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Anti-Racism the Focus for Latest Arizona Teacher Conference By Renowned Organization

June 17, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

This past week, Arizona teachers flocked to an annual leadership conference on reshaping K-12 education to prioritize social justice, focusing mainly on controversial ideologies like social emotional learning (SEL). The Arizona K12 Center — a Northern Arizona University (NAU) affiliate, established leader of 23 years in professional educator development and gatekeeper to National Board Certification — hosted the conference. (National Board Certification has long been held as the highest and most respected teacher certification).

Two of the featured guest speakers at the conference, Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan, lectured at length about equity and a concept called “street data,” a term the pair focused on in their eponymous book on anti-racism, “Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation.” 

“Street data” appears to be a term that Safir and Dugan coined. They argue that schools currently rely on “satellite data,” or measurable marks of proficiency and success like test scores and graduation rates. Safir and Dugan advocate for the eradication of satellite data. Instead, they insist teachers should focus on “street data,” such as students’ “brilliance, cultural wealth, and intellectual potential” and other experiential data from parents, teachers, and even the community. However, the emphasis is on a pedagogy built around students who would serve as “agents of their own learning” according to the authors. 

“Education can be transformed if we eradicate our fixation on big data like standardized test scores as the supreme measure of equity and learning. Instead of the focus being on ‘fixing’ and ‘filling’ academic gaps, we must envision and rebuild the system from the student up―with classrooms, schools and systems built around students’ brilliance, cultural wealth, and intellectual potential. Street data reminds us that what is measurable is not the same as what is valuable and that data can be humanizing, liberatory and healing,” read the book description.

Their book also declared that there was no defined end goal for equity because it’s a dynamic journey, not a destination.

The conference focused on social justice issues with ongoing concerns about student achievement. Arizona Department of Education (ADE) assessment of test score data from the 2020/2021 school year revealed an overall 4 percent drop in English-Language Arts scores, with a passage rate of 38 percent, and an 11 percent drop in math scores, with a passage rate of 31 percent.

The vice chair of the Arizona K12 Center is the ADE Deputy Associate Superintendent, Bruce DuPlanty. The ADE gave $7.5 million to the Arizona K12 Center in 2021 for a teacher residency program and to expand their reach across the state. During the summer of 2020, ADE partnered with the Arizona K12 Center to release Arizona’s Induction Program Standards. They’ve received millions more from the ADE since their inception in 1999.

Government employees on the board of directors include: Pinal County School Superintendent Jill Broussard, Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Andi Fourlis, Prescott Unified School District Professional Development Director Kelli Bradstreet, Yuma Union High School District Chief Academic Officer Eric Brooks, Roosevelt School District Innovation and Learning Executive Director Richard Ramos, Scottsdale Unified School District Psychologist Yadira Flores, Phoenix Elementary School District teacher Yolanda Wheelington, and Flowing Wells Unified School District teacher Ben Collinsworth. Also on the board is former Arizona State Board of Education member Janice Mak.

Arizona Public Service (APS), the largest electric company in the state, has a seat at the table: their vice president, controller, and chief accounting officer, Beth Blankenship, serves on the board of directors. 

Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) former President Ann O’Brien is also among those on the board of directors.

All three of Arizona’s public universities are also represented on the board of directors: University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Education Dean Bruce Johnson, Arizona State University (ASU) Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College professor Laura Corr, and NAU College of Education Dean Ramona Mellott. 

In the past, the Arizona K12 Center has received a collective total of millions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the Department of Education since their inception. The center began with former Republican Governor Jane Dee Hull.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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