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Douglas faces Common Core supporters on Board of Education

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PHOENIX – Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas’ tough stance on Arizona’s use of the Common Core State Standards for Education may not be a winning argument with at least some of her fellow State Board of Education members.

At Douglas’ first meeting Monday, two of the 10 other board members criticized bills before the state Legislature that would dismantle Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards. Meanwhile, the president offered a pointed response to Douglas’ suggestion that the board recognize all stakeholders in considering the standards.

In response to two bills targeting the Common Core, board member James Dale Rottweiler, president of Cochise College, said the standards were set up so education officials can measure things equally.

“I personally am all for higher standards,” he said.

Noting that three-quarters of incoming students at Cochise College require some form of remedial instruction in math, Rottweiler said the standards might help them.

“Those were students who had graduated from high school,” he said. “Clearly we have some gap in there.”

Reginald Ballantyne, vice president and new member of the board, shared his concern about HB 2190, authored by Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, which would bar Arizona from implementing the Common Core.

“That looks like a nuclear explosion,” Ballantyne said, adding, “I know these are public meetings, but I have no fear. That just sounds ridiculous.”

He also criticized HB 2392, authored by Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, which would prohibit Arizona from adopting the Common Core standards, Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards or any assessment developed outside of Arizona.

“To be blowing things up that you spent so much time putting together and starting all over again, I think that will hurt teachers. Most importantly, it will hurt students,” he said. “I guess I’m not being gun-shy about my comments. I just don’t get it.”

Douglas, a Republican, ran a campaign centered on prohibiting the standards in Arizona schools and was critical of them in her State of Education address last week, calling them “a de facto federal mandate” that was adopted without public input or support.

Douglas acknowledged the discussion at the close of the meeting, saying she appreciated the comments of her fellow board members.

“Nonetheless, I think I would be remiss to let it pass without saying this was a huge issue of this election and the parents of Arizona have weighed in clearly that they have concerns,” she said.

Douglas added: “I would just hope that as we work through this process we make sure we consider all the stakeholders.”

That prompted a terse response from Greg Miller, the board’s president.

“We’ve always welcomed all stakeholders to the table and we will continue to do that,” he said.