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June 24, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona’s Future: Beyond Textbooks

  |   Video
  • In a new Arizona Horizon series, “Arizona’s Future,” we look at innovations leading to improvements in a variety of areas, including education. In the Vail Unified School District in southern Arizona, teachers and district officials have created a web-based solution to help meet Common Core standards. The site provides lesson plans and data that educators can use to meet the standards, and any educator can add resources, lesson plans or ideas to the site. It’s being used by 77 traditional public school districts and eight charter schools in Arizona. Kevin Carney, executive director of Beyond Textbooks, will explain how the site helps teachers improve their teaching abilities.
  • Kevin Carney - Executive Director, Beyond Textbooks
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, arizona, future, textbooks, school, improvements, teaching,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight we debut a new segment on "Arizona Horizon." It's called "Arizona's future," and it's designed to examine new and innovative ways of moving the state forward. We start with education, and an idea developed by the Vail unified school district in southern Arizona. "Beyond textbooks" is a program that provides online content for teachers instructing students on common core curriculum. Joining us now is Kevin Carney, the executive director of "beyond textbooks." Good to have you here.

Kevin Carney: Thank you for having me, Ted.

Ted Simons: Give me a better definition of beyond textbooks.

Kevin Carney: Sure, you bet. What beyond textbooks is it’s a solution to a problem that we were experiencing in Vail over 10 years ago. We were a struggling school district of the 13 neighboring school districts around us. We ranked just about dead last in every major statistical category when it came to student achievement. We set to put frameworks in place to improve and in fact we did that. Fast forward 10 years later, we were ranked as the number one school district in the state for consecutive years. We were having some really good success with these frameworks and we talk about going beyond the textbook. It used to be when I was teaching, that the textbook told you what to teach and when to teach it and it was your guide. As we realize, it is not just about the materials, it’s about effective frameworks, research-based frameworks to improve. Because we got such great results, we had a lot of other school districts around the state come visit us and say what are you doing? They heard about beyond textbooks and said can we tap into this? We digitized our whole framework. We said, sure, why not? Fast forward, here we are, five years later, we have now 100 partners around the state. 85 school districts, 15 charter schools who are tapped into this framework.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the framework now. It sounds like it helps teachers implement common core lesson plans. Do they get the lesson plans and other things online? What exactly does a teacher do?

Kevin Carney: One of the things as a former building principal that I would tell my teachers is, guilty as charged. We will continue to put more things on your plate and it is going to be tough to take things off. But I promise you I will always work to make things more efficient for you, because if I can make things more efficient, that is like saving you some time and taking things off your plate. So what beyond textbooks does, is there’s a digitized framework, a wiki. I heard in the last segment Wikipedia brought up, so think of that, or think of the iPOD if you will. The iPOD revolutionized the way we look at our music, our videos. It’s cuz we put all of those things in one place and catalog it by: jazz, country, rock & roll. Then in our rock & roll playlist catalog it by Green Day and the Rolling Stones. So what we do is we take all of the standards that teachers have to teach, put them into this digitized wiki, and then teachers upload resources that are congruent to the specific WIKI. So there’s efficiency for teachers and planning and more resources available to them.

Ted Simons: Obviously when you say teachers have their own volition, they are allowed to be creative within this framework.

Kevin Carney: That is the whole thing that we really are big believers in. We want to control the what. We say, hey, here are the state standards. This is what you have to teach. We want to control the when. We have something that we use in education jargon that we call curriculum counters. Here’s what you are teaching, when you are teaching approximately and for how long. We want to leave the how up to teachers. We believe it is hard. Teaching is a creative endeavor. When it comes to resources, we share if you find something beyond textbooks to use to teach your students, super. Don't limit yourself to that. It is not one stop shopping. So if you want to use something from your old textbooks, something you find on beyond textbooks, or create on your own or find on the internet, as long as it is congruent to this standard and it’s a correct level of rigor, then we say knock yourself out. You’re the king or queen of the castle. You choose the resource that can best for your students to learn.

Ted Simons: Let's say I find something that works out great. Can I upload that to the framework, to the web site to add to -- I mean, is there a lot of sharing and collaboration going on here?

Kevin Carney: Absolutely. With our 100 partners now, we are serving over 100,000 children across Arizona. As a matter of fact, we have the first out of state partner in the state of Wyoming. There are 10,000 teachers tapped into this online WIKI. An example of the power of it: My wife taught in the Vail school district for 10 years. She then went to teach another grade level after teaching 10 years of fourth grade, she went to teach third grade. I don't have third grade stuff, what do I do? Well there’s this dynamic teacher in Wickenburg, he is putting resources on the WIKI all of the time. Take a look at his stuff. You can find his contact information. Reach out to him. Long story short, she would tell you if she was sitting here today Ted, that that gentleman saved her life in teaching third grade that year.

Ted Simons: We are talking lesson plans and other data. Are these things accessful-- if I'm a teacher, I’m in the classroom, do I have my laptop here? Can I get to those right there and then?

Kevin Carney: That is a great thing. When I used to be in the classroom, I would tell my family goodbye every Sunday after my favorite team of football ended the day, I’d go and say that is where all of my stuff is I have to go to school. The great thing now is you have an internet signal, you can plan any time and anywhere which again creates more of those efficiencies I was referring to.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing from teachers? Any push-back on this? Any slow rollers here?

Kevin Carney: Absolutely, any time you have change involved, people attack change differently. You have people ready to jump in the pool and swim right away. People put a toe in. And people say I don't want to swim. And people out in the car, hey, swimming, I'm not into that. I would rather play soccer. A part of our piece that we work with, partners, is gaining that buy-in. Because we know that without that buy-in there won't be the success we would like to see.

Ted Simons: Reaction from students, reaction from parents?

Kevin Carney: In terms of those pieces, beyond textbooks is mainly an educator piece. What I mean by that is you and I both fly. When you fly you listen to the preamble, here is what to expect in case of an emergency. Give oxygen to yourself first and then to the elderly or kids. This tool is about helping educators on a secondary level, certainly students and parents are impacted by that. But we're seeing some really good results. Here is what it means. At the top five school districts in the state, three use the beyond textbooks framework. Of the top 10 school districts ranked by the Arizona department of education, four use the beyond textbooks framework. We are seeing some really great results. The other piece that comes along with that, students and parents go, hey, I'm excited to see my kid learning more and being more successful in the classroom.

Ted Simons: Is this the future of educational textbooks?

Kevin Carney: In terms of an educational textbook, I think that we have a role that is an important role to play. As people take a look and, for example, the common core and they say, well, the government is overreaching and we're worried about large organizations and businesses being hand in hand with the government. We offer a different perspective. Not to say we believe there is anything is wrong with it, I'm giving you a lot of people's views on a particular piece. Instead what we offer, we’re actual practitioners. We work within schools, within classrooms, not somebody who hasn't taught or hasn't been in the classroom for 15 or 20 years. We offer a viable alternative. It is a teacher-made system. That’s the greatest strength behind it.

Ted Simons: With that in mind though, what about oversight? Who holds whom accountable?

Kevin Carney: Sure. In terms of the content that teachers might upload into that WIKI, we have a staff, who part of their responsibility, they vet those resources for a variety of pieces to make sure that they're not violating copyright issue, they’re aligned with a certain standard, things of that nature. In terms of holding people accountable in terms of student achievement, talk about it all of the time with partners, a good idea poorly implemented is ultimately a bad idea. I have been in 300 schools across Arizona. Four things we discovered, ultimately lead to great results for schools or not. Great leadership, quality staff, a systematic approach, and fourthly a community that expects things of you. With regard to holding folks accountable, ultimately if the leadership of an organization, district, or charter school is not adept at pushing change forward, getting all of the players on board, setting clear goals and monitoring adjusting correctly, they don't have as good a result as you might see in other places.

Ted Simons: Last question. You talk about results. These days results are usually letter grades, numbers, something along these lines.

Kevin Carney: Sure.

Ted Simons: But is this program helping kids learn? Just in general. Not so much to take a test -- just -- is it a good thing in a classroom to get a little mind going?

Kevin Carney: Yeah, and with regard to that, I would say a couple of things. One is this. My own kids, two of my three kids, I have a son who is 27 now. But two of my three kids are in the Vail school district now. I see on a firsthand basis the impact that the education, frameworks that we're providing them are helping them in terms of what they're learning. Mainly want to share with you absolutely it is indeed helping. That being said, curriculum at the end of the day is never going to rule. It is all about those folks that can motivate us. The old saying, you can't have a kid's mind unless you have their heart first. Ultimately you need passionate teachers who can spark fires in kids that will best motivate them and help them to learn.

Ted Simons: The goal of this segment is to look at the future of Arizona, innovative new ideas to lead Arizona into the future. Sounds like you're well on your way. Congratulations.

Kevin Carney: Thank you, thank you. We’re very fortunate. Great success comes about of hard work, expertise and good fortune and we have had all of those thankfully.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.

Kevin Carney: Thank you as well.

Buckeye Growth

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  • In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau named Buckeye the ninth-fastest growing city in the country. When it comes to land area, Buckeye is the biggest city in the state at 600 square miles. As Buckeye rebounds from the housing crash, leaders are focused on positioning the westernmost Phoenix suburb as "Open for Business."
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: business, economy, buckeye, growth, suburb, phoenix, city, land,

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Ted Simons: Last fall residents of buckeye voted to change their community's designation from a town to a city. As producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana show us, it's part of a bigger push to send the message that buckeye is open for business.

When the country's largest chain of rural life-style stores was searching for a new Arizona location --

Did you find everything okay?

It went 35 miles west of Phoenix.

Why buckeye, friendly community, a lot of great people, growth. The location was key off the 10, and think with the potential out here in Buckeye --

It is the western-most suburb with direct access to Interstate 10, state route 85, and rail line. When it comes to land area, Buckeye is the top city in Arizona.

We're larger than the city of Phoenix. 600 square miles. They're 500 and something. So, you could take cities and physically set them in our planning area and we could engulf them.

In 2,000 Buckeye's population was just over 6,000. Today it is just shy of 60,000.

We are headed for a 1,500,000, to 1,800,000 in the next 50 to 100 years.

During Buckeye's inaugural state of the city address, the mayor Jackie Meck touted their vision.

Within the city of Buckeye, we have become aggressive in conveying our strong desire to build quality jobs, capital investment, and retail sales taxes to prospect and our partners.

The city paid $2.5 million for the shopping center after it went into foreclosure. Mostly empty now, the 66,000 square feet should look much different next year when a new library, police substation and other city offices move in. Buckeye plans to add a 7th fire station next year. That is also when residents should be enjoying skyline regional park in the southern white tank mountains. It is part of a long-term lease with the bureau of land management to preserve open space. With the help of grants, Buckeye will build restrooms and shade areas. And down the road, the mayor says, they will really cash in.

We pay operating expenses and at the end of the 25 years, we actually purchase or get the land deeded for $1.00 , 8,675 acres for $1.00 We buy it. We will own it, yes.

Good job.

Our district at %5 growth is the fastest growing district in Maricopa County.

At its six schools, the Buckeye elementary district serves about 5,000 students. The superintendent says they expect to keep adding two or 300 kids per year.

With that type of growth, we will definitely look to be adding schools.

Last fall, Buckeye voters approved a district override, generating $2 million.

I don't think I was surprised, although I will tell you it is just hard work. You have to constantly talk to your constituents about the value of education.

I heard good thinking here. Share your thinking.

District leaders, like city planners, keep a close eye on construction. Buckeye expects to issue more than 1,000 new home permits this year, and if that sounds reminiscent of the boom before the bust, mayor Meck says this time it is different.

When the mass of development came back in 2,000 6,7 and 8, started coming, we geared up for it as a community thinking it was going to last forever. And when it started to go downhill, we didn't react quick enough. And I think that is the first lesson that we have to really watch and react as soon as something starts to give. Either direction.

Buckeye hopes development around the airport will take off. City leaders want to see companies fill some of these 700 acres, but covering the basics is their most critical challenge. Buckeye is so spread out that sewer and waterlines often don't connect. Building infrastructure is necessary to bring in business. Residents recently approved a $28 million bond, based in part to the mayor's premise it will lead to new jobs. A listing of all job openings in the area reaches 6,000 people.

We have a lot of applications.

He hired 15 for his store. At 17,000 square feet, it is not tractor supply's biggest store. But he says it is the right size in the right city.

Thank you for coming in. Having a great day.

Ted Simons: Next year, the western Maricopa educational center is expected to open a campus in buckeye.

Huppenthal Anonymous Comments

  |   Video
  • Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has been facing increasing pressure for anonymous comments he’s made online, with some calling for his resignation. Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic will bring us up to date.
  • Laurie Roberts - Journalist, Arizona Republic
Category: Politics   |   Keywords: politics, anonymous, comments, online, arizona, superintendent, public, resignation,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal continues to face heat for posting controversial, and, at the time, anonymous online comments on various political blogs. Here with more is "Arizona Republic" columnist Laurie Roberts. Good to see you again. We always bring you in on these stories that defy definition. What do you make of all of this?

Laurie Roberts: You know, it is hard to understand, to get yourself into the head of a guy who has been a long-time public official who has gone out for years with a mask on anonymously posting blogs, some of them historically inaccurate, some of them just blatantly insulting and some people would say bordering on racism. I have to believe that things you would say anonymously when you think no one can hear you or see you are things that come from the heart.

Ted Simons: It is interesting, you mention that, the idea of how discourse may have changed or seemingly has changed because of anonymous online posting as such. Back to the idea, is it more of a problem for you what he said or the fact that he said it anonymously?

Laurie Roberts: Originally my biggest concern was not so much that he was saying things anonymously, but that he -- you know, about historical things and public policy issues, but that he was deceitful in talking about himself in glowing terms in the third party. That is trying to fool people, that's deceitful, that's wrong. Since then however these comments have been being dug out of the web, some of the comments are just disturbing. I took one down today and I will read it to you if that is okay. We had a lot fewer Caucasians working now that the Hispanics have left. Speaking of Senate bill era. But crime is much lower. No money and no one is stealing it.

Ted Simons: We also have the idea that maybe there shouldn't be Spanish radio TV, newspapers, billboards, menus are okay as long as it is a Mexican restaurant --

Laurie Roberts: As long as it is mostly in English. I found that one particularly shocking. I would think that most republicans are entrepreneurial and for free enterprise. This is a man who for the last few weeks has talked to us about his first amendment right to free speech even if speech is anonymous. I guess the first amendment right to free speech does not extend to if you are speaking in Spanish.

Ted Simons: Does he have a point -- I know he goes back to the federalist papers and the pamphlets -- when the country was started and those of us in political science have read all of those things. How much of a point does he have about how much discourse in American history and how much of a tradition it made be to say things anonymously?

Laurie Roberts: I think it has been a tradition in American history, but I don't think it is a particularly helpful one now. I will segue from this to dark money, which you will see a lot of rolling down the hill. A lot of people are using the laws that we have now to speak from behind the bushes and to log grenades. I think that we need to know who has something to say. I know in the days of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, there were things that they needed to say that they felt were unpopular. I don't think the things that I'm reading are high-level public policy debates. A lot of it is downright racist and insulting and rude and this is from a man who is the superintendent of public schools, 45% of which are comprised of Latino students.

Ted Simons: Not only the Latino aspect, but just the general recollection of history with FDR -- I think it was almost completely responsible for the depression, responsible for Hitler, CPS never protects children. These are things -- I would love to get him on the program. Why would you even feel the need to comment on those sorts of things?

Laurie Roberts: Well, I think he views himself as a public policy WONK -- I have not talked to him about this. I've tried. They have not responded to me. I guess he would say if he were engaging in these public policy high-level discussions, high-level discussions as you get on the internet, that if people knew that it was John Huppenthal that they were talking with, it would impede the conversation. I'm guessing that is what he would say. But a lot of this is just historically inaccurate. It's disturbing.

Ted Simons: Well, it is the name calling thing, which, again, calling people on assistance lazy pigs. Calling the president slime. Back to my original question here and your original response, is the internet and commenting and we see it on The Arizona Republic all of the time. Facebook aspect helped a little bit. But we see out and out name calling, rock throwing, is this the way we always were and now we get a chance to show it?

Laurie Roberts: I think actually so. If you know your Plato, there is something called the Ring of Gyges, which says that if you put on a magical ring and no one can see you, you would do all kinds of things that you wouldn't have done. I don't think it is new.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the creditability now he has in that office. What is going on out there?

Laurie Roberts: Some people think these comments will actually help him win the republican primary. That is an interesting thought. He has primary competition, Diane Douglas, who is a tea party type I think. Her entire platform seems to be get rid of common core. He may well be -- he is a common core supporter.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Laurie Roberts: I just don't see how he gets through a general election. I think this may be that year when we have two sitting statewide officers who are going to be out on their tushes.

Ted Simons: Before anyone gets out on their tush, the impact to education in Arizona when you have a state schools chief, with a historical inaccuracies and the name calling, what does that do just in general to education in Arizona?

Laurie Roberts: I think it makes people around the country say now we understand why Arizona has the education system that it has. I don't think that it necessarily hurts in the classroom. I certainly do not think that he is emulating -- a good role model for students. Most educators I talk to are rolling their eyes at this point. I'm going to guess he will not be invited in as a guest speaker in any history classes in any of our high schools anytime soon.

Ted Simons: And we had the former Superintendents of public instruction Lisa Graham Keegan, Jaime Molera, they’re both saying that they think he should just go ahead and resign -- are you hearing more of that out there?

Laurie Roberts: I tried to talk to -- about his comments about Latinos yesterday. I was talking to various Latino citizens, prominent people and I tried not to go to the usual suspects who will always cry racism. I went to some people who I think are very thoughtful. Not to mean that the others aren't. They are not going to lob bombs. Ernie Calderon was one of those people -- told me yes, he thinks it is time for him to resign. I was surprised. I think as more of these comments are coming out there’s going to be more of a call for that. The public has called for leave it alone, leave it on the ballot and let the voters decide. It will be up to John Huppenthal what he wants to do. I want to point out that Huppenthal has had these sorts of issues before. If you go back a few years, you may remember the Wikipedia incidents where he went in and changed Wikipedia entries to boost himself and to sort of denigrate his competition, his opponents. So, you know, I think he has been doing this for a long time.

Ted Simons: Last question. And this is maybe a little far afield, but should the superintendent of public instruction be an elected position? Because some critics of Huppenthal, even before he -- when he was running the first time, the guy is not an education -- a background in education, other than being a lawmaker that focused on education. Is this the kind of thing you get when you have an elected position, you have inherent political types doing inherently political type things?

Laurie Roberts: Kind of like when you have an elected sheriff or elected county attorney and a lot of other things. I think it is a very good question. Troubling to me is the fact that I don't believe we've had anybody serve as state superintendent who actually taught in a public school classroom, probably not since Diane bishop --

Ted Simons: Why is that? What are voters looking for?

Laurie Roberts: Politicians.

Ted Simons: They're looking for the -- I guess if you're a politician and you are running for office you automatically have a leg up.

Laurie Roberts: They seem to. They seem to do that. A woman running on the democratic side -- a man and woman are running and both have education credentials. It will be interesting to see how voters figure that out. Yeah, I think you could call in to question whether we're -- whether these are elected posts, but they're going to be. So, that is what we got.

Ted Simons: Between HORNE and Huppenthal, can you remember this kind of activity in a political season?

Laurie Roberts: No, I would seriously imagine that this -- if they're both knocked off, which I expect, that it may be the first time in maybe the history of state that you have had two sitting incumbents knocked off.

Ted Simons: A pleasure. Good to see you.

Laurie Roberts: Good to see you.