McClellan: Tea party debacle in Gilbert schools continues - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

McClellan: Tea party debacle in Gilbert schools continues

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Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 10:37 am

Only a week after the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board temporarily mucked up the Apple-related company deal to build a huge plant in east Mesa, the board majority struck again, again reflecting the highly partisan Tea Party nature of what’s supposed to be a non-partisan position.

How times have changed.

So here’s the latest fiasco engineered by the triumvirate of Julie Smith, Staci Burk and the redoubtable Daryl Colvin.

Every school district and charter in our state has the yearly requirement of signing a letter that says the district or charter is aligned with the current state standards.

Normally, this is a simple act.

Normally. But this board majority is anything but normal.

Smith, Colvin and Burk object to the state standards because they are the Common Core Standards the state adopted three years ago and are now in full use.

Common Core, of course, has become a lightning rod for conservative criticism, since the group that led the charge for higher standards and accountability 20 years ago was conservative.

But now, for a variety of reasons, those same folks are vehemently against Common Core Standards.

Colvin, never a wallflower with his views, spoke first.

He began his remarks by calling Common Core “a pile of dog poo,” and the audience knew right then that this was not going to be some Churchillian oration.

From there, Colvin regaled the crowd with such nuggets as “Communist Core,” “Fascist Core,” “Common Bore,” “Common Floor” and “dehumanizing our teachers.” He also suggested that this education reform will result in students as “automatons.”

Unsurprisingly, given Colvin’s typical behavior, he never explained the specifics behind his self-professed name calling. Apparently, Colvin doesn’t believe he has to really explain his various label, satisfied with his oh-so-clever names.

I guess “pile of dog poo” qualifies as typical of his sharp wit.

Smith followed Colvin, admirably noting that Colvin “said it all.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Which left us with the board resident, Burk, who came up with an interesting objection and rationale to vote against signing the letter.

Her reasoning? The math standards are too easy. As she notes, the standards in math don’t go beyond Algebra II. Thus, Gilbert schools would have to dumb down its standards to align with the state standards, since it requires four years of math, including one beyond Algebra II.

But what Burk did here was set up a straw man. As board president, Burk should know that these standards — like the state Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) standards before them — are minimum standards. That is, these skills are the least we expect our high school graduates must have.

Burk feigns concern that our kids won’t go beyond Algebra II in math, which is a silly argument, as she should know: High schools across the state offer pre-calculus, and two levels of calculus. This even though in the past AIMS only required a knowledge of geometry to pass the math portion of the tests.

Burk wants us to believe that the state standards are the best we expect from our kids, when, in fact, they are the least we expect.

In the end, Burk, Colvin and Smith voted not to sign the letter, even though Interim Superintendent Jack Keegan informed them the district would still be required to follow those standards.

No matter. For these three ideologues, partisan politics trump reasoning.

This is what happens when tea party radicals masquerading as conservatives gain control of a government entity.

They’ve brought their wrecking ball to the district. I hate to see where their wrecking ball goes next.

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