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Where Can You Keep the Common Core by 'Repealing' It? In Arizona, Maybe

The Arizona state school board voted 6-2 to repeal the Common Core State Standards on Monday. But if you think the situation is as simple as that sentence makes it sound, you haven't been following the twisted political travails of the common core for the past few years. 

The board voted to approve the motion put forward by state Superintendent Diane Douglas, a Republican who was elected last year in large part due to her opposition to the common core. In an Oct. 20 letter to board President Greg Miller that contains her motion, that motion states it would "sever the tie" between the state and the standards. (See the text of the motion immediately below.)


"It will return Arizona to developing its own standards for approval by the [state board of education]," Douglas wrote in the letter to board President Greg Miller explaining the purpose of her motion. 

She goes on to write that the developers of the common core, specifically the Council of Chief State School Officers, don't intend to provide an update to the standards, and that therefore they'll become out-of-date and will need improvement.

The CCSSO oversaw the common core's development along with the National Governors Association—a CCSSO spokeswoman, Olympia Meola, confirmed that there won't be any sort of Common Core 2.0, but declined to comment further on the Arizona board's vote.

By our count, Arizona would become the fourth state to, at least officially, repeal the common core, joining Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. So what's confusing about this "repeal"?

Still on the Books

The first point to make is that the repeal doesn't immediately take the standards off the books. The common core will remain in classrooms despite the formal reversal Monday by the state board. (Yes, that last sentence looks like a contradiction, but bear with me.) In fact, a subsequent statement from GOP Gov. Doug Ducey's office noted that the vote was "symbolic" even though he would like to see the common core itself replaced.

Arizona lawmakers rejected a common-core repeal bill earlier this year.

The board's repeal also isn't the first action the state board has taken on common core in 2015. Last April, the state board agreed to create a committee to review the common core at the request of Ducey and others—the committee is now taking public comments on the standards, and that public-comment period will close Nov. 20. 

That review, which is designed to incorporate concerns about the standards and eventually make changes, is ongoing, and isn't impacted by the repeal vote on Monday.

Now, keep something in mind: It's entirely possible that, following this review, Arizona will give Ducey what he says he wants and essentially throw the common core out in favor of new standards. And maybe this repeal vote will give momentum to common-core foes involved in the review process. But the track record of many states, such as Florida, indicates that Arizona might decide to make some relatively minor or superficial tweaks or additions to the standards, and keep the common core for all intents and purposes. (Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer already changed the common core's name in 2013.) 

In the end, the primary impact of the board's vote to repeal the common core might be to sow confusion among teachers, parents, and the general public about where exactly the standards stand in Arizona. 

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