This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Even if it were free for Utah to abandon its version of education standards based on the Common Core, it would still be a bad idea. The state, and its students, would lose a lot more than just money.

One member of the State Board of Education recently tried to explain to another member how a total re-write of the basic math and English standards that Utah has drafted, approved, implemented, updated and disseminated to public and charter schools all over the state might cost $100 million in taxpayer money.

And, as board member Spencer Stokes rightly said, "There's no way on God's green Earth that the Legislature is going to give us the money needed to create a true Utah core."

But even if such a redo would cost a tenth of that, it would still be a foolish thing to do.

The only reason board members are even talking about this is the continuing pressure brought by sincere but seriously confused people who think the Common Core is some kind of foreign take-over of the state's educational system, something imposing a fearful, and imaginary, philosophy of sex and socialism.

The insistence among Common Core opponents that Utah should design its own standards and expectations, who see no value in cooperating across state lines to help local schools fit into the national economy and society that our graduates will be part of, makes no sense at all.

There is no Utah version of a quadratic equation or the Laws of Thermodynamics. There is no superior Utah means of punctuating a sentence.

Occasional tweaks and updates are always in order. But what Utah schools need from the state education bureaucracy is some kind of ongoing standard and testing regime that will allow the state, local school boards, principals, teachers, parents and students to consider test results, graduation rates and other key indicators across the state and over time.

Testing is imperfect, and there can be no doubt that too many tests can eat up valuable instructional time and come up with data that is incomplete, contradictory and just plain confusing. But we still need some measures of educational progress.

The Utah-created SAGE tests may have their flaws, but sticking with them makes more sense than abandoning them for another system, then another, then another, in a way that allows for no comparison or tracking.

Already the efficacy of the SAGE tests is being damaged by the increasing number of parents who opt their children out of taking them. Such an act of protest does nothing for the students who don't participate, even as it makes the results drawn from the rest of the student body less representative and less useful.

Utah should stand by its version of Common Core standards and continue to administer, and improve, its SAGE tests. They aren't perfect, but all that would be gained by abandoning them now would be chaos, confusion and years of indecision that don't help teachers or students one bit.

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