Raising School Accountability

In an earlier posting on Penley on Education and Energy– The Common Core and Business – I pointed out the need for our business leaders to use language that can be understand readily about the need for K-12 change.  It’s about raising school accountability – not insisting that teachers do the same thing with common standards around the country.  Yes it is common core, but it is common core at the local level with real teachers teaching.  It also matters for business leaders to see and be able to discuss what common core really means at the classroom level. Recently, I saw the value in educating business leaders on the impact of Arizona’s College and Career Readiness Standards.

The Rodel Foundation of Arizona held one of its most important public events: All A’s for Arizona.  Among the speakers that evening was John Huppenthal, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  But I am sure that Mr. Huppentahal would agree that the most important speakers were five K-12 teachers: Stacey Hicks and Jorge Ontiveros (Paradise Valley Unified District), Tiffany Thompson (Mesa Public Schools), Veronica Villegas (Flagstaff Unified District), and Amanda McAdams (Glendale Union High School District).

Those five teachers did something that I wish the larger public could experience.  They demonstrated how a teacher used Arizona’s College and Career Readiness Standards (Arizona’s version of common core) to teach.  They taught various lessons using the Standards, and they engaged their business and education audience as the students.

Here is what we – the audience – learned.  Arizona’s standards are very challenging for students – or adults who have been out of school for a while.  Arizona’s standards build on one another across the K-12 grades, leading to improved college and career readiness.  Arizona’s standards demand that students read and understand difficult material – more difficult than I encountered in the public schools of Kingsport TN decades ago.  Arizona’s third grade math standards and the approach taken facilitate considerably learning fractions, knowledge essential but difficult for many 8-9 year olds.  And they emphasize that a student must think critically with multiple perspectives employed in analyzing a problem.

Raising accountability of our schools is essential.  Doing so with even more challenging material – and standards – that demands critical reasoning and analysis will serve students well.  It was just more than a month ago that I wrote in Penley on Education and Energy about the Economist’s vision of the future impact of technology.  That future will challenge traditionally educated citizens.  But Arizona’s Standards demand from K-12 students the kind of analytical and reasoning skills essential for that future.

It is time to move on – and adopt standards that will raise the college and career readiness of US students.  Without change, we are destined to continue to lag other countries, imperiling our long term economic prosperity and global competitiveness.

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