Children lose out
It is a mistake for the State Board of Education to yield to a group of conservative lawmakers and other Utahns of the same ilk instead of standing up for what's best for schoolchildren.
Sadly, the board has decided to withdraw from a consortium of states that is working to develop tests based on Common Core Standards for American public-school students. The standards for what children at each grade level should know and understand would make comparisons among states more meaningful and raise the bar for all schools.
The tests are not mandatory for any state involved in the group. The federal government is not involved with the Common Core Standards in any way.
Still, there is a paranoid reaction among some people in Utah to any collective thinking or consensus in educational values. That is hogwash, but the paranoia is so strong among conservatives that the education officials who should, and surely do, know better must bow to it. If they don't, they will certainly pay a political price down the road.
The ultraconservative Eagle Forum and a group of like-minded legislators were the first to cry wolf when the state board got involved with the Common Core. Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka and her comrades hold power and influence in Utah and are more than willing to wield them when they don't get their own way. Especially when it comes to education.
Board members, who rightly considered adoption of the standards as a way to increase academic excellence, tried repeatedly to convince opponents that the Common Core is not a federal program.
The state education office's blog post explained, in vain, that Utah would retain its independence and have the final say on curriculum, assessments and teaching tools.
The big losers again in this misguided decision to isolate Utah from the mainstream are the state's children. Our students, by any measure, are falling behind. More than 20 percent of high school students do not graduate, and a third of those who do are not prepared for college. Our youngest children are not reading at grade level consistently.
The argument that Utah values are somehow higher or more pure than those in other states is simply bunk.
Utah needs to be part of the Common Core Standards' effort to help make American students more competitive in the global job market, where Utahns must compete.
Our schoolchildren are not well-served by officials who cling to 19th century provincialism.