This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Since Utah voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, teachers have worked hard to learn new curricula, create new lesson plans and design other materials to bolster student achievement in mathematics and language arts. Over the past six years, Utah teachers, parents and taxpayers have invested considerable time and energy into ensuring a successful adoption of the new standards, and Utah is already reaping returns on this investment. From my vantage point as a mathematics teacher, a mathematics specialist and a board member of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Utah Core is working and should be retained, not repealed.
Today more students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) International Baccalaureate (IB) classes in Utah than ever before. According to enrollment data from the Utah State Office of Education, concurrent enrollment in mathematics has also increased. This year, students showed improvement in all areas of the year-end SAGE exam and made notable increases on the National Assessment of Educational Progress widely considered the "gold standard" measurement of student achievement.
The Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics issued letters of support for the Utah Core Standards in 2013 and 2014, and most recently issued a resolution endorsing the revision of the Utah Core Standards in 2016. My personal experience working with mathematics teachers in my school as well as with teachers throughout my district and the state has shown me that there is overwhelming support for the Utah Core in the mathematics teaching community.
By way of comparison, states that have repealed and/or replaced the Common Core (Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina) are experiencing the resulting realities of inferior education standards. In Oklahoma, lawmakers who initially pushed for repeal of the Common Core later acknowledged the new standards lack the same rigor and clarity, and one independent analysis put it bluntly: "Students in Oklahoma will be less prepared to successfully enter college and careers."
In 2014, Attorney General Sean Reyes conducted a full review of Utah's Core Standards at the request of Gov. Gary Herbert. The analysis specifically examined whether or not Utah's adoption of the Common Core standards has limited state and local control over education. The answer following the investigation was an unequivocal "No." In addition, the Legislature ordered, and the state completed, a year-long standards review process, which involved parents, educators and representatives from higher education, among other diverse groups. The public also provided input, and the modest changes to the secondary math standards adopted in January 2016 are reflective of considerable stakeholder feedback. In April, the Board of Education adopted similar changes to the elementary math standards.
Educators are working hard on implementing the Core but are concerned that the standards may be subject to imminent repeal, which would swiftly undo years of concerted effort. In order for teachers to provide consistently high quality instruction for student learning, they require time to implement a stable set of standards. Well thought-out and thoroughly vetted state educational standards, and the hard work that goes into their implementation, should not be subject to the whims of election year politics and political jockeying.
The Utah Core effectively maintains state and local control over education matters, enhances students' reasoning and problem solving skills, and bolsters teachers' ability to meet more rigorous learning objectives. The Core encourages students to become fluent with concepts and big ideas such that they can thrive in college and beyond. The Utah School Board of Education should continue to support the newly revised Utah Core and by doing so, demonstrate their unwavering commitment to the teachers and students of Utah.
Nathan Auck is a math educator and recipient of 2013 Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He is also a 2016-17 fellow in the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program.