Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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3 finalists chosen for Nevada superintendent of education

The Nevada State Board of Education unanimously selected three finalists for the state’s top education position on Thursday.

After more than three hours of interviews and deliberation, the board chose three Nevadans — Rene Cantu, Dale Erquiaga and Rorie Fitzpatrick — for further consideration as state superintendent.

Cantu is executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Community Foundation, which provides scholarships and assistance to at-risk children.

Erquiaga is Gov. Brian Sandoval’s former senior advisor on education policy and the architect of Nevada’s education reform efforts, particularly on teacher evaluations.

Fitzpatrick is a longtime state Education Department official who became interim superintendent after former schools chief Jim Guthrie announced his resignation in March.

For the past four months, Fitzpatrick has been tasked with implementing the education policies set forth by Sandoval.

State School Board members said they were impressed with the depth of knowledge the candidates had of Nevada’s struggling education system. They were hopeful their knowledge of Nevada’s education policies would help the state’s 500,000 K-12 students.

The board voted to eliminate a fourth candidate, Michael Sentance, the former education chief of Massachusetts, because of his opposition of the new Common Core State Standards.

Nevada is one of 45 states that have adopted the new academic standards, which come with a more rigorous curriculum and computerized test.

Sentance, who opposed the standards in Massachusetts, argued it was important for Nevada to create its own academic standards. Echoing a growing chorus of critics nationally, Sentance lambasted the Common Core, arguing that local governments should determine what should be taught in local schools.

Sentance also blasted the Common Core’s math standards as substandard to Massachusetts’ standards and lamented that the English standards focused too much on nonfiction work and not enough on literature.

“There’s not a lot of evidence that shows Common Core is successful,” Sentance said. “It’s not very good.”

Sentance’s comments stood in stark contrast to Nevada’s K-12 leadership. The Silver State has made a significant investment in the Common Core, training teachers and principals for its full implementation by the 2014-15 school year.

Board President Elaine Wynn said she viewed Sentance’s opposition to the Common Core State Standards as grounds for an “automatic disqualification.”

Most board members agreed, arguing that Common Core creates a national standard for academic achievement.

“Common Core is how we’re moving forward,” board member Stavan Corbett said. “It’s important to have a spokesperson who owns it.”

Check back later for more on this developing story.

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