Facing ongoing hostility from some quarters over what they see as federal intrusion, Gov. Jan Brewer issued an edict Friday directing her agencies to stop using the term “Common Core” when referring to new education standards.
In an executive order, the governor said she was “reaffirming Arizona’s right to set education policy.’’ And her order spells out that “no standards or curriculum shall be imposed on Arizona by the federal government.”
But it concedes that the standards adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010 already are being implemented. And Brewer herself referred to them as Common Core in her State of the State speech and her budget request to the Legislature.
And press aide Andrew Wilder said that the order changes absolutely nothing about them.
That leaves only one substantive part of her directive: Use the name “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.”
The move comes amid mounting opposition by some, notably Tea Party organizations, to what members contend are standards being imposed on Arizona by those outside the state. State Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, one of the foes, said he believes Brewer is trying to blunt the opposition by confusing the issue.
For example, he said people now call state agencies to ask them the status of Common Core standards. With Brewer’s action, he said, callers will be told that Common Core no longer exists, lulling them into believing the new standards have been scrapped when that’s not true.
“This is just changing the window dressing,’’ said Diane Douglas, a Republican running for state School Superintendent. She remains convinced that, whatever the name, the standards being implemented are essentially being forced on Arizona by the federal government.
Douglas acknowledged they actually were adopted by the National Governors Association. But she said that needed federal grant dollars are linked to states agreeing to use them.
Wilder said there is no effort to confuse. Instead, he said the move will ensure that these standards “are better understood by the public.’’
And he said the changing the name will be “helpful.”
Brewer’s move comes just days after John Huppenthal, the current state school superintendent, first suggested ditching the Common Core name. He said that, to some, it connotes a federal takeover of Arizona education.
Huppenthal said he stands by the standards, saying they will “raise the bar for our students and better prepared them to succeed as they move on to college or career pathways.” But he said there are aspects of Common Core, originally proposed by the National Governors Association, that Arizona may not want to share.
“We do not want our school districts to adopt just any instructional materials with the Common Core stamp without thoroughly vetting the material,” Huppenthal said.
Just the name alone has created problems.
“With a certain segment of the population that attends different types of meetings, that name has taken on a life of its own,’’ said Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said that makes it difficult “to really discuss what’s underneath it.’’
That, he said, is ensuring that Arizona student learn what they need by the time they graduate to either be ready for a career or go on to higher education.
Douglas said that’s part of the problem.
“Is the purpose of education solely so a person can get a job?’’ she asked. Douglas said that ignores the larger purpose of creating “a highly educated intellectual human being.’’
Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, said he is pleased to see Brewer’s executive order does not change what the state Board of Education adopted in 2010. He said it’s just that the name continued to get in the way.
“In 20-20 hindsight, we should have just called them ‘Arizona’s Academic Standards,’” he said. And Morrill said if issuing an executive order -- and putting a new name on them -- is useful, “then good for her.’’
Whatever the name, funding remains an issue.
The governor in January asked legislators to earmark $40 million “for school districts and charters to provide the resources that are critical to successful implementation of Common Core.” She also had other education funding priorities.
But lawmakers instead approved an $82 million lump sum increase in school funding -- and not necessarily willingly. That is the amount the state Court of Appeals said a 2000 voter-approved measure requires schools to get in annual inflation funding, a formula lawmakers ignored for several years to save money.
The essence of Common Core is that it lays out the particular skills students are supposed to acquire at set points during their education.
All through the process, the idea is to assess students through tests, administered online, that are aligned with the new curriculum. Since all participating states should be teaching the same thing at the same time, it will allow for direct comparisons.
In signing legislation earlier this year to scrap the current high school graduation test, Brewer said the new standards “will ensure that Arizona students are measured against the most rigorous standards, holding schools accountable and providing parents a better yardstick for how their children stack up against competing students nationally and around the world.”