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January 15, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Common Core Education Standards

  |   Video
  • This fall, Arizona schools will implement rigorous new academic standards. Find out more about the Common Core Education Standards from State Board of Education President Jaime Molera and Higley Unified School District Superintendent Denise Birdwell.
  • Jaime Molera - President, State Board of Education
  • Denise Birdwell - Superintendent, Higley Unified School District
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, common core, standards, tests, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Schools in Arizona and 45 other states are implementing new academic standards to make students more globally competitive and better prepared for college and career. Here to tell us more about Arizona’s common core standards is Dr. Denise Birdwell, superintendent of the Higley Unified School District, and Jaime Molera, president for the state board of education. Let's start with the definition. What is common core?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: The common core is a set of standards that drives instruction within a classroom. It's what we build the curriculum around. It's a larger picture that drives thing learning to every student.
Ted Simons: Okay, is that -- it sounds like it's different than what we do now, but still talking teaching, aren't you?

Jaime Molera: We are. What I think it's a focus on the key academic areas a kid needs to be successful once they leave high school so they wouldn't need remedial classes if they go on to higher education. That's been a huge problem throughout the years where you have folks say they graduated from a high school in Arizona, they might need remedial course work. Really common core should be able to fix that. You're giving them the skills necessary to be competitive.

Ted Simons: When did Arizona adopt common core standards?

Jaime Molera: In 2010. We then just adopted the process by which we're going to test that; the assessments that go with it. We have developed the framework allowing school districts to understand, 2014 we'll have the last of the aims test. It will phase out for kids that didn't pass it so according to the law it says you have to have a graduation assessment. We'll still keep that but PARCC comes in earnest in 2015.
Ted Simons: Before we get to differences in the way kids would be taught with this new method, mention the AIMS test coming up shortly. Compare the aims test to what we'll be seeing with this new PARCC test.

Dr. Denise Birdwell: When you look at the aims test you're talking about in comparison to looking at the difference between a multiple choice kinds of driven test to a data based analysis kinds of assessment where writing is much more critical, reading is much more critical. The rigor is higher. So students have to apply the mathematical knowledge rather than just look at the discrete skills and how they use mathematics. That is going to be a significant difference for our students. The skill level is higher; the application of the knowledge is higher, so there will be a significant difference in our assessments.

Ted Simons: Sounds like a significant difference for teachers and those assessing these tests. No longer do you say b is wrong, a, right. Read the sentence, make sure it makes sense.

Dr. Denise Birdwell: Absolutely. It's not only content but academic vocabulary pieces. Along with evidence based answering. So a student isn't just going to pick an answer. They have to actually defend the answer.

Ted Simons: Are teachers ready for this? I go back to the idea of not just looking at a grid, you have to really listen, read and comprehend what the kid is trying to get across.

Jaime Molera: A lot of it falls on school districts to get raid. Frankly, a lot of them, Higley started in 2011in preparation for this. The reason we took our actions early was to give that signal saying we are going down this path. We want them to understand when it will be applied so teachers can gear up.

Ted Simons: How many school districts, schools in general, have already adopted it?

Jaime Molera: I think you have a majority of school districts already moving in this direction. Clearly you can see that. What I'm concerned about are some of the small rural districts, charter schools. Those are the kinds of things we're working on now to give them the resources, technical skills, the state department has been great getting them training to get them ready.

Ted Simons: Let's go into a classroom. How does the common core standard, how do those lessons, that program, how does that differ from what's currently being taught?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: Well, it depends on the grade level. This is a pre-k-through-senior level change. It changes the high school level although it's English language arts and mathematics driven every subject area has responsibilities for the learning of the common core. So every teacher has to look at how do I teach writing, reading, what's the application of mathematics. In a social studies classroom you'll have application of mathematics embedded within the teaching. You have to look at your curriculum and go through and make sure the standards are incorporated in every subject area.

Ted Simons: Something along the lines of where there may be a social study on poverty in America with numbers and facts and figures, students would have to apply those to the story?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: Well, not only would have to apply this, they have to analyze, synthesize and able to explain possible solutions to those issues using the evidence from the text they are reading. You have reading in the content as well as contextual interpretations. Those are critical thinking levels of skills.

Ted Simons: Are we ready for this? It’s one thing to say, “Analyze this report,” but it’s another for the kid to actually be able to.

Jaime Molera: It's a good question. One of the things we have to do is not just at a local level but let's look at state policy, the systems that govern what we're doing. I appreciate governor brewer talking about this, about the kinds of resources that will be needed. The other thing that's important is that you're starting to see a much deeper focus in this, tomorrow, for instance, you have a joined committee of the House Commerce Committee along with the House Education and Higher Education Committees meeting jointly just on this issue. They will have CEOs of major industries and business groups talking about how important it is not just from an academic perspective but from business leaders saying we need those skills so translated Arizona will be more competitive.

Ted Simons: Sounds like more creativity again, more analysis, maybe just getting a kid to think for themselves. Is that the idea here? The impetus?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: It's part of t. With we look at the skills necessary in the business world as we go forward and look at preparing that learner for career and college readiness we're talking about analysis, having critical thinking skills to analyze a problem, solve a problem using the knowledge that we have. It's not subject driven. This is taking and breaking down those isolations of learning and actually saying we all have to come together and integrate the learning process so we cross from the science into social studies, into mathematics, we come together in that aspect. That is reading and writing skills. Not every teacher embraces that I'm a writing teacher, no, I teach social studies. Not in the future. You will teach riding, writing, you'll have academic vocabulary development. That's a new process for teachers.

Ted Simons: Sounds like rote memorization may be a thing of the past.

Dr. Denise Birdwell: Not only that, also direct lecture. There's a place and time for lecture but you will not see as much in a classroom in the future because we have to allow students to explore and learn from the text they are going to be exposed to.

Ted Simons: Compare now if you would what would happen in an early K-through-12 situation and in the high school level. Is it different? Do you approach this differently?

Jaime Molera: Denise can give a lot more specifics than I can, but the way I see it we used to have standards that were a mile wide and an inch deep. I think what this does, it gives more focus on those fundamental areas like I talked about, core academic areas that kids need to be successful. But also it gives in other subject matters that students take it puts emphasis on why they need to incorporate those essential skills in whatever they are studying, computer graphics, social studies. All those things need strong mathematics, writing and reading skills.

Ted Simons: Is this mandated from on high? This is a national mandate?

Jaime Molera: No, this is a consortium of states. It was really business driven. You had the U.S. Chamber of commerce, governors association talking about why we need to have a better system. That's how this ended up developing.

Ted Simons: Are our teachers ready?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: They will be ready. I think part of our teachers are ready today. Training began in our district we started as soon as the state board gave the direction, so January 1 of 2011 we began the process. We have already integrated in the east valley. The districts have come together, we have worked jointly to make sure that curriculum shifts occurred, instructional practice are changing. By August in many districts we will be ready.

Ted Simons: Something in Colorado or Nevada would be different that what kids may be taught here in Arizona. There's no national standard here?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: The common core standard itself could be seen between states between districts. However, the actual content of how that's taught, the curriculum used to teach that standard may vary from school to school, grade to grade. You should see commonality within a school. Third grade teachers will have a common curriculum to deliver that standard.

Ted Simons: What about faster learners, slower learners, higher performing schools, lower performing schools?

Jaime Molera: Well, I think that's where the assessment piece comes, the accountability piece goes hand in hand with Common Core. Under AIMS from a state level we only test four times, third grade, fifth grade, eighth grade, and then graduation test. Which is actually a myth; it's only a 10TH grade exam. That's the level of what students learn. PARCC starts from the get-go. We're able to assess on a yearly basis. If you have kids that are progressing faster it allows parents and teachers and administrators to put them on that faster track so they are not bored in school. Conversely, if you have kids that are struggling it allows educators and parents to define what's wrong, how do we get those interventions so they are not waiting multiple years to take action.

Ted Simons: What about funding?

Jaime Molera: Funding is key. I think it's important that we recognize we have to utilize our existing funding better in my opinion. Educators around the state need to redeploy some of the resources and embrace -- this is the common element. This is their fundamental task as educators. Let's also recognize the technology that's needed. If you're going to move to end of course assessments, every year assessments we need to give the schools resources and equipment to do that.

Ted Simons: Last question. People are listening to this, hearing Common Core, hearing PARCC test. Saying this is brand new. What's going on here? Sounds like a big change. How do we know that this is a change for the better? How do we know this is best for Arizona school kids?

Dr. Denise Birdwell: First of all let's say that school reform is better for children. So as we look forward we should always get better at our craft and our practice. We know more about how a student learns than we have ever known. We need to improve that process. Common Core was designed by experts in the field, research based, teachers were involved. Those who were actually delivered the knowledge, the craft, have been a part of the process. I think that's critical part of any reform. That's why I think it will be successful. It has the experts, researchers and teachers behind it.

Ted Simons: Sounds like it has public policy folks saying we can fund this, we will support this.

Jaime Molera: Correct. Governor Brewer has made it a big piece of her legislative agenda for the year and with Speaker Tobin giving it the focus, I'm very optimistic.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Medical Marijuana Referendum

  |   Video
  • State Representative John Kavanagh has introduced a measure to allow voters in 2014 to decide whether to repeal the medical marijuana law passed by voters in 2010. Guests include Representative Kavanagh and Ryan Hurley, of the Rose Law Group, who is opposed to the plan.
  • John Kavanagh - State Representative
  • Ryan Hurley - Rose Law Group
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: medical, marijuana, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: State Representative John Kavanagh wants to give voters a chance to repeal Arizona’s medical marijuana law which was approved in 2010. The measure would send the issue back to voters in 2014. Here to talk about it is Representative John Kavanagh and here to talk against the measure is Ryan Hurley of the Rose Law group. Good to have you here.

Both: Pleasure.

Ted Simons: Why should this be repealed?

Rep. John Kavanagh: Let me begin by saying I do not tread lightly into having the voters reconsider something which they passed. But this is an unusual situation. For two reasons.: first, what the voters wound up getting is far different from what they were told they would get if they passed this medical marijuana initiative. And in addition, it passed by the thinnest of margins. 423 -- 4200 votes statewide. The voters were led to believe that this would be a humanitarian medical program with a wide array of people with conditions. If you look at the ballot it list add whole array including pain admittedly, but when the dust settled, 90% of the patients have pain. Less than 1% have a glaucoma. Only 1.5% have cancer. Pain is easily fudged. Hard to disprove. If this were a medical program you would expect a balance in age and gender. Over half of the people are under 40. That should be the reverse. They should be older. There's more pain. It's almost all males. The last startling fact was when another agency did a survey of where children who use marijuana illegally get it, 11% were getting it from medical marijuana cardholders. The program just started.

Ted Simons: With all that in mind, why not let voters reconsider?

Ryan Hurley: Well, the voters have spoken on this three times over the past decade. I don't think they need a fourth time. The law and the measure was very clear about including chronic pain. It's a very real thing that a lot of people suffer from. The academy of pain doctors estimate that over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. That's nearly a third of the population. I got into this specifically because of patients. There are patients that are suffering. A conversation with a patient that had M.S., watched as he was unable to have a conversation because of severe pain and muscle spasms. He used his medication and he was able to have a 45-minute interview and conversation. During that interview he told us without this medication he would probably end his own life. That's why I got into this. That's why voters of Arizona passed this.

Rep. John Kavanagh: Again, the margin this last time was razor thin and what transpired since is totally different than what they expected. Let's not forget that no mainstream medical organization, neither the FDA, has approved medical marijuana for treatment of any of these conditions.

Ted Simons: Do you believe that someone can get relief, pain relief, relief from glaucoma, cancer, whatever, relief from marijuana?

Rep. John Kavanagh: Undoubtedly you can get it from heroin also, from anything that dulls pain or sedates you. We have a procedure in this country where you have to have clinical trials and prove not only did it do what it does but it's not harmful. That's not the case with marijuana. The American medical association says it's dangerous and it should be illegal and the only concession they make is they are open to more studies as I am, but until studies show that it works for what the conditions are, how can you let anybody prescribe it

Ryan Hurley: I would like to read something directly from a 2009 AMA report. It says results of short term controlled trials indicate smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite especially in patients with reduced muscle mass and may relive pain in patients with Muscular Sclerosis. That's one recognized medical benefit they have seen. They have called on the federal government to relax their standards so that research can be conducted. I think there's interesting precedent in Arizona, recent precedent, when the federal government doesn't do something they are supposed do we do it for them to protect the citizens of Arizona.

Rep. John Kavanagh: Clearly this subcommittee clearly identified yes, marijuana does work on pain and does relieve nausea. No one denies that. So does heroin. The question is should it be a prescriptive drug? There are better, safer things you don't do that. If I can quote that report, what they concluded was even though we're suggesting more studies, not the actual use of marijuana, they said this should not be viewed as an endorsement of state based medical cannabis programs, legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use meets the current standards of a prescription drug product. They are saying is, “it might help some people in some conditions,” but they are clearly stating there's no proof of that and until there is they are maintaining their position that it's dangerous and should be illegal.

Ryan Hurley: I think take that's an important point. The AMA will not make an official endorsement because the federal government will not allow the research required to prove the clinical trials we need. We're in a perfect catch 22. The only reason any of this evidence has come out is due to state marijuana programs.

Rep. John Kavanagh: Real quick, the AMA has not stood on the sidelines and refused to say this is okay. The AMA has said it's dangerous, it should be illegal and there are no studies that suggest that it should be used as medicine.

Ted Simons: As far as the law is concerned it's just been implemented. Why not give it a chance?

Rep. John Kavanagh: Because we already see what's happening. Instead of having a mosaic of different conditions, 90% of the patients are claiming to have pain. Instead of having balance in terms of age and gender it's 70% young male. Every red flag suggests that this is an abusive program.

Ryan Hurley: I would like to just read a list of some of the patients and their conditions that came into one of my client's dispensaries. Patrick, age 43, Fibromyalgia. Jenny, 60, bad hips, also lost a hand and foot. Daniel, 50, degenerative arthritis. Lyle, 27, epilepsy. Steven, 31, Krohn's Disease. So is there pain that is the vast majority of these, absolutely, but that doesn't mean it's not real.

Ted Simons: But there does seem to be a perception, by the critics of the law, that this is just for lack of a better phrase a sham, just a way to get marijuana into folks's hands not necessarily for medical purposes but just want a way to legalize what they are doing. How do you respond to that?

Ryan Hurley: I respond to that by the same way as I would as anybody who has to get a prescription. It's not like you walk in and walk out with marijuana. You have to go through a rigorous procedure with a doctor. Doctor looks at 12 months of previous medical records this. They have to do an in person physical examination, make a diagnosis of the underlying condition that causes the pain. If there's an abuse of the system there's a point we can regulate it.

Rep. John Kavanagh: First of all, with respect to the litany of patients, you could go to a witch doctor, to a charlatan or faith healer and they could read you a similar list of people with terrible conditions who are mistakenly thinking there could be help for them. With respect to the doctor's prescribing them, that's another shocking fact. Seven doctors have written one-third of the 31,000 prescriptions for medical marijuana. This suggests this is not legitimate.

Ted Simons: According to Representative Kavanagh that suggests something funny going on here.

Ryan Hurley: Not necessarily. There are a lot of doctors that are terrified to recommend this to their patients. You go to your ordinary family physician he may recognize you get benefit but he's terrified to lose his DEA license, terrified of the repercussions so he recommends you to somebody willing to take that risk.

Ted Simons: The idea of reconsidering this, this will be the first time, I’M going to ask you right now, why do we need to go through this again?

Rep. John Kavanagh: Because the voters do not allow the legislature to invalidate laws that turn out to be not as they were expected. We are required by the constitution to allow the voters themselves to do the reanalysis. That's what i'm doing.

Ted Simons: Are you suggesting voters didn't know what they were doing?

Rep. John Kavanagh: I am absolutely suggesting that. When the campaign was waged people against this initiative only raised about $10,000. Those who supported it raised almost $800,000. The message was totally one sided. They were led to believe that the AMA, the medical community, supports this when they don't. They were led to believe there would be a vast array of patients, not just people with pain, everything that was promised didn't deliver.

Rep. John Kavanagh: You know, I guess I have a little more faith in the voters of Arizona to read exactly what they voted for and to know what they voted for. I think that's confirmed by a recent poll that came out yesterday said 60% support the initiative as passed and as it's being implemented.

Ted Simons: Yet this would be the first time voters would be able to reconsider after the law is implemented. Why not?

Ryan Hurley: I think there's something that needs to be examined here. I need to make the point that law has not been fully implemented. We have had patients have had the ability to get their recommendation for two years, but the dispensary portion has been held up by a governor, by the district, the county attorney. We're only now starting to see the fully regulated implemented law as voters intended. It's time to let it play out.

Rep. John Kavanagh: It concerns me. If it has not been fully implemented and we have these problems now the longer stays in effect the more the problems. We're concerned we have 11% of children who use marijuana illegally getting it from cardholders. In Colorado where they have had more time to play this law out, a study by the Colorado medical school said that 75% of children get it illegally from cardholders. This is a program that has gone awry and is dangerous.

Ryan Hurley: I would like to make a point. What's missing from the studies is that teen use in medical marijuana states is down. In fact the same study that Representative Kavanagh cites in Arizona indicated the same thing. Over the past two years we have seen a decrease in teen use with the patient still having safe access.

Rep. John Kavanagh: That is not true. Those studies, 30-day usage, most reliable, it's down among eighth graders, but up among 10th and 12th graders. There are mixed results here.

Ryan Hurley: Over all it was down.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it there. Good stuff. Thanks for joining us.