Response to John Huppenthal's Common Core Name Change

by Carol Clesceri

September 24, 2013

I would like to respond to several inaccurate statements made by Superintendent John Huppenthal in a September 17 Arizona Republic article written by Cathryn Creno, and a recent Channel 12 Sunday Square Off appearance with Brahm Resnik

In an attempt to control the anti-Common Core narrative when speaking in the public arena, Superintendent Huppenthal proposed two solutions: 1) Change the name from “Common Core Standards” to “Arizona College and Career Ready Standards”; and 2) Withdraw AZ from a national coalition that developed the standards.  Really?

State Board of Education member, Jaime Molera, (who also was the director of Governor Brewer’s pro-Medicaid expansion Restoring Arizona) indicated a possible reluctance to a name change, not because growing numbers of Arizonans are questioning the rationale of our Governor and State Board of Education adopting these standards, but because he didn’t “want to overreact to a small group of extremists.  The article states the groups he (Huppenthal) has spoken to are mainly tea party groups.  Huppenthal himself labels tea party groups as lacking sophistication and needing to up their game.  See the video link here

I believe both the writer and Huppenthal are missing the picture.  There are many bi-partisan organizations and individuals besides the tea party expressing opposition to Common Core and the vast majority of them are not extremists.  They are sophisticated, thoughtful, and respectful in their questions and concerns.  They have carefully reviewed much of the Common Core curricula.

few of these voices include:  nationally known educational historian and Democrat, Diane Ravitch; Bi-partisan precinct committeemen's resolution against Common Core in Bergen County, New Jersey; Democratic Teachers Against Common CoreLeft-Right Alliance for Educationpsychologists in addition to the National GOP, the National Federation of Republican Women resolutions against Common Core, and signed letters from U.S. Republican House Representatives and Senators to the U.S. Department of Education. 

Their valid concerns include:  1) what and how curriculum is being taught in classrooms; 2) an unconstitutional federal overreach to standardize the education of our children; 3) the massive cost of implementing such a system without any cost analysis or public input which would constitute taxation without representation; 4) data collection of private student and teacher information without consent;  and 5) loss of state and local control. 

Governor Brewer has unilaterally decided to settle the name change debate by issuing Executive Order 2013-08which officially declares the national standards will henceforth be named Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.  Merely changing the name doesn’t give Arizona ownership or control of national standards which are owned and copyrighted by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The Common Core official website states “NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made”.  Arizona may choose to add up to 15% additional standards but will be responsible for any testing of those additions apart from the national consortia testing. 

So much for Arizona claiming the standards as their own.

Huppenthal believes that it has become “nearly impossible” to talk about academics and the needs of school children without anti-Common Core sentiment muddying issues.  I submit that it is all but impossible to do otherwise.  Common Core is exactly what muddies academics and needs of school children.  Huppenthal proposes to have Arizona sever formal ties with national Common Core groups.  How can anyone rationally believe there will be no federal ties to Common Core simply by dropping the association with these groups, while still retaining their standards, materials, common core aligned curriculum, and assessments?  

When competing for Race to the Top federal grant money, Arizona had to agree to adopt the Common Core national standards even if our state wasn’t awarded funds.  Even if the NGA and CCSSO incorporated any of Arizona’s suggestions into the national standards (which they won't), I fail to see how Arizona can claim them as our own independent college and career ready standards.  Wouldn’t every other state do the same?   

The real tragedy here is people don’t fully understand the consequence of adopting national standards owned and copyrighted by Washington D.C. trade based associations.  When parents, teachers, school boards, legislators, or governors find an issue with any standard, they are at the mercy of far distant agencies that have sole discretion to change any standard, now or in the future.  

The only outside voice these agencies may listen to comes from a major private-sector funder, the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, which coincidentally has provided funding to practically every facet of Common Core.  One could easily assume Bill Gates is Common Core.  Even if NGA and CCSSO were granted authority from the states (which they don’t have), then ethical questions would certainly arise from the major private-sector funding.

If Common Core’s claim that its untested standards and assessments are internationally benchmarked and will develop great critical thinkers despite five members of their own Validation Committee refusing to sign off on them, then why have so many states initiated legislation to withdraw from the assessment consortia?  Why have they rejected the new standards, conducted cost analyses, and/or investigated the legality of the collection/storage of excessive student private information in massive databases?   Why have they called for a pause for public hearings?  Why do so many citizens, including many Arizonans, feel they have been coerced, without public input, into a federally controlled education system?

Here are my questions for State Superintendent John Huppenthal:  How can you claim to champion school choice when Common Core will eliminate school choice?  How can you believe changing the name of Common Core Standards somehow justifies ceding state control of education to the federal government and D.C. based trade associations?  How can you expect teachers to retain the love of teaching when a teacher’s creativity is being stifled and their job security depends so heavily on test scores?  How can you not see that you are contributing to the loss of the America I grew up in and love?