Utah Parents Examine, Review Common Core Questions

In Utah, a Parent Review Committee will examine exam questions being prepared by state officials to identify elements that cause concern morally or politically. The Parent Review Committee was mandated by the Legislature to vet the questions, which students in third through 11th grades will be asked next spring on new computer adaptive tests in line with Common Core Standards.

To scrutinize questions, the committee will work from 9 a.m. each day at the Utah Office of Education reading exam questions and tagging any that raise cultural, ethical, moral or political concerns, writes Kristen Moulton of The Salt Lake Tribune.

“We’ll try to not make it replicate solitary confinement,” said Judy Park, deputy superintendent of Utah’s schools. “But no doubt, it is probably going to be one of the longest weeks of their lives.”

Based on the new Common Core Standards, the Utah Office of Education has a pool of 10,000 math, science and language arts questions. The Common Core Standards are being taught this year for the first time in all Utah public schools.

In computer adaptive testing, such a deep pool is needed because each test develops in a unique way for the student taking it, as questions are tailored depending on whether previous answers were right or wrong.

Park said the exam questions come from a variety of sources: educators, the state office, previous tests and other states. The complexity of the test is the same for everyone, but by honing in, the adaptive exam tells teachers what low-performing students don’t know and what high-performing students do know, Park said.

The questions have been thoroughly reviewed by those who wrote and compiled them, those who assessed whether the questions measure the standards and those who reviewed them for biases such as urban-rural, gender or ethnic, as well as, those who checked the questions for grammar.

By law, Senate and House leaders and the State Board of Education can appoint members to the Parent Review Committee. Each can appoint five.

Alyson Williams, of Spanish Fork — representative of parents involved in Common Core-related advocacy/criticism nationwide — was appointed to the committee by Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. Williams has an education degree and she looks forward to the question analysis because she is also a parent.

Williams has been a critic of the Common Core, which she believes removes educational decisions from parents and puts more emphasis on data than on children. Nonetheless, she said, she’ll have an open mind. “I’m doing it because I want to be as informed as I can be for my own children and hope that will benefit other parents,” Williams said.