Common Core Repeal

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The State Board of Education has voted to repeal Common Core education standards today, but it is not a complete repeal. The repeal does open the door to a full repeal. Former Superintendent of Public Instruction and former board of education member Jaime Molera will tell us what today’s vote means.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a big step today towards repealing Common Core standards. A national expert on cyber security will talk about data breaches and lessons learned. And the co-founder of Bloomberg News will discuss how business journalism is changing in the digital age. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Christina Estes. Ted Simons has the night off. The state board of education moved a step closer to tossing out Common Core standards. The board voted today to remove the copyright on the Common Core curriculum, a move that opens the door to repealing the standards. Here to tell us more is former superintendent of public instruction Jaime Molera, who was also on the board of education. Serving a couple of terms as president, thanks for coming in, we appreciate it.

JAIME MOLERA: Good to be here.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What does today's action mean?

JAIME MOLERA: It doesn't mean a lot.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Well great, see you later.

JAIME MOLERA: It's very symbolic in nature, even Governor Ducey said it was very much a symbolic gesture. What they did was they said they were going to repeal common core but we're going to keep it until we modify it. So essentially, they're doing what they always have done and what they always could do is they have the standards in place, they're not going away. But they can modify them and that was as you recall one of the things Governor Ducey talked about that he didn't want to get riff this wholesale unlike superintendent Douglas but he wanted to see a review of the standards and look at how educators, business leaders, folks would say okay what are good real, academic standards that we need to deep versus stuff that might be more political in nature? And so that's the process that we're under right now.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So let's go back a little bit because you were on the board and explain how we reached this point because we don't call it common core technically, although we kind of in more casual conversation call it common core but the name change and everything. Go back to 2010, you were on the board, what did you guys do?

JAIME MOLERA: It was analogous -- what happened at that time with then-governor jan brewer, she decreed we don't have common core in Arizona, what we have is the Arizona college and career ready standards and people said aren't they the same standards and aren't we going to test and isn't that where we're expecting schools to be measured with? Yes, but we changed the name. So today was I hereby repeal common core but they're still doing the same thing, keeping the standards in place.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So then what is the next step?

JAIME MOLERA: So the next step is something that the board has already put in place and that is to do a review of the standards, to get input from the public, they're going to 16 communities across Arizona. As a matter of fact, tonight they're going to be in Prescott having a town hall meeting essentially. Folks can go online to the state board website, offer their opinions but the thing that folks I think we're losing sight of is what are we going to do with these standards? That's the key piece of this, in my opinion, and we haven't talked a lot about because we've been stuck in this political drama between what's happening with Diane Douglas and the state board. They can start to focus on what are the accountability mechanisms we're going to put in place because of those standards?

CHRISTINA ESTES: So back in 2010 when you were on the board and you guys voted for these standards that changes from being called common core to Arizona career and college ready?

JAIME MOLERA: Yes.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What was it that you guys went to at that time? It wasn't like you pulled them out of a hat, right?

JAIME MOLERA: Right well this was a discussion that was taking place nationally. There was organizations and U.S. chamber of commerce, a lot of major education organizations, a lot of groups saying the standards we had before, the aims standards that Arizona had before, the instrument to measure standards, those were really a mile wide and an inch deep. Most educators said those aren't good standards because when kids are graduating from Arizona high schools, you had over 50% of those kids that were deficient in what they needed to be prepared for, our universities and even for some colleges. They had to take a lot of remedial courses to be ready in math and language arts, reading and writing. And so the argument was we need to do something and it wasn't just educators saying this. It was the Arizona chamber of commerce that had been incredibly aggressive in saying we need these standards, the greater Phoenix leadership, greater Phoenix chamber of commerce, all the major business groups were behind the push to say look, we need better standards, we believe these at the time common core are much stronger, we need to move in that direction. We always believed that they were going to be an evolving set of standards and in education you need to. They need to adapt with what kids need to know to be successful. That was always the intent.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Explain the difference. I think this might be where sometimes people get confused, what's the difference between standards and curriculum?

JAIME MOLERA: So there's a big difference. And curriculum is still set by the local schools, by the local school district, boards of education or excuse me local school boards or charter schools. Charter schools are able to design the curriculum that they feel is important. That does not change and that's been one of the myths around this whole national standards effort around common core that the feds are coming in and they have blessing of the United Nations and they're going to push these standards down our kids' throat as part of an international agenda to get education out of the hands of the United States. And it's kind of a silly argument but it's an argument that's been perpetuated time and time again but the curriculum development, which books they're going to use, how are teachers going to teach, what is the pedagogy in the classroom, that is still done at the local level. The state doesn't have any say over that and certainly, the federal government has no say over that.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So the standards are outlines on what students are supposed to know or should know. How do we test those and how do we know? You said they're meant to be tweaked along the way?

JAIME MOLERA: So a good example is kids need to have a good basis of how do they manipulate fractions? And usually that happens in middle school. If you can't manipulate fractions, you're going to be lost in algebra because in algebra in order to deal with those formulas, you have to have those basic skills. Being able to test that and being able to determine whether or not those kids have those basic skills in order to be successful going into higher levels of mathematics, those are the kinds of things that we're trying to get at as a state. A big component is reading by the third grade. How do we make sure kids have the basic literacy skills, the phonics awareness, those key pieces that will help them learn to read as they get into the higher levels of education? But you have to be able to test that and you have to be able to measure that in a way that makes sense.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So we have until I think it's mid- to late November, the state board of education is collecting input on common core, which is technically Arizona college and career ready, what will they do with that? What do they do with that information and do you expect to see changes?

JAIME MOLERA: I do and like I said that was a process that was already put in place. So I think there's always room for clarity in what the standards are asking for. A teacher needs to know specifically what kinds of things are they expected -- and quite frankly, for parents too, what are some of the skills your kids need to have in order to be successful, in order to move on but it goes back to that fact that I gave you earlier. When we have over half of our kids deficient in some of the core academic areas after they receive a diploma from one of our schools, it should be -- we shouldn't countenance that. That should be an unacceptable policy for the state. So we need to make sure that whatever the standards are that we're moving for -- forward with, how we're going to design a finance system that really gets kids career and college ready, if we're serious about that and not just give out the rhetoric.

CHRISTINA ESTES: In light of today's vote, what is the message to schools and to districts that have spent the past four years or so training teachers and making adjustments?

JAIME MOLERA: Well, hopefully, folks aren't going to listen to this program or read the paper tomorrow and just say oh, yeah, we threw that away and we're starting all over. That's just not the case. School districts and charter schools are going to continue to function under current standards that we've put in place. Again there might be some modifications to them. I do not see based on what I've heard, based on what the testimony has been from our major education groups, major school districts around the state, even the charter schools association, they're not asking for wholesale changes, they're saying that there is a very strong set of standards that we have. We can make them a little bit clearer, we can tweak them but that's what we need to move forward with.

CHRISTINA ESTES: We'll certainly talk about this again and we'll count on you, thank you very much. It's an issue that impacts all of us, from the federal government and big corporations to the smallest business and individuals.

Jaime Molera: Former Superintendent of Public Instruction and Former Arizona Board of Education Member

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