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State Invites Public Comment on Common Core Education Standards


By Andrea Smardon

Salt Lake City, UT – Morgan Philpott was Governor Gary Herbert's biggest competition at the Republican state convention, and he got some of his biggest applause when he brought up Utah Common Core Standards - which the state board of education approved and the Governor supported last summer.

"You can not change education by giving control of it to the federal government through the Common Core initiative," said Philpott to a cheering crowd, "We are destroying a 100 year-plus tradition of local sovereignty and control over Utah's education. We must give power back to families, the most fundamental unit of society. "

The Common Core Standards Initiative is an effort to establish a shared set of educational standards for English language arts and mathematics. The Standards were determined by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief School Officers. 45 states including Utah have agreed to adopt these shared standards. Sherilyn Colby is a delegate who is very concerned about Common Core. She attended the convention with her 5-month old baby, and voted against Herbert, in part because of this issue.

"I'm very much for high standards, and we want that and need that in our state, but I do not want a delegation of Governors telling my children how they should be educated and taking control of the parents in our area," said Colby.

Herbert tried to fend off the attacks by insisting Common Core would not infringe on local control.

"Make no mistake, and this is my commitment; solutions to Utah's education challenges will always come from the bottom up, from Utah teachers, Utah parents, Utah students and not from Washington DC," Herbert said.

The Utah Board of education adopted the core standards in August last year, but Common Core came under question during the legislative session. Lawmakers passed a bill stating that Utah could opt out of the standards, if the state was not in full control of its curriculum. Speaking during the session, State Superintendent Larry Shumway stood by the standards.

"These are standards that Utah participated with like-minded states to develop. We voluntarily have adopted parts of these standards and can change any parts that we want to at any time," said Shumway, "I've read these standards, they'll make our young people ready to do college level work when they graduate and prepare to compete in the economy that they'll enter."

But even after US Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote a letter last month saying that Utah had full control of its curriculum, some are still not convinced. Wendy Hart is one parent who would like the state to get out of Common Core. She's a member of the Alpine School District Board, though she does not represent the board's views. Hart is worried that tests produced by the consortium will affect what her children learn and the manner in which its taught.

"Any teaching, any education, is value-laden. The question is to what degree do our values get propagated? If we say we are not going to have our values propagated as a local community, then we're going to accept the values that are decided in committee, in consensus among a consortium of states. We can decide to do that, but my concern is that we've decided to do that without public input, certainly not with my neighbors and teachers in my school," said Hart.

The state office of education is holding a meeting to collect public input this evening in the Granite School District board room in South Salt Lake. They are also accepting comments via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook for those who can't attend. The state board of education will consider those comments in future decisions about the Common Core. Governor Gary Herbert says participation in the initiative is being evaluated and he welcomes an open discussion.

For more information about Common Core and to make comments, visit the Utah State Office of Education website.

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