While Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made headlines last summer for their declarations of political war against the Common Core State Standards, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert took a different approach. He tasked state Attorney General Sean Reyes with determining whether the state’s adoption (and any repeal) of the common core would endanger the state’s sovereignty over education with respect to the federal government. Herbert also tasked a separate review committee to determine whether the state continued to exercise control over curriculum and other aspects of public education in the common-core era.
The results from both reviews are in: Utah retains control over state K-12 policy, and the standards will likely improve the overall quality of education in the Beehive State.
• The state school board did not adopt the common core illegally.
• The state has not ceded control over standards or curriculum by adopting the standards.
• Local school boards as well as charter schools continue to control their own curriculum.
• No partnerships or programs, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (the two groups that oversaw the common core’s development) maintain “indirect control” over curriculum.
• The state can modify the common core on its own and not endanger federal funds by doing so.
• Perhaps the most in-depth answer Reyes provides deals with possible federal coercion or “entanglement” related to the state’s waiver from portions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Reyes notes that because these waivers require states to adopt “college- and career-ready standards,” a “plausible argument” exists that the state’s standards became bound up with its dealings with Washington regarding its NCLB waiver. However, Reyes also notes that the state adopted common core in 2010, and did not receive an NCLB waiver until 2012.
And as for the report from the separate review committee, which consisted largely of state higher education officials, it found that with a few exceptions, “the new standards were more rigorous than the previous standards and were designed with appropriate research and ‘best practices.’”
The committee, which in turn worked with standards experts in English/language arts and math, reported that the new standards appear likely to advance the quality of Utah public education, the report states, adding that all but one of the committee’s 10 members concurred on those and other findings in the report. The one dissenting member of the group’s executive committee was V. Lauri Updike, the one K-12 teacher on the committee—Ms. Updike is listed as a teacher at the American Heritage School, a private school.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.