Clean Elections Debate – Republican Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Meet the Republican Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction and find out where they stand on the issues. Invited to attend: Margaret Dugan, John Huppenthal and Beth Price.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. This evening's show is a debate sponsored by the citizens Clean Elections Commission. Tonight, we'll hear from the Republican candidates for state superintendent of public instruction. They are, in alphabetical order -- Margaret Dugan, a former teacher and school administrator who is currently the state's deputy superintendent of public instruction. John Huppenthal, a state senator who chairs the senate's education committee. And Beth price, a retired community college administrator. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier, we drew numbers to see who goes first, and that honor goes to -- Beth price.

Beth Price: Thank you. Thank you very much for having us here. It's wonderful to be able to present our ideas and we all have good ideas. He really was a community college administrator but I'm retired now and I've worked in K-12 for six years, since I retired and also did assessment scoring for different states through Pearson so I've been trying to for example on the what's going on in education. When he was in the community college, I was an institutional researcher. Which means that I gave assessments or at least analyzed assessments to find out where our students were coming in. They were coming in late.

Ted Simons: Ok. And we have to stop you right there. Because your time for opening statements is up. Our next opening statement comes from I believe it's Margaret. Correct?

Margaret Dugan: Yes.

Ted Simons: Go ahead.

Margaret Dugan: Thank you, Ted. Throughout my career I've championed measures that have brought about the highest quality education to our classrooms. I was the co-chair and coauthor of the 2000 initiative which required English as the language of instruction in our Arizona schools. As a former teacher, principal and district administrator and new the deputy superintendent at the Arizona department of education, I know first hand the keys to learning can be found in conservative principles. A dedicated principal, effective teachers and a comprehensive curriculum and strong program and motivated student. I was recognized in a nationally acclaimed books, "10 traits of highly effective principals" for making those principles work in two different high schools.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. And now for opening statement, John Huppenthal.

John Huppenthal: Hello, I'm John Huppenthal, the chairman of the senate education committee. I live in Chandler, but I grew up in south Tucson. One of 11 children in a poor family that focused more on putting food on the table than formal education. My high school wrestling coach changed all of that. He enrolled me at NAU. And thank you, Jack, for showing me what a teacher can make in the life of a child. Over the 18 years, I've been a leading education reformer in Arizona. The top five school districts, of them use my education reform legislation to meet high standards and support teachers in the classroom. As your superintendent of public instruction, I'll spread the methods of these top schools across the whole state so that every child can have the quality education he or she deserves.

Ted Simons: Thank you all four your opening statements. Let's get the conversation started. Beth, the state of education in Arizona. How would you improve education in this state?

Beth Price: Well, I do have a plan already in place. To bring up students to -- two grades in one year. This will eliminate having students be remediated. And when they're ready to go into ninth grade, they are ready. And that will change education.

Ted Simons: Ok, Margaret, the overall state of education right now. Lots of critics. What do you see, what needs to be improved?

Margaret Dugan: Well, I think that's one of the biggest misnomers in our public is that all of the schools in Arizona are abysmal and that's not true. We have a lot of great schools in Arizona and I would like to dispel that myth. We have schools that are doing photograph and we have -- fantastic and we have some that need help. If you look at my track record, I turned around two different high schools. Schools that were low-performing and they became high-achieving and I would like to go into schools that have low achievement and really do an audit to see what's causing their low achievement and I can't really -- I can really quickly identify what is making schools that are low performance and it really will probably be one of those five elements I shared earlier. Principal that's not effective or teachers not effective in the classroom? And we need to look at that from the state department and give those schools the assistance and resources they need. One of the things I did in both of those schools is to make sure that the teachers were teaching the academic standards and making sure that the students were held accountable for learning them and if they weren't, the schools were put in intervention to help the slower learners to learn the academic standard that's the schools are intended to teach.

Ted Simons: John, lots of critics don't like what they see, what about you?

John Huppenthal: We have states that have been moving and one is Florida. The lesson is you have to have top-notch accountability system. And in this year, I put through legislation that's going to enable not just the hold schools accountable, but school districts. With my legislation, we're going to have a clear letter grade system for every school district, A-F, based on their ability to move students up academically. We have the Tucson unified school district where the typical student moves down relative to their peers. Florida's literacy rates moved 30% relative to Arizona.

Ted Simons: I want to get back to Florida. But Margaret, regarding accountability, you mentioned good teachers and principals. How do you measure a good teacher and principal?

Margaret Dugan: First, you have a competent principal that knows good instruction in the classroom and having assessments that -- formative throughout the school year and then a summative one like the AIMS test that you can gauge. How you gauge the teacher's effective is through classroom management of learning and discipline. And there are other metrics that you can measure your teachers. There's teaming and three ways I instituted in both schools I was a leader. One of the things you need do is look at your data each year on the test results. You need to identify the goals you want your teachers to identify each year. And then set those goals for the following year and every year you look at results and have teacher teams working together and as a principal, you set those goals with your teachers and work as teams in order to create teaming with your teachers and without teaming and looking at results and setting goals, you're going not going to have academic achievement.

Ted Simons: Accountability in the classroom, how do you measure it?

Beth Price: Evaluation, as Margaret said, you have more than one way to evaluate a teacher. Whether they are performing there. And you have to look and see if your teachers need to have improvement and give them the development process that they need to better themselves.

Ted Simons: In terms of accountability, Margaret mentioned the AIMS test. I want your thoughts on that, and there are critics of that particular test that say basically what you teach the students to do is be better test takers as opposed to giving a better education. How would you respond?

John Huppenthal: I think the issue of teacher accountability is paramount to improving our schools. There are systems called 360-degree review and peer evaluation and when put in schools, they're powerful for motivating teachers to improve. Peers are much tougher than principals have been. Systematically, we need to propagate that concept of quarterly reviews of a teacher by her peers and -- peers and have money hanging on it and when you do that, it's a positive feedback cycle that moves schools ahead. To go to the issue of the AIMS test. We need a number of things, we've had evaluation of our math standards and at the came in at less than excellent and we need to make sure they move smoothly to excellence in mathematic achievement. We need a review of math standards and need to integrate that into AIMS and further, we need to integrate into AIMS a history component. One that teaches students about the great history of the -- the history of our nation, respect for the constitution and also a tremendous contribution of our founding fathers. So there are a number of improvements that we need to make in AIMS to bring it up to par.

>> I would --

Ted Simons: But the critics say you're teaching kids teaching to the test and kids are taking test-related questions and courses and not necessarily getting a better education.

Margaret Dugan: First, we have the academic standards adopted by our state board of education, in order to test those standards you have to find out if the teachers are teaching them and whether or not the students are learning them. And the only way, is through an assessment, or test. And every animal on the face of the earth can successfully teach their young what they want them to learn. The only animal that cannot is the human animal. And so if we want to know what we -- We have to identify what it is we want them to learn and that's what the academic standards have done and the AIMS test is doing. It's an identification of what do we want our students to be able to do at the end of each year. And then you build an assessment and that validates each grade level for teachers what it is they're accountable for teaching at each grade level and it's not just teaching the test but the content of that test and that's important -- the content of that test, and that's important to make sure our teachers are accountable for teaching the content.

Ted Simons: AIMS test, keep it or lose it?

Beth Price: Right now, we have to keep it. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to develop a test like that. I don't support going to the national assessment of educational progress. Which is supported by the department of education. I think our AIMS test is much better than that. And I have graded assessments under it and the AIMS is better, but I would like to see the next level go to learning outcomes and establishing the teachers in learning communities and work on learning outcomes. We were very successful in that in the community college.

Ted Simons: Ok --

John Huppenthal: You know, in the testing system, you want movement over time. You really want to hold schools accountable, not just for the where the student is at the end of the year, but where they move them from and to. That's key. The Florida reforms focused on that. They put more weight in holding schools accountable and school districts. Where are you moving the student? From the 30th to the 35th percentile and doing it year after year - that's an excellent school even though the child came to them at a low level of achievement. That is key. If we disregard AIMS, we lose longitudinal database. We have to make this more accurate at the upper end. Above the 85% percentile. And at the lower end. That prevents us from moving our accountability.

Margaret Dugan: We've moved to a growth model. Where the students have come into us and that's important for our schools to be viewed and be held accountable for. Especially our schools in the low socioeconomic areas but we need to be careful that we look at absolute growth as well as continuous improvement. So we need to look at both ends for the absolute passing and also the growth model to ensure we don't just rest on growth as the only indicator.

Ted Simons: The -- Florida has been mentioned a couple of times here. Some would say that Florida has success in academics and education because Florida spends more money per pupil than Arizona. Lots of states do. The numbers are flying around but we're certainly not the tomorrow or near the top of that list. Of Arizona revenues enough to meet education needs. Are we doing enough in terms of spending on public education if.

Margaret Dugan: Well, I think one of the big areas that we really need to review is how we're spending our money. I think the auditor general says 50 cents of a dollar is going to the classroom. I would like to see at least 70 cents go to the classroom. Where are we spending our money? And make sure that the classroom has more of the dollar that's being spent.

Ted Simons: That would suggest you think we're spending enough on education.

Margaret Dugan: It's how we're spending our money. This is what is happening in many of our low-socioeconomic schools. When they don't progress, we have vendors who come in and sell more products they don't necessarily need. We know more about teaching reading and math than we've known and yet we keep changing the way and a new program, and basically it's the same way but new packaging and spend more and more with these vendors and we need to get back to teaching good basic teaching, that's the magic. It's the magician in the classroom and not the wand that we continue to change.

Ted Simons: Let me stop you.

Margaret Dugan: Ok.

Ted Simons: Are we spending enough as far as education is concerned? And a lot of budget cuts. You were in the legislature as these came through. Were these a good thing for education?

John Huppenthal: Well, we have had states across the nation cuts budgets. Democrats, legislatures, we did a better job in protecting education than any state in the nation given our challenge. But spending is never an excuse for failing to protect our academic outcomes. We've been relatively flat. And the research is clear, it's policies that move outcomes, not spending. The key in reading is we need chains across the system. The national council on teacher quality came in and criticized our colleges of education for their failure to prepare teachers to teach reading. We need to implement those reforms in our colleges of education. The Florida center for reading research has done new and innovative things. When we're flat and they're moving, we ought to pay attention. We're going to put in place a partnership with the Florida center for reading research and bring it here and start moving our children.
Ted Simons: Beth, are we doing a good job of protecting education? As Mr. Huppenthal said.

Beth Price: I think within the education, we can be a lot better. The administrators have high salaries. If there's a problem and the superintendent has a problem, sometimes it's not solved, you just hire another person to do it and then it protects the superintendent. Well, that takes money away from the classroom. And also we do not have a good continuance from eighth grade to ninth grade, for instance, the scores go down in the ninth grade. Because the teachers are not talking across the schools.

Margaret Dugan: I would like to add one issue on the spending. This year, there were a lot of legislative bills passed in our legislature. And many of those have no appropriation tied to them and our legislators are banking on money coming in from race to the top. A grant through the Obama administration. Now, they're hoping and to me, hope is not a strategy. And if we do not win this grant, which I don't think we really are, all of these costs are going to flow to the school districts and that's what bothers me. Our legislature continues to pass educational bills with no appropriation. That to me is not a very good idea. Not good policy that our legislators continue to do.

Ted Simons: We have little time left. I want to get this in. A lot of people are concerned with all-day kindergarten. Let's forget how much it costs. Just the concept, there's a lot of research that suggests it helps kids get a head start or get going. Do you think all-day kindergarten is a good thing?
John Huppenthal:Ted-- For parents it's a safe place to put their child but the research is absolutely clear. They spent $78 million following students from the start of kindergarten through eighth grade. The most comprehensive study done. They were behind all day on math and reading. When they started, ahead. The research you're referring to is second rate research --

Ted Simons: Department of education, childhood longitudinal study.

John Huppenthal: The best study done in the history of the world, $78 million spent tracking 28,000 students, and the Rand Corporation did the analysis. My point is this, if you have topnotch research we ought to find out what is going on, all-day kindergarten is a good service for parents but we ought to know why these effects are showing up and cautioning parents to be a good consumer.

Ted Simons: All-day kindergarten.

Beth Price: I second what he said and I know about the research, too, and I think I have substituted in the kindergarten. And about half a day is good if you really pack it in well. And I think that the research tells us that sooner or later, it doesn't make any difference.

Ted Simons: Ok. 30 seconds.

Margaret Dugan: Ok. I don't know when that study was done that cost $78 million. But being in education for over 30 years, there's a lot of educational studies that I flush that don't make sense to me and I've visited a lot of kindergarten classes and my sister teaches kindergarten. When all kids can read at the end of kindergarten, it's a good thing. There's a lot of ways in education and I think all-day kindergarten is good money spent for kids to learn and we have academic studies. Maybe when the study was done, there weren't academic standards.

Ted Simons: We've got to stop there, because we have to have time for closing statements. Each candidate has one minute and going in reverse order. We start with John Huppenthal.

John Huppenthal: Thank you, Ted. As superintendent, I pledge my team will take a back-to-basics approach to approving Arizona schools, one that sets high standards for all students. To ensure students learn to read and write English in English immersion classes and insist or accountability based on the best of scientific measurements. These ratings involve parents and increase school choice and support teachers in maintaining classroom discipline and demand school administrators reduce overhead and return -- put that savings back in the classroom to support teachers and classroom supplies. Reading is fundamental, we'll engage in an all-out effort that all students read by the end of third grade and respect for the constitution and I am proud to be endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Jeb Bush from Florida.

Ted Simons: We'll stop you right there. Next up is Margaret Dugan.

Margaret Dugan: Thank you, Ted, for having me here. It saddens me that my opponent has broken the law before forming a formal campaign committee and he'll remain on the ballot. We need a superintendent who sets a positive example for students and doesn't violate the laws. Do you want a politician who is endorsed by politicians and lobbyists or a successful career educator endorsed by students and parents to run your schools and be your next superintendent of public instruction? I ask for your vote on August 24 and your trust in leading our Arizona schools to be the very best in this country. Thank you.

Ted Simons: And finally, Beth price with a one-minute closing statement.

Beth Price: Since I got my -- the Ph.D. in educational administration from the university of Texas at Austin, my thing I've tried to in every way is support our students. Because I love our students. And we should do everything within our power to help them and that's what I will do. As superintendent.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. And thank you, for watching this clean elections debate.

Margaret Dugan;John Huppenthal;Beth Price;

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