Common Core and the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Race

Elsie Arntzen, Melissa Romano

The Billings Gazette previewed the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction race between Melissa Romano, a Helena teacher and math coach, and Republican Elsie Arntzen, a legislator and former Billings teacher.

Here is where they are at on Common Core:

In 2011, Montana adopted a new set of education standards that largely reflect Common Core. The standards provide benchmarks at every grade level and are largely recognized as more rigorous. The standards were adopted at the state level and produced by a consortium of states, but have been criticized as a top-down approach pushed by the federal government. Any new standards in Montana are subject to final approval by the Board of Public Education, but the superintendent usually plays a heavyweight role in the process.

Romano, a teacher for 12 years, was involved with writing Common Core standards and believes they provide a high bar for students.

“They’re so superior to the old standards,” she said. “They’re rigorous, they’re high expectations for every single kid, they set a very defined end goal for where we want our kids to be at the end of the year. There’s a clear path for teachers to follow.”

Arntzen, who spent 23 years teaching and is a state senator representing Billings, has expressed skepticism about Common Core and the assessment developed based on the standards, Smarter Balanced tests. But she’s stopped short of saying she would push for new standards.

She did say she’s glad the standards have become a hot topic.

“It brought the discussion of education into coffee,” for the general public, she said.

Romano, however, said there’s been a lot of misinformation about Common Core, which has also rubbed off on testing.

First of all I have to ask is how exactly was Romano involved in writing Common Core? Here is the list of people who served on the development teams. Her name isn’t there. If she means she provided feedback to the state before they adopted Common Core wholesale that is a far cry from helping write the standards.

In Romano’s defense it would seem the Billings Gazette is overstating her involvement with Common Core and not Romano herself. From her website:

Romano participates in the National Education Association Common Core Working Group, helping to ensure that local guidance, insight and expertise is incorporated into the implementation of nation-wide education standards. Romano was also selected to work with educators throughout America as a juror and evaluator for the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products with Achieve, an independent organization dedicated to working with states to raise standards.

The NEA had little to nothing to do with writing Common Core.

Secondly on the issue of Common Core you have a cheerleader for Common Core (Romano) vs. someone who has been skeptical, but according to the Billings Gazette hasn’t said she would push for new standards (Arntzen).

Looking at Arntzen’s website I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, but voters should also consider her record as a state legislator not just what her website says.

Arntzen on her issues page says she supports “Montana-Made Solutions.”

We all know that Washington is broken. Instead of catering to the arbitrary standards and out of touch curriculum D.C. bureaucrats try to force on our students, Elsie will work with local school districts on Montana-made solutions that reflect the needs of our local communities.

On local control her website states:

The best decisions about our children’s education are made at the local level – not by bureaucrats in Helena or D.C. Elsie will ensure that parents and teachers are involved in the unique educational issues facing our children.

Romano, on the other hand, doesn’t mention local control at all on her website. She doesn’t even mention Common Core in her issues page (Arntzen doesn’t either directly). She does express support for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Every student in Montana deserves the opportunity to be successful. Replacing the outdated No Child Left Behind law frees Montana’s educators from its failed requirements, and allows them more opportunities to be creative in their curriculum to inspire a love of learning in students. The Every Student Succeeds Act gives Montana more autonomy to do what is best for our state, and our education system. Additionally, increased support into Montana’s preschool education will put our youngest students on a path of success.

Arntzen, however, told the Billings Gazette she was concerned with how the state plan was coming together.

Arntzen said that she believes the plan is being rushed without enough time for community input. She criticized the process as being Helana-dominated. The plan is being developed, in part, by a committee who meets in Helena but draws representatives from across the state.

Arntzen may be a wild card in terms of how much she’ll actually fight Common Core, but it’s pretty clear Romano will double down on Common Core and things like it. Arntzen appears to be someone who will, at least, be a stronger champion for local control.

2 thoughts on “Common Core and the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Race

    1. Making a comment about an early draft and “being involved in writing” are two different things IMHO, but “being involved” is such a broad statement I guess it could cover that even though I think that is misleading. It would have better to say she helped review the standards. I have to wonder how much of their feedback fell on deaf ears.

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