Utah Govenor Determined to End Common Core Contentions

Utah Governor Gary Herbert wants Utah’s academic standards reexamined. Lisa Schencker of The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the governor want his attorney general to look into any federal “entanglements” which might have been involved in the state’s approval of Common Core State Standards in math and language arts.

The governor is also creating a group that will review standards for higher education.  A webpage has been established so that comments can be given by the public about specific standards.

The Herbert says that he is steadfastly determined that Utah parents, educators, and school boards will decide what is taught and the method in which it is taught in Utah schools.

“I state unequivocally today that we will not cede that responsibility to anyone else,” Herbert said. “We as a state need to resolve these contentious matters.”

Herbert has stated that he has heard positives and negatives about the standards, but believes the two sides are not hearing one another, and that they actually share many similar frustrations.

The state adopted the standards in 2010, and Utah education leaders laud them as more rigorous than the state’s previous standards.  Opponents have disapproved of the standards because of what they call “federal overreach”.  However, although the federal government encouraged their use, the standards were not written nor required by the federal government.

Other opposition comes from parents who say there are a lack of textbooks that reflect the standards and that they do not have the knowledge to assist their children with the new math program.

In an report field by Mark Green for TV station KSTU, three major principles are listed which the governor believes should guide the state as it works on improving Utah’s schools.

- Maintain high academic standards in all subjects, and for all students.

- Monitor and limit the federal government’s role in education.

- Preserve the state and local school district control of our education system, including curriculum, materials, testing and instructional practices.

An evaluation of state standards in math and English language arts will led by Dr. Rich Kendell.

“More than ever, we must raise the skill level of our students,” Herbert stated in the release. “We must not shy away from high standards or challenging exams, but work to give our students the best education possible, preparing them to lead successful lives and compete in the global marketplace.”

The State Board of Education issued a press release in response to Herbert’s, which said in part: “The State Board of Education appreciates the Governor’s message in support of our commitment to high educational standards for Utah’s children. We share his concern over the proper role of government and look forward to receiving the Attorney General’s report.”

Herbert also reiterated his confidence in the state’s Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) computer computerized standardized testing systems.  Some lack of technology and other bumps in the road exist, but the governor says where there are problems, they will be fixed.  Herbert added that necessary protections will in place in the use of both testing and data.

The State Board of Education is also concerned by privacy issues.

“We are especially appreciative of [Herbert's] concern over student data privacy,” the release stated. “Last year, the Board passed a resolution affirming our commitment to student privacy in an increasingly digital world.”

In a Desert News article, written by Benjamin Wood, it is reported that educators and teachers on both sides of the issue appreciate the governor’s efforts to resolve the contention around the Common Core.