Az schools chief Tom Horne falsely claims Chandler schools are dumbing down their education

Chandler Unified School District says
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, the top education
official in the state, made apparently baseless accusations about how
the district teaches math when he spoke to a far-right group in
September. 

“Chandler just eliminated their Advanced Placement courses. They adopted, believe it or not, equity math,” Horne said at a Moms 4 Liberty event. The group has been labeled an anti-government and anti-LGBTQ+ extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is known for campaigning for Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and advocating for segregating LGBTQ+ students from heterosexual students. 

Horne appears to believe that CUSD
has implemented an “equitable grading” system that has faced criticism
from conservatives and scrapped its Advanced Placement programs.
However, neither appears to be true, according to CUSD and information
reviewed by the Arizona Mirror.

Horne went on to say that “there are
people in the colleges” who claim that math is a “male chauvinist,
phallocentric, imperialistic plot and we gotta put a stop to this
craziness,” before encouraging those in attendance to run for school
board positions. 

Chandler Unified School District
spokesperson Stephanie Ingersoll said the district is not familiar with
the term “equity math,” adding that “no such item with that name” is
being taught in CUSD or supported by any of the district’s elected
school board members. 

When the Mirror asked Horne about his comments and CUSD’s rejection of his claims, he doubled down. 

“A number of parents have been
complaining about these two things in successive school board meetings,”
Horne said in a response emailed by a spokesman for the Arizona
Department of Education, which Horne leads. He added that these parents
are “likely to move their children to charter schools.” 

“The
word that Chandler uses to dumb down math is actually ‘reasonable math’
rather than equitable math, but they come to the same thing. Of all the
areas of knowledge, math is the one where you have right and wrong
answers. They have eliminated that. If they approve of the method used,
they count the answers right, even if the answer is wrong,” Horne said
“In China they are teaching students to come up with the right answers,
so this philosophy is going to hurt our competitiveness.” 

But “reasonable math” has nothing to do with easing grading in math. Rather, it is a way of validating solutions when doing math problems. 

Horne also claimed that advanced
learning schools in CUSD, such as the Weinberg Gifted Academy, no longer
offer advanced curriculum. 

“This is a typical left-wing strategy
around the country to eliminate advanced learning for capable students
in order to have ‘equity,’” Horne said in the emailed response. 

That is also false, CUSD said.

Horne did not answer follow-up questions about his emailed statement.

CUSD also rejected Horne’s claim that the district has ended its
Advanced Placement courses and expressed surprise that the state’s
schools chief would say such a thing.

“We are not sure where Mr. Horne
received his information, but we are not eliminating AP courses in
CUSD,” Ingersoll said. “Across the district in 2023, 7,439 AP tests were
taken and 82.2% passed. We are proud of our AP offerings.” 

One of the attendees at the Moms 4 Liberty event at which Horne spoke was CUSD Governing Board member Kurt Rohrs. 

Rohrs has been an outspoken critic of CUSD and ran on a platform of “parental rights.” He was endorsed by the far-right group Purple for Parents. Rohrs did not respond to a request for comment. 

The comments from Horne came as
parents have been attending CUSD board meetings claiming that a
September switch in math curriculum from Saxon Math to McGraw-Hill was
“dumbing down” math teaching at some Chandler Traditional Academy Schools. 

Saxon Math is a popular choice
among homeschool parents and McGraw-Hill has come under fire from
conservative activists, specifically in Florida, where the state
rejected some math textbooks because they cited “prohibited topics” in the state where it’s illegal for students to learn about LGBTQ people.

Speakers who came to CUSD to speak
about Saxon Math call it an accelerated math program and advocated for
keeping the curriculum. The district opted to replace it because Saxon
Math textbooks were no longer available. 

One speaker, Ann Adams, claimed that parents were planning to bring legal action to keep Saxon Math in Chandler schools. 

Math and grading criteria have been a hot-button issue for conservatives nationwide as many districts have begun pursuing “equitable grading.”
Critics argue that letter-based grading, which started in the 1940s,
can be inequitable and does not adequately address a child’s skill and
mastery of a subject. 

Proponents of equitable grading say
that eliminating the 100-point grade system and not penalizing students
for missed assignments or late work if they can demonstrate subject
mastery is a better way of assessing skill and helping students learn. 

But the practice has come under fire from critics on the right who have assailed it as “woke” or “racist.” Horne himself has come out against the practice, which one study has found resulted in a decrease in D and F grades. Studies have also found consistent racial bias in grading.