Step right up, my friends, and witness the act of the century, where the only thing more outlandish than the performers is the state’s forthcoming approach to education. And taking center stage is the Ringmaster of Ridiculousness, the Boss Clown himself, Tom Horne. As Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom has decided to juggle with the future of our children. He wants to change the A-F school grading formula to reflect his slapstick idea of “values-based teaching standards.” Will it be a high-flying success or a catastrophic flop?

Yes, that’s right. Instead of focusing on a good education and academic achievement, Tom wants to assign demerits to K-12 schools that use modern approaches to education. Social emotional learning? Pfft, who needs it? Who needs to provide a supportive school environment for children struggling with challenges like ADHD or autism?


Educational sleight of hand

But wait, there’s more! Tom and his trusty sidekicks are figuring out how to collect information on what schools are teaching and how to include that in the letter grade formula used to rank and rate. In other words, let’s just make up our own shtick, cram it into Tom’s clown car of fact-free nonsense, and be amazed.

And, of course, the cherry on top of this pie in the face is the fact that Tom is a member of the Arizona State Board of Education, the very body that will decide how to handle his proposal. Gee, I wonder if Tom will take a familiar approach to winning over hecklers: exaggerated or bogus claims, threats, and maybe even bullying. Wow, something SEL will teach you not to do. Imagine that!

Red-nosed joke

But don’t just take my word for how appalling Tom’s newly-won term in office will be. Let’s look at some of Tom’s early accomplishments. He’s hamstrung the Education Department’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, cancelled presentations on topics of equity and social emotional learning at a state conference, and characterized progressive approaches like social emotional learning as Trojan horses for critical race theory. Phew! That last one is a doozy!

Good grief, he reminds me of family members who keep forgetting the punch lines to terrible jokes, mainly because Tom is the punch line. Somehow, Tom has taken a complex, multifaceted issue like education and boiled it down to a simplified tug-of-war between good and bad. And, of course, he’s the ultimate arbiter of the distinction between the two. I can’t even begin to imagine what hoops schools would have to jump through to get a fair grade.

Stop the funny business!

Tom’s school grading trapeze act is a dangerous and damaging move for Arizona education. It prioritizes personal beliefs and political agenda over education and academic achievement. And it undermines the progress made in addressing equity and diversity in Arizona education.

Tom would rather make a spectacle of himself than ensure every child in Arizona has an equitable foundation on which to build a strong future. He’s more concerned with reminiscing over old-timey ideas than with catching the children falling through the cracks. Instead of championing classrooms filled with learning and wonder, Tom is leaning into time-worn attitudes of ignorance and disregard for Arizona’s youngest and most vulnerable students.

Stick around. Blog for Arizona will have more on Tom’s humiliating pratfalls soon.