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The City Journals

Utah State Board of Education

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In 2008, the National Governors Association (NGA), which is the association of the 50 elected state governors who often act in concert through their association, together with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which is the association of the 50 elected and appointed state school superintendents who also typically act in concert through their association, decided to commission a study on how states could remain competitive in the changing global marketplace. That study, entitled “Ensuring US Students Receive a World Class Education,” found that elevating our K-12 educational standards was an important feature of remaining competitive.

In sum, in order to be prepared for life after high school, our students needed higher levels of achievement, which starts with educational standards. In March 2009, the NGA and CCSSO formed the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCI). CCI recognized the need to bring the 50 elected and appointed state school boards into the Initiative, as it is the state school boards who actually adopt educational standards for their respective states. This was done through a series of Memorandum of Agreements (MOA). Forty-eight states signed MOAs. Utah signed its MOA in May 2009.

CCI invited many partners into the Initiative. It became the most diverse group of stakeholders ever assembled in public education, conservatives, liberals and moderates, Republicans and Democrats, from the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, Governors Jeb Bush and Chris Christie to the Gates Foundation. Read about the participants and their endorsement of the Common Core Initiative.

CCI brought together the top minds in content, teaching and research for educational standards in mathematics and English language arts to draft the standards. There were two work teams, one for Math and the other for ELA. The Math Work Team consisted of 52 math and educational professionals, including 18 university mathematics and statistics professors from a wide range of institutions – Yale, UC Berkley, Arizona State, to name just a few. The ELA Work Team consisted of 50 ELA and educational professionals, including 11 university English and education professors from a wide range of institutions – Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan and others. Each work team had three team leaders who coordinated the input from team members. It was a collaborative and dynamic process. Some critics have suggested that the team leaders were the “principal authors” and the other 40-something experts were mere window dressing. Such is an inaccurate statement meant to belittle the process. As in all large collaborative groups, there will be differences of opinion, but the result is a consensus product.

Each of these work teams had another group of education professionals to use as a sounding board. These were known as the feedback groups. The Math Feedback Group consisted of 22 math and educational professionals, including nine university mathematics and statistics professors from institutions such as Harvard, Texas, and Johns Hopkins. The ELA Feedback Group consisted of 12 ELA and educational professionals, including five university English and education professors from the likes of Illinois and Florida State. Their credentials are impressive. These four groups of experts, who included both elementary and secondary school teachers from across the United States, drafted the standards. They published the draft standards in September 2009 and held open a 30-day public comment period.

During that comment period, the Utah State Office of Education and its content experts provided extensive public comment on the standards. After the comment period, the draft standards were revised. Many of the comments from Utah made it into the revised standards. The State Board was updated on a monthly basis on the progress of the standards. USOE continued to make comments as revisions were made. In March 2010, the revised draft standards were subject to another 30-day public comment period. In all, some 10,000 public comments were received, and a summary can be read here.

Throughout the drafting and revisions, CCI had a Validation Committee reviewing the standards. This Validation Committee acted as the peer reviewers of the standards. There were 28 members of the Validation Committee, which included five university mathematics and statistics professors, seven university English and education professors, five educational research scientists, and three elementary and secondary school teachers. The educational backgrounds of these experts is also impressive.

In March 2010, and again in May 2010, the State Board entertained public comment at its regularly scheduled meeting wherein members of the public commented on the draft Common Core State Standards and presented the State Board with a petition. Public comments can be found here and here.

The Validation Committee voted 24-4 to approve the standards and thereafter the standards were released in June 2010. You can read the Validation Committee Report.

The State Board reviewed the standards in a special June meeting and opened up a public comment period during July 2010 for Utahns to voice their opinions. The USOE also discussed the standards at various meetings held throughout the state. Utah’s application for Race to the Top grants were rejected, and the State Board was notified of such in July 2010. During the State Board meeting on Aug. 6, 2010, the State Board unanimously approved the Common Core Standards for Mathematics and English language arts.

Since that time, the State Board continues to receive public comment on the standards. Those comments, as one example, led to the adoption of a cursive writing standard within the Utah Core standards for ELA. The State Board continues to request public comment on standards as it considers each update.