The worldwide market has few boundaries. Thus Utah's businesses and workforce must be able to compete globally. For this reason, the Legislature, employers and parents are demanding that our education system benchmark its objectives against international competitors. They also demand a more rigorous curriculum.
To address these concerns, parents, teachers, school administrators and experts from across the country joined with state leaders to develop a clear set of standards that each state can use as a framework for improving education. In 2009, the Utah State Board of Education and the Governor agreed to join 48 states to produce the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English-language arts.
Utah joined the Common Core initiative because we want standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success. These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers and help ensure that students receive a high quality education consistently, from school to school. They also provide a greater opportunity for teachers and administrators to share experiences and best practices. Common Core Standards are:
- Aligned with college and work expectations
- Include rigorous content
- Informed by top performing countries such as Singapore
- Clear, understandable, and consistent
- Build upon the strengths of Utah’s current education standards
Based on misinformation, some legislators and parents have expressed concern about the Common Core being the result of the federal government meddling in Utah’s education policy. The Governor and I believe that the education of Utah’s children is the responsibility of Utah—not the federal government. However, it’s important to understand that the Common Core Standards were not developed by the federal government, nor has the federal government been involved at any step along the process. This is a state-led initiative, and Utah joined without any strings attached. We can opt out at anytime, or we can adapt the standards to fit our needs and values. The fear is that the Common Core will impose on Utah schools the obligation to teach values and lifestyles we don't agree with. That won’t happen on our watch.
I have read the Common Core. It does not discuss, let alone mandate, any moral or political positions, values or lifestyle considerations. The Common Core, while very comprehensive, simply states milestones for students, for instance, by the end of 3rd grade the student will be able to form and use irregular verbs, or explain equivalent fractions. Common Core Standards are an exhaustive list of skills and competencies. The texts, the lessons, the values, the methods by which teachers convey and help our students develop these competencies will be chosen, as they always have been, by Utah's schools and parents.
Recently I had a conversation with the founder and CEO of one of the world’s leading IT companies. He told me that in order for Utah to continue to attract more high-paying jobs, we must do better in educating our children. The Utah Common Core standards are a major step along this path.