In our opinion: It's time to scrutinize Common Core standards through rigorous review process

Deseret News editorial

Published: Mon, July 21, 2014, 12:00 a.m. MDT

 Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., helps student Melody Fritz with an English language arts lesson Oct. 1, 2013. Silver Lake has implemented the national Common Core State Standards for academics.

Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., helps student Melody Fritz with an English language arts lesson Oct. 1, 2013. Silver Lake has implemented the national Common Core State Standards for academics.

(Associated Press)

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has asked the attorney general to review the state’s involvement with Common Core education standards, saying he hopes to resolve contentions. This is a worthwhile effort, as is a new website the state has built to provide information and take comments.

The governor stressed that comments on this site should address specifics about Common Core and not merely express general feelings. That’s important, as this issue often becomes muddled with misinformation.

Common Core does deserve close scrutiny, however, and it deserves to be examined in light of specific goals that may exist on the state level. In the United States, education traditionally has been a matter for local control. And while it is important to note that Common Core was a creation of educators and governors nationwide, not of Washington or federal bureaucrats, that traditional local involvement is vital to the establishment of school standards.

Herbert’s action is a more prudent and deliberate approach than what is happening in other states. Three states — Indiana, Louisiana and Oklahoma — already have dropped out of Common Core. Indiana has been criticized for subsequently adopting its own standards that closely mirror Common Core. Oklahoma, moved by that criticism, passed a law that specifies the state’s new standards must look nothing like Common Core, a measure that makes little practical sense.

The problem with Common Core lies not so much in the standards themselves (states retain considerable latitude as to how they are implemented), as in the perception that those standards originated elsewhere.

In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has signed a bill that sets in motion a review of the standards, similar to what Herbert has ordered. North Carolina lawmakers passed a bill that calls for the standards to be rewritten and, in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has issued an order calling for a task force to study Common Core.

Clearly, Common Core, initially adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, is creating doubts and concerns. It makes sense to conduct a review of its effectiveness.

It is unfortunate that Utah educators and lawmakers have been unable to confront some problems with public education without the pressure of programs that originate elsewhere. The federal No Child Left Behind law, for example, was a classic example of congressional overreach into local education matters. But without it, the growing gap between white and minority student performance in Utah would not have become as clear.

Likewise, Common Core has spurred discussions about standards and comparisons with students elsewhere that otherwise might not have occurred. And yet there are enough questions about curricula, standards and procedures that it would be wrong for the governor to ignore the need to review the state’s involvement.

We’re not convinced the review will resolve all concerns in such an emotionally charged issue. But it’s essential to gather facts before further action is contemplated.

1. Howard Beal
Provo, UT,
July 21, 2014

I have some issues with the common core and have repeatedly stated I'm not a fan of the testing, which existed before the common core. I think we have deeper issues like class size and doing things to attract and retain teachers, all of which have nothing to do with the common core. But with that said I have one question to ask Oklahoma:

So what exactly what will your curriculum be?

2. Mainly Me
Werribee, 00,
July 21, 2014

This one's a no brainer. It's about dumbing down the smarter kids so they don't make the "disadvantaged" kids feel left out. Common core is an uncommon massive mistake.

3. E Sam
Provo, UT,
July 21, 2014

The problem has little to do with the standards, or with Common Core itself. The problem is testing. End-of-year standardized tests, by their very existence warp the teaching process. I know the buzz word is 'accountability', but it's an artificial accountability that has to enforced by threats and statistical measures. Finland's education system is the model to which we should aspire. First step to achieving it: end testing now. Of course, subject matter tests, carefully graded, can be a valuable pedagogical tool, if test results are kept entirely confidential, between teacher, student, and possibly, occasionally, the child's parents. But no test result should ever be shared with any government entity, or even with school administrators.

4. ordinaryfolks
seattle, WA,
July 21, 2014

Without going too far into the woods on this, why is it a problem that a child who graduates from high school in West Virginia has the same proficiencies as a child who graduates from California? Does one state seek to have "dumber" kids than another?

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but it sure seems silly to me that an American child would get one education in Utah, and another in Mississippi.

5. Me an Der
Lees Summit, MO,
July 21, 2014

Probably you have heard the quip about the guy who left his work place each day with a wheelbarrow full of straw. Upon examination it was determined that he did not have anything hidden under the straw. The inspectors did not realize they were the wheelbarrows he was stealing.

Same thing with Common Core. It is not the "standards" that are sooooo much the problem (however stupid they may be) it is the mechanism of control by the federal government that is being stolen. Once in control of the system, the feds can alter the standards in any way they wish because the states and local system are HOOKED.