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State School Board calls for support of Common Core

Published: Thursday, May 9 2013 12:55 p.m. MDT

In an effort to improve the nation's education system and make students better prepared for college and careers, a new set of standards is now sweeping across classrooms throughout the United States. It's an approach call the Common Core and it has been heavily discussed at the Education Nation summit.

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SALT LAKE CITY — In a pair of resolutions passed last week by the State School Board, Utah's top education officials made their position on the Utah Core Standards clear and called on Utah's governor and lawmakers to support the transition to new college- and career-readiness standards.

The resolutions, which were posted Tuesday on the State Office of Education website, were made partly in response to criticisms that have dogged the state office since Utah's adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 2010.

"There seems to be some confusion surrounding the Common Core so the intent was to help clarify some of the misconceptions about that," said David Crandall, vice chairman of the State School Board.

The Common Core is a series of academic benchmarks aimed at preparing students for higher education. They have been voluntarily adopted by 46 states but have come under fire by conservative groups who view the standards as an intrusion into local control by the federal government.

In Utah, the Common Core standards for mathematics and English language arts are included in the Utah Core Standards, the statewide educational benchmarks established by the democratically elected State School Board.

"The executive authority over education for the state rests with the State Board of Education," Crandall said. "That’s the reason that we put that in (the resolution), to make it clear to the public that it is an executive responsibility that we have to adopt the standards for the state."

But opponents of the standards have called on lawmakers to intervene and end the state's participation in the Common Core. In the resolution passed last week, the school board states that school officials held public discussions and studied the standards prior to their adoption and urges lawmakers to resist "erroneous" information spread by critics.

"Be it resolved that the Utah State Board of Education calls upon the governor of the state of Utah and the members of the Utah Senate and the Utah House of Representatives: 1) to support the goal of career and college ready outcomes for Utah students; 2) to resist the demands calling to 'remove Utah from the Common Core' based on erroneous information; and 3) to collaborate with the State Board of Education in supporting teachers, parents and students during the transition to these new Utah Core Standards," the resolution states.

The second resolution establishes the State School Board's position on the storing and sharing of personal student information and urges lawmakers to "pass and/or revise such laws as are necessary to strongly secure and protect the sensitive personal data of students and teachers." The resolution is a response to concerns by some critics of the Common Core that participation in the standards would lead to Utah student information being stored in a national database.

Crandall said part of the confusion around the Common Core stems from a misunderstanding of what the standards are. He said the Utah Core Standards are a series of benchmarks students in a particular grade are expected to reach and do not dictate the curriculum of an individual school district, school or classroom.

For example, a mathematics standard may call for students in a certain grade to be able to multiply and divide fractions, which would be reflected in end-of-level testing, but the day-to-day classroom content would be up to local control.

"How the individual districts implement that and what specific readings they have (students) do, what books they have and what they include in their curriculum are completely up to the local school districts and charter schools," Crandall said. "Ultimately what it comes down to is we want students to be career and college ready."

Full transition to the new Utah Core Standards is scheduled to be completed for the 2014-15 academic year. Crandall said each school district is taking their own steps to adopt the standards, but generally the efforts are progressing well statewide.

"For the most part, there’s pretty broad support from the districts themselves and from the charter schools," he said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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