No education standards, however well crafted, can teach a student how to use their minds well. Only a teacher can help accomplish this.
Yet Common Core supporters tell us the new education standards in English, language arts and math will give future generations hope, ensure access to a high-quality education and prepare students for wherever their dreams will take them.
Supporters of Common Core also tell us Arizona can opt out of the standards whenever we want, we will not have to shoulder the cost of implementation and the standards will not impact curriculum since they are separate.
They are wrong on all three counts.
Administrators and teachers tell us how many millions of dollars we have invested in implementing Common Core and training teachers, so how could Arizona possibly consider opting out and adopting our own standards, thereby maintaining our state sovereignty in education policy?
In June of 2010, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in exchange for $25 million in Race to the Top money. Normally when Arizona hands over policy control in any given area, we receive a favorable dollar-for-dollar match — two dollars for every one we put in or a three to one match. Instead, Arizona received a one to six match where even supporters of the new standards have estimated a price tag of over $150 million for the initial implementation.
The Arizona School Board Association and Arizona Association of School Business Officials estimate $48 million for teacher training, $96 million for curriculum aligned to the new standards and $13 million for the assessment.
Yet supporters still insist schools will maintain their curricular freedom. If so, then why is Arizona being told we must spend nearly $100 million we don’t have on Common Core-aligned curriculum? Aren’t standards and curriculum separate?
Nor does this include a nearly $25 million estimate in future costs to the state for additional hardware and software necessary to implement the new one-size-fits-all test that every Arizona student must take.
It gets worse.
If Arizona decides to offer our own test or a menu of tests that is more in line with the curriculum we are actually teaching in our classrooms, the federal government will threaten us with the loss of $582 million based on a 50-year-old law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
I support reasonable standards of achievement, but they are not enough on their own. What matters most is the quality of learning that occurs in the classroom: teaching that inspires and fosters student learning.
With an increased emphasis on specialization of education in K-12 along with a heavy emphasis on informational texts, the new assessment will force teachers to teach to the test, since their teacher evaluations and school letters grades are based on it, thus further chipping away at curricular freedom. This means our curricular decisions will be directed by decisions made in Washington, D.C., not Arizona.
Supporters can look very hard for the word “education” in the U.S. Constitution but they’d come up empty. It’s not in there. This means education policy should be reserved to the states.
Instead of having to spend this money on implementing federal standards, Arizona ought to reverse course and instead focus our time, talent and treasure on placing excellent teachers in every classroom.
At a recent town hall, a supporter of the standards told me we sent man to the moon with public education. She is correct. And we managed to do it without Common Core. We did it with excellent teachers.
State Rep. Paul Boyer chairs the House Education Committee. He is also a high school teacher.