A pamphlet titled "Common Core: Nationalized Education" is beingÂ circulated throughout Utah by Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka and others. ThisÂ pamphlet contains numerous gross exaggerations with no basis inÂ facts. Unfortunately, she and the pamphlet's authors have entirelyÂ misrepresented how Utah's Core Curriculum Standards are developed,Â reviewed, field-tested, then approved, based on reactions andÂ experience of Utah's parents and school teachers.
I was a member of the writing team that developed the current UtahÂ Science Core Curriculum. Scientists and public school teachers fromÂ all over Utah were assembled to write the first draft of the ScienceÂ Core. Utah's Science Core Curriculum is based on the NationalÂ Science Education Standards, published by the National AcademiesÂ Press in 1996. The Utah Science Core was written by Utah teachersÂ and it reflects Utah's uniqueness throughout.
For example, theÂ Social Studies Core for the 4th grade focuses on the history ofÂ Utah. To align the 4th grade Science Standards with the SocialÂ Studies Core, Utah plants and animals are a focus of the 4th gradeÂ Science Core. There are many other examples. The existing ScienceÂ Core is a Utah product. The Science Core, and other curricula cores,Â are revised about every 10 years by Utah teachers. Parents have aÂ chance to review any core standards in any discipline before theyÂ are approved by the Utah State Board of Education.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are the scienceÂ equivalents of the Common Core in other disciplines.Â Common Core isÂ led by the states. It is not a federal initiative. A Framework for K-12Â Science Education was developed by the National Research Council ofÂ the National Academy of Sciences, which is not a federal agency andÂ received no federal funding for the project. Utah's representativeÂ for the development of the Framework Document, on which the NGSS areÂ based, is Brett Moulding, former science specialist in the UtahÂ State Office of Education.
The first draft of the framework documentÂ was posted online last year; input was solicited across the UnitedÂ States. Based on that feedback, the framework document was revisedÂ and a second version was posted online for additional comments. TheÂ final framework is available online at the National Academies Press (http://www.nap.edu ).
Writers from the 45 NGSS-participating states, Utah included,Â produced the first draft of the NGSS, which was posted online inÂ May 2012. More than 126,000 individuals reviewed this draft, and theÂ second draft is currently being developed and will be posted onlineÂ this fall. As soon as the finalized NGSS are in place, Sarah Young,Â the current science specialist at the Utah State Office ofÂ Education, will convene writing teams to develop the Next GenerationÂ Utah Science Core. This will be developed by Utahns and will reflectÂ the wishes of Utahns in science education.
This entire states-sponsored NGSS development process is being managed by a group called Achieve, and not by the federal government. Funding for theÂ project is being provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York,Â and not by the federal government. Anyone wanting to give feedbackÂ on the second draft of the NGSS will be able to do so when theÂ document is released.
This statement by Sen. Howard Stephenson on the Common Core isÂ both scholarly and knowledgable: "I am convinced the Utah CoreÂ Standards in math and language arts are right for Utah students.Â These standards will better prepare our students for college and toÂ be competitive in the global economy. These standards are in harmonyÂ with Utah values. Our challenge now will be ensuring that whenÂ Utah's science and social studies standards are updated, they are asÂ rigorous and faithful to Utah values as the Utah Core Standards inÂ math and language arts."
Sen. Stephenson, they will be!
Richard R. Tolman, Ph.D., serves on the faculty of the Department of Biology at Utah Valley University.