Utah PTA calls for veto of curriculum review bill

Published: Thursday, March 20 2014 4:17 p.m. MDT

"If someone complains to a group of parents, they don’t really have a way to resolve complaints except send it back to the school district," she said. "And that’s where complaints should go in the first place."

Stephenson said he sponsored his bill in response to lingering angst over the state's adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a series of educational benchmarks outlining the minimum skills a student should learn in each grade.

When the state developed a new testing system — to be used for the first time this spring — aligned with the Common Core, many parents were suspicious that test questions would include social and political biases, he said.

But after the 15-member review committee completed a weeklong, sequestered review of all test materials, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and helped restore trust in the testing system.

Stephenson said the success of that process suggests that a similar review of instructional materials would calm fears and alleviate concerns.

"I don’t remember when the public has been more suspicious of the core curriculum, the standards and the materials used to teach our children than they are today," Stephenson said.

No matter whether anti-Common Core suspicions are warranted, getting to the bottom of complaints will help the state move forward, he said.

"We should provide these kinds of opportunities for neutral third parties to vet those concerns so that we can get to the bottom of it and restore the confidence of the people in our educational process or uncover those areas where there truly are problems," Stephenson said. "In either case, I think we’re better off."

When asked about SB257's narrow passage during the final minutes of the legislative session, Stephenson said the late-hour debate only hindered what would have been broader support for the bill.

Representatives had little time to consider the merits of the bill, he said, and when in doubt, lawmakers are more inclined to vote 'no.'

"I think if they had had more time, there would have been a bigger margin of victory," he said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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