Officials try to quell concerns about Common Core

But they have their own concerns as well

KINGMAN - Arizona's Common Core education standards are "as conservative as they can be," and nothing to be afraid of, according to the state's top educator.

"This is a huge conservative victory," said John Huppenthal, the Arizona Superintendent of Public Education.

The new standards have raised the ire of some who think there's a nefarious agenda behind them, something that state leaders have been wrestling with since the requirements were proposed.

Huppenthal pointed to a large poster with samples from the program's standards for third grade reading and math.

The third grade reading standard requires students to be able to read, comprehend and ask and answer questions based on a sample story, he said.

The math standard requires third graders to be able to multiply and divide numbers up to 100, recite the multiplication tables from memory and understand the relationship between multiplication and division.

"Students need to know these things," Huppenthal said.

The Common Core standards for math and reading were actually created by Achieve, a group of nonprofit CEOs, state governors and the National Superintendents Association. They were upset that students were arriving in the workplace or at college without simple math or reading skills, he said.

Achieve wanted to take some of the power for creating education standards away from the academics and put it back into the hands of teachers, school districts and states, he said.

"I just want you to know this wasn't created by the Obama Administration," Huppenthal said, although he said he's concerned the federal government will "hijack" the Common Core history and science standards and include material that some people don't agree with, such as information on global warming.

"Before we go forward with any history or science standards, I promise you we will have a discussion," Huppenthal told the packed room.

He encouraged residents to go to the Arizona Department of Education's webpage, read just one of the Common Core standards and contact him if they had any concerns.

Rep. Doris Goodale, R- Kingman, pointed out Arizona developed its own version of Common Core and 92 percent of the current standards were included in the new standards.

"No one from the U.N. or the Obama Administration was involved in creating Arizona's standards," she said.

Huppenthal also encouraged residents to get involved with their school district boards and pointed out that school districts, not the state, were responsible for purchasing the textbooks and creating the curriculum necessary to meet the standards.

"The state just sets the standards. It's up to the districts to figure out how to meet them," Huppenthal said.

One resident asked about the cost to implement the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, which is designed to test students on the Common Core standards.

The federal government will pay for most of the cost to administer the test, Huppenthal said. The Arizona Legislature will set aside funding to cover the rest of the cost in its next session.

Schools do not have to test on the Common Core standards until 2014.

Goodale said the Legislature had not decided yet whether it would go with the PARCC test.

However, it did have to replace the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards test because the contract for that test had expired and the test was not a good measure of student learning, she said.

"AIMS can't compare Arizona students with any other students in any other state," Goodale said. "It was not a quality assessment and it was not an international benchmark test. Our students are going to have to be able to work with international standards."

Both Kingman Unified School District Superintendent Roger Jacks and Kingman Academy of Learning District Administrator Susan Chan said their schools started working with the Common Core standards when they were approved by the Legislature three years ago.

"The teachers are very much in favor of it at my schools," Jacks said. "They're very vocal and would have let me know otherwise."

"We feel students have to have a fighting chance," Chan said. "We immediately embraced the standards."

Kingman Unified School District Board member Laurie Barthlow asked how the schools and the state expected students who couldn't pass the AIMS test to pass the more rigorous PARCC test and didn't really get an answer.

Huppenthal stated that state education standards and schools needed to dig deeper and become more focused on helping students succeed in college and work.