Education changes cause control concerns

KINGMAN - A bill in the Arizona Legislature has reopened the debate over how to best prepare students for their futures in the job market.

Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, introduced House Bill 2047 in January. The bill replaces language in current state statutes referring to the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test with language detailing the new Arizona Common Core Standards.

Because of the bill, a number of representatives in both houses of the Legislature have resurrected concerns about the Arizona Common Core standards, which replaced the AIMS test in 2010, Goodale said.

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, is one of the legislators with reservations about Arizona Common Core.

"I have gotten overwhelming input from our district that the people do not support Common Core," she said in a text message to the Miner. "I got one message from (Lake Havasu Unified School District) Superintendent Gail Malay that she supports Common Core."

It's a little late to be reconsidering Arizona Common Core now, Goodale said. The state's already implemented it and teachers have been working with the new standards for the last two years. Testing on the new education standards is supposed to start in the 2014-15 school year.

"The other group doesn't have a plan," Goodale said. "People think it's so easy to come up with new assessment tests, but it can take three to four years to develop new assessments. And we can't use AIMS. AIMS is just a disaster."

The AIMS tests didn't prepare students for the workplace or college, she said.

"We had multiple complaints [from businesses and colleges] about kids who don't know how to problem-solve by themselves," Goodale said. "I had more than 240 people sign in - business owners, educators, teachers, chambers of commerce - in support of [Common Core] at an informational hearing we had. We had 30 people sign in against it. We've spent many hours with Arizona teachers and educators to come up with these standards.

"This is truly an Arizona model."

Ward said she's worried about Arizona losing control of its education standards.

"I think we may have quite a bit of work to do on the Common Core issue so that we are truly keeping education local and not allowing a consortium of national and international 'experts' determine how we educate our kids," Ward said.

The Common Core standards were created by a consortium of teachers, business leaders and education experts from 46 states, including Arizona.

The Kingman Academy of Learning has integrated the new standards, said KAOL Administrator Susan Chan.

They are more rigorous than the old AIMS standards, she said. The reading levels, for example, require students to not only read at grade level but also understand what they read and apply it to real life.

Students must also show that same level of reading comprehension across all of their subjects, including social studies, math and science.

The Arizona Common Core standards are designed to move students away from memorization and instead provide skills needed to get a job or move on to college, Goodale said.

According to the Arizona Department of Education and the national Common Core website, the standards were not created by the federal government and were not voted on by Congress.

The Arizona Common Core standards are based on the national Common Core standards and were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010.

Having a shared set of standards can only benefit students and teachers, Goodale said.

"We have a very mobile population with people in the military and moving for jobs. Why should students be penalized if they move to another state?"

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