Apr 172013

By Naomi Hatch
Arizona’s Common Core Standards are being implemented across the state. The Arizona Department of Education website states the reason is, “To ensure that all students have the academic knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, career and life.”
Drew Griffin, an educator in Snowflake, who is from a family of educators for three generations, encouraged those attending the April 11 meeting of the Snowflake School District Governing Board to read the standards. The Utah State School Board has a website that gives facts and fiction surrounding the standards, according to Griffin.
“I think there are two competing interests that need to balance when considering the standards,” he said, noting that one is local control, and that he believes the other is our children’s education in this local community and preparing them, because they will be participants in a global world.
“I think we need to consider those issues when we determine what to do,” said Griffin.
Misty Brimhall said she had gathered a lot of information and went over a few things about misunderstanding Common Core. She said she felt that Arizona did it for the $22 million, noting 49 states signed into it and four have gotten out.
“Parents have some concerns about the literature, about some of the things that will be eliminated,” Brimhall said, noting that some of the curriculum is a concern, but State Senator Chester Crandell, R-Heber, is trying to make sure those things don’t come.
“This is on the state level,” Brimhall said, suggesting that if we want to fight the state, the governing board members, principals, superintendent and parents all need to call the legislators.
“I believe that our administrators are doing the best they can to help our children. I believe that they do have the best interest of our children,” said Brendee Peterson. “With that said, I went to the meeting at the high school and I had some red flags.” She said she then studied the issue on her own, and, “My gut and my heart tell me things aren’t right with Common Core. There are some good things, but I don’t think we know the whole picture.”
Peterson said that the pros of the issue “say that the local administration, school boards and parents will have a say, but I believe when government gets involved then we are going to have less of a say.
“I know that your hands are tied, I know the administrators’ hands are tied, there’s not much we can do on a school board level, on an administrative level, but I think we need to let our voices be heard that we want this out of the State of Arizona,” said Peterson.
District Superintendent Hollis Merrell explained that generally he would not be able to speak to call to the public comments, but he had put this on the agenda under the superintendent’s report, so he addressed the issue stating, “We’re all here for the same reason, we love the school and the students, and want to see it succeed.”
Merrell said he had heard rumors that parents were taking their children out of the district if they did not opt out of Common Core. He explained that he felt the answer was in the public school, because this is something that is required, but public schools are the only place that has local control, pointing out that charter schools are state funded, would be required to use Common Core and don’t have control like public schools do.
“I have full confidence in our school board and confidence in our teachers to know what is acceptable in our community,” said Merrell.
“There have been some things thrown out there,” said Merrell. “Mr. Griffin pointed out that there are extremes.”
Merrell said that the district has been improving. “Our teachers are working tremendously hard to achieve that type of success with our students. I feel like we’re offering a pretty good product here, but we can improve” he said.
“What’s happening now are things we deal with every year, every legislative session, and our goal as administrative side is to keep this away from the teachers…allow teachers to do those things that help make the students successful,” said Merrell.
He went on to say that there could be an economic impact if parents take students out of school and that would impact the community, because the school district is the largest employer in the area now.
Merrell explained that education has always had standards; if they don’t have Common Core there will be some other type of standards. “I think there are some good things with that,” he said, noting that for several years the district has been considered the top school in the area for student performance, and he thought it would be interesting to see where they are nationally.
“We certainly want them to leave here and be successful,” he said.
Merrell reminded those attending that there are things that can be done locally. “We chose not to accept money for Race to the Top,” he said.
“We still have decisions that we can make locally,” he said, pointing out that with Common Core the district can make many of the decisions, such as the books used. “We still look at those things and make those decisions with the interest of what’s acceptable in our local community.” He said that staff members are being trained for the rigor of Common Core that is going away from memorization to analytical teaching.
Governing board member Shea Flake read the following statement, which each member had approved, noting that the purpose was “not to defend or decry Common Core, but to invite the community to be more involved in what is happening in the classroom.”
“I have spent the last three days looking at both sides of the Common Core issue, and have found more questions and concerns than answers. I have read about data mining, about the loss of the classics in English, about changing the way math is taught and many more topics. The issue is apparent, a lack of trust in the federal government and how much the Common Core allows the federal government to take over public education,” said Flake.
“I wish I had a solution or an easy fix for the Common Core debate, but I don’t. What I do have is a passion for our local school district and the employees who work many hours, often without pay. They do this because they love the students that attend. They do it because they have a vested interest in what the kids learn. While we do have things to work on, this much I know that having six kids attend our district, the teachers are more concerned about what is taught than someone at the state or federal level.”
Merrell announced that he will be holding meetings with small groups so questions about Common Core can be addressed.