washington D.C.

4 comments

  1. James P. Krehbiel

    Rebecca,

    This article is exceptionally well written and provides a clear understanding of the utility of Common Core outcomes. As a former educator in Arizona, I am well aware of the lack of priority placed on education in this state. In the midterm election, Arizona had an opportunity to elect a pro-education governor and failed to provide that leadership. I am glad you have found a new home where schooling is valued and are using your skills to help our children. We are lucky to have you teaching our youth. Best wishes!

  2. Mr. Mustashio :-{O

    After hearing some rhetoric, I read the actual math standard and was glad to see “FOIL” is discouraged. I moved between Jr and High school and was confused by my colleagues’ use of the unfamiliar acronym. Now I have an EE degree where math is esessential.

    However, Krehbiel’s claim that Az didn’t elect the education-minded govenor is largely incorrect. The former Board of Regents member increased money, but that’s a false equivalence. (And unnecessary, per the State Constitution.)

  3. James P. Krehbiel

    As a teacher, Mr. Mustahio’s claim that the Doug Doucey Administration is “educationally-minded” is absurd. I am shocked that any educator would make this claim when Arizona schools are ranked dead last in per-pupil spending along with Mississippi! The railroaded educational package just passed by the Doucey team is money that should have already been allocated for our schools due to inflation. Doucey ignored a lawsuit levied against the state for failing to keep its promises to fund AZ schools. I can’t imagine that Mr. Mustahio actually works in our public schools. He certainly does not represent the majority of teacher sentiments in Arizona.

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