By Corinne Murdock |
Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Tom Horne said that his administration is warring against the mediocrity of the progressive norms defining modern classrooms. These norms include social-emotional learning (SEL) and the replacement of school resource officers (SROs) with social workers.
“There is a war in education between the crusaders for mediocrity and those who want academic vigor,” said Horne. “I am on the side that supports academic rigor, and I hope that the members of the TUSD Board will be too.”
Horne blamed SEL for the years-long decline of test scores. Horne also claimed that some teachers reported having to dedicate up to 40 minutes of class time to SEL, often described to him as entertainment-level activities like “dumb games.” He called teachers who reject SEL prioritization his heroes.
“Our philosophy is that every instructional minute is precious,” said Horne.
Last fall, several reports were issued detailing the steady decline of student outcomes. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed in a report that students suffered severe learning losses in math and nominal losses in reading due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. ADE announced that a majority of Arizona students were still failing the statewide assessment.
According to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, Arizona is ranked 46th in education. This year’s rankings from Scholaroo rated Arizona as last of all 50 states in education when factoring student success, school quality, and school safety.
Horne also cited a study to debunk the claim that SROs don’t mitigate school shootings.
“[I]f a maniac were to invade a school, kill children, and the school chose a social worker as opposed to an armed officer, how do you think the parents of those murdered children would feel about that?” asked Horne.
Horne issued the remarks in a response letter to the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) school board’s criticism of him as “misguided” and claiming his policies cause active harm to students. He said TUSD showed a “frightening hostility” toward orderly classrooms.
Horne has had a lengthy career in education and politics: he served as a school board member for 24 years, the state’s previous attorney general for four years, and as ADE’s superintendent for eight years.
In their criticism issued earlier this month, TUSD Governing Board members Jennifer Eckstrom and Ravi Shah condemned Horne’s redirection of School Safety Grant Program funds to hire more SROs and the superintendent’s purge of SEL from education.
Eckstrom and Shah claimed that SROs didn’t reduce school shootings, but instead disproportionately disciplined minority students while over-disciplining students in general.
“The best way to keep our children safe and to help those who need it most requires us to roll up our sleeves and tackle the problem the hard way: investing in our kids and schools through more counselors, social workers, and other supportive adults; investing the time, energy, and money necessary to engage families as partners in their children’s learning; and developing policies and practices that engage students and correct behaviors before they escalate,” wrote the pair.
Yet, in the most recent school shooting on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee at a private Christian school, local police revealed the shooter — 28-year-old Audrey Hale — had initially intended to target another, unnamed school, but decided against it because it had stronger security. Police also revealed that Hale, believed to identify as a transgender man named Aiden, had a manifesto and may have targeted the school over its Biblical beliefs. Hale, an alumna of the K-6 school, killed three students and three faculty members.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to email@example.com.