Arizona School Superintendent's Proposed Education Standards Developed By Conservative Christian College

Published: Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 5:27pm
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:51pm
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Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Diane Douglas before the State Board of Education meeting on Sept. 24, 2018

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas wants to replace the state’s K-12 education standards with those developed by a conservative Christian college.

Douglas will presented the standards at Monday's Arizona State Board of Education meeting and dozens of educators spoke out in favor of the state’s existing standards and revision process.

Criticisms of the proposed standards include that they are too specific, religious, outdated and that they undermine the current standards review. Christopher Kotterman works for the Arizona School Boards Association and told the board to reject Douglas’s proposal in favor of standards created by working groups.

“Trust that Arizona educators know Arizona best and the years of work they have put in on behalf of Arizona students,” Kotterman said.

Bob Branch, who lost the GOP bid to become the superintendent of public instruction, was in the minority of people who spoke in public comment in support of the Hillsdale standards.

The Board of Education is currently considering revisions to Arizona’s history, science and computer science standards that have been crafted over several years. meeti

“Decisions were based off of research,” said Terri Welsh, a social students specialist at Mesa Public Schools. “The working groups created a set of standards unique to and in the best interest of Arizona students.”

The proposed “Hillsdale scope and sequence” outlines what K-12 students should learn in literature, grammar, science, math, history, visual arts, music.

The Arizona Department of Education defines standards as “an expectation approved at the state-level for what the student should learn by the end of the school year.” 

Here are a few examples from Hillsdale that differ from Arizona’s current standards:

  • A book of bible stories is a recommended resource to teach first grade.
  • Starting in kindergarten and continuing through sixth grade, students learn specific idioms such as “let bygones be bygones” and “birthday suit.”
  • 7th-graders begin to learn Latin.
  • 5th-graders are taught the steps of human sexual reproduction from intercourse to newborn.
  • 1st-graders are taught “moral philosophy,” such as cardinal virtues and nihilism.
  • The words computer or software do not appear in the standards.

The Arizona Republic reported Hillsdale also has ties to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The standards Douglas recommends were developed by the “Barney Charter School Initiative,” an initiative from Hillsdale College to help promote charter schools.

One criticism of the standards is that they veer into curriculum with their specificity and suggested materials. Essentially dictation how students should learn, not just what skills they need to master.

“The abject failure that we are at teaching our children to read and do basic arithmetic,” Douglas told KJZZ after the meeting. “I think maybe it’s about time that our schools need to be told: 'You need to do it this way.'”

Douglas did say that specific texts could be made into recommendations or an appendix instead of being baked into the standards.

RELATED: Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas Loses To Frank Riggs In Close Primary Race

The presentation at Monday’s Board of Education meeting is informational. 

Diane Douglas told the radio program “Conservative Circus,” she wants the board to vote on the standards at its Oct. 22 meeting. 

“While we won’t open them up for comment the way we have standards that have been written in house and in state. certainly I want people to read them." she said. "I want people to see how wonderful they are.”

Barney Charter School Initiative Standards (PDF)

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