The Common Core Standards are not a federal education initiative. Let us say that again: The Common Core Standards are not coming from the federal government and are certainly not a federal mandate (or conspiracy to dictate socialist theories in schools).
One more time, in different words: The Common Core is a state-produced set of standards, adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories to create consistency among states and a high level of academic achievement in public schools across the country.
Opponents of Utah continuing to implement the Common Core Standards are wasting the time of educators, and, quite frankly, making themselves appear woefully provincial and just a bit extreme in their fear of a fantastical federal takeover.
The talk at a kind of summit meeting last week, which included Gov. Gary Herbert, legislators, conservative Common Core foes and a radical group of conspiracy theorists, begged clarity and rebuttal. And the State Office of Education rightly provided it.
Once again, Utah education officials, who see adoption of the standards as a way to increase academic excellence among students, reiterated that the standards are not a federal program. The office's blog post explains, yet again, that Utah will retain its independence and have the final say on curriculum, assessments and teaching tools.
Even more relevant, Utah could choose to drop the Common Core at any time, though it should not do so. Because, whether the Eagle Forum or the Sutherland Institute wants to admit it, our education system needs all the expert help it can get to put the brakes on skidding graduation rates and standardized test scores.
Utah 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 Common Core opponents' argument that Utah standards are somehow higher or more pure than those in other states is simply bunk.
U.S. public schools are lagging behind those of many other industrialized countries. The Common Core Standards effort to bring the states together to share best practices, and to agree on a set of goals and standard achievement levels for each grade in basic subjects, is a way to help make American students more competitive in the global job market.
Utah needs the Common Core.