Arizona Approves Minor Changes to Common Core Standards

Published February 13, 2017

The Common Core State Standards are a set of national standards dictating what students should know at the end of each grade level. ASBE voted to repeal the standards in October 2015 and approved new standards by an 8–1 vote in December 2016. One of the biggest changes in the new standards is a requirement that students learn cursive writing by 5th grade. The standards also add new spelling requirements for K–3 students and lessons for elementary school students about time and money. 

Diane Douglas, the state superintendent of public instruction, campaigned in 2014 on repealing Common Core. She publicly characterized the recent revisions as the end of Common Core in the state.

“These new standards represent the final step in the repeal and replacement of the Common Core in Arizona, and they reflect the thoughts and recommendations of thousands of Arizona citizens,” Douglas said in a press release following the approval of the revised standards. “The federally mandated Common Core Standards were initially adopted by the [ASBE] in 2010 without a thorough public review, which deeply frustrated many Arizonans. That lack of public input became an even larger concern as problems with the standards were identified, many of which were related to the resulting curricula.”

‘Minor Wording Changes’

Olga Tarro, who served as a parent member of the technical review committee charged with reviewing the new standards, says the changes are merely cosmetic.

“[The] State Board of Education and Department of Education call minor wording changes or removing a few examples or moving the examples to a table a ‘change’ in standards,” Tarro said. “Parents don’t see that as changing the standards.”

Tarro says most Arizonans have given up on getting rid of Common Core.

“I don’t think there’s a political will in Arizona to do something different,” Tarro said. “I think everybody has closed up shop and said, ‘We closed the book on Common Core.’

“We didn’t solve the problem,” said Tarro. “We just said we did. You know, what it comes down to, as parents, we are told our rights end at the schoolroom door. When my tax dollars and my child’s education are at the forefront of my mind, I would like my parental rights to mean something.”

‘Common Core-Plus’

Jared Taylor, a member of ASBE, cast the sole dissenting vote against the standards. Taylor says the revised standards are effectively the same as Common Core.

“The standards are Common Core-plus,” Taylor said. “They cleaned up a lot of the language examples, but the real crux of it is still Common Core. There is only 4 to 6 percent of the Common Core standards that was significantly changed. They were cosmetic changes.”

Taylor says ASBE did not allow parents to provide input.

“I expressed my concern that we did not do what the governor asked us to do,” Taylor said. “We can’t legitimately say that these are standards with parents’ support, because the parents selected to review the standards and have meaningful discussions just never had that opportunity. I objected to it because it’s just not appropriate to just rubber-stamp something that the parents didn’t have appropriate input on.”

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.