The effort to defeat Tom Horne as Superintendent of Public Instruction is important but often overlooked. One of the most important Constitutional officers is the SPI, as s/he has broad authority over public schools, which comprise a major portion of our 10 billion dollar state budget, yet the race is too often overlooked by the media and voters.
Slade Mead, a former Republican legislator who was recruited by Gov. Napolitano and Chairman Mitchell after having been defeated in his party’s primary, is one of the Democratic candidates for this important state-wide post. Slade recently completed his nomination petitions and his Clean Elections qualifying $5 donation allotment. He sent out a press release regarding his agenda in running for SPI, which I reprint in its entirety, without comment, below the fold.
I will invite Jason Williams, who is also running for the Democratic SPI nomination, to provide the same sort of statement regarding his campaign.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Date: February 20, 2006
Slade Mead announces a new phase in his campaign for superintendent of public
instruction. The following is the full text of his remarks delivered in Window Rock, Winslow, Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson during his February 20, 2006, tour.
Phoenix, AZ – Today, Presidents’ Day, is a special one for my campaign for
superintendent of public instruction. I am submitting my nomination petitions and clean election $5 forms to the Secretary of State and Clean Elections Commission respectively. Since late August, I, along with hundreds of volunteers (mostly of current and retired educators), have collected over 5,500 petition signatures—more than a 1,000 over the minimum number. Simultaneously, this army of volunteers and I have obtained approximately 1,900 $5 contributions, thereby triggering the clean election funding for this statewide office.
If you want to know the difference between the current superintendent and myself, ask an educator. While a member of the Arizona Senate, I lead the revolt against a draconian GOP budget that had over $25 million in cuts to public education. It is time that friends of public education take back control of the Arizona Department of Education. The department should be run on best practice public policy, not ideological experimentation. Let me take a moment to highlight some distinct differences between Tom Horne and myself:
First, I am shocked by the superintendent’s recent opposition, this past Wednesday, to a teacher pay raise in testimony before the Senate Education Committee. Last fall, the superintendent called for a misguided tax credit for teachers. Now that a realistic bill is before the legislature addressing the crisis of teacher compensation, the superintendent opposes it. To add insult to injury, this same bill appropriates $500,000 to the NAU Arizona K-12 Center. The Center has taken the initiative to train our state’s teachers to keep up with best practices and excel. The Center, however, falls outside the control of
the Department of Education. Rather than trying to kill the Center as the current superintendent is attempting, the two entities should join forces and work in tandem.
Second, I am opposed to siphoning money out of our public education system and
sending it into private schools. Call it what you will – a voucher or a $50 million corporate tax credit – I am embarrassed that the superintendent of PUBLIC instruction issupporting this crippling public policy proposal, targeted to benefit PRIVATE schools, as a solution to the Flores lawsuit.
Third, as a former school board member, I believe in local control. I am shocked that the superintendent has endorsed an out-of-state initiative designed to cripple local control by mandating how a district must allocate its resources. Education and business groups and leaders have come out against this imitative that mandates a certain percentage of a district’s budget must be used in the classroom. The two inherent problems with this one-size-fits-all mentality are 1) the definition of in the classroom is so narrowly defined that many vital services, such as librarians, counselors, school nurses, computers count
against the mandated spending limit and 2) certain districts — especially rural districts — face higher out of classroom expenses such as transportation, which means this mandated funding initiative would cripple their ability to service their students. Ask your school board members what this harmful initiative does to your local district each time the price of fuel rises, making the cost of transporting our children—a service all agree must be provided—work directly against the mandated formula. For the current superintendent to support this plan is wrong.
Fourth, under the current administration, the department has grown, grown and grown. It has even spread into a second building in Phoenix. Sadly, the vast majority of the growth has been to hire compliance personnel rather than service personnel. We need to stop this out of control growth and refocus the department toward assisting districts rather than policing them. We need a superintendent who will put your tax dollars towards valuable services rather than towards punishing schools.
There are two programs that my superintendency would pursue.
First, we must fix and refocus the purpose and meaning of the AIMS test. I would adopt the Wyoming model of “Body of Evidence.” This model uses best practices in
administering this non-norm reference test. First, it makes the test a formative
assessment tool for teachers to use to better their students. It does this by:
1. Giving the test on a computer so that the results are sent to both the state and the teacher immediately;
2. Breaking the test into specific strands so that a student who did well on one
strand is not retested on that area but rather then focuses on those areas in
which the student did poorly. A student—with the one on one help of the teacher—can focus on his weaknesses and retake that specific part of the AIMS test.
3. Banking the scores, which allows the federal government to mine AIMS scores for AYP purposes if a student does well on a strand and not have to retake that section. This is done in Wyoming. In fact Wyoming was the first state in the nation to have its test approved by the U.S. Department of Education; whereas, the AIMS test has NOT yet received approval.
The “Body of Evidence” model recognizes that Arizona has over 140 state standards, yet AIMS tests only 34 of those standards. “Body of Evidence” requires that a student must achieve a certain number of points to graduate, and the AIMS test can only give that student 60% of the total points needed. This means each student must do more in high school than just take AIMS. The other points are earned by taking classes and activities that are linked to state standards. Each class, like chemistry or American history, is worth points. Each activity, like speech and debate or 4-H, is worth points. Let’s encourage our students to broaden their curriculum while maintaining the recognized value of the core elements – reading, writing and math – tested by AIMS.
The “Body of Evidence” model also promotes local control. If there are local customs or cultural values that are important to a community, the local school board can incorporate those customs and values into the curriculum if the district can show a link between them and the state standards.
Under the current superintendency, the AIMS is a complete mess. Each year, the score a child needs to pass the exam drops, thereby making the definition of pass versus fail completely subjective to the whim of the department and not subject to how well a student actually performs.
The debacle continues; under the Flores decision, some of our population has been excused from the high-stakes requirement of AIMS, while others must pass it to graduate. Moreover, because the test is given with paper and pencil, it is
months before teachers get back results. Often the results come after the student has moved on to the next grade. There is no formative assessment component to AIMS. In fact, Arizona waits to intervene with a struggling student until his twelfth grade year. We should be helping students at the first sign of failing, regardless of age. The AIMS test should be a tool for teachers to better educate our children, not a punishment. Lastly, while Arizona has been testing, testing, testing, Arizona’s ranking among all the states in the union has ebbed to last in the nation, according to the Morgan Quinto Press. When
Horne assumed control Arizona was at 44th and now we are at 50th! We have bottomed out. We can do better.
“Body of Evidence” does not reinvent AIMS. Instead we are adopting another state’s successful template where the test has been proven to be a positive teaching tool rather than a negative one. This is an example of using best practice models. I urge anyone wishing to learn more information to Google Wyoming, PAWS and “Body of Evidence” or visit my Web site at www.slademead.com.
In addition to implementing the “Body of Evidence” approach, I would recognize other state’s teacher certifications for educators moving into Arizona from other states. We have a teacher shortage estimated between 3,500 and 4,500. Why then do we make it so difficult for out-of-state teachers to teach in Arizona? It is illogical. My administration will welcome these teachers with open arms and get them engaged in our system.
As I travel around Arizona, I hear from administrators and teachers that the department is unapproachable and a place to be avoided. That is just terrible. The department should be a resource for all Arizona parents, school teachers and administrators from traditionalpublic schools, charters and even private schools. The department should be viewed as the place to go for assistance and answers. That culture must change and will change with my superintendency. The superintendent of public instruction needs to be a cheerleader for public education, not an enforcer of ideology. If you want to know the difference between the current Superintendent and myself, ask an educator.