Utah Governor Shows How Letting Politics Dictate Standards is the Wrong Move

The Associated Press reports the Utah Board of Education voted 13-2 last week to approve a motion to review the state’s Common Core Standards. The politically-charged move comes at the request of Governor Gary Herbert, who once strongly defended the standards.

The article omits that the Board recently completed a review of the state’s education standards, and that the agreement to accelerate the review process is contingent upon the Legislature approving a one-time budget supplement. The Deseret News notes it’s unclear whether lawmakers will fund the request.

In 2014, Gov. Herbert ordered a review of Utah’s Common Core Standards, led by the state Attorney General. The examination concluded that the Common Core “hasn’t cost Utah control of education standards,” the Deseret News reported.

“Utah’s authority over its standards and curriculum has not, and will not, be ceded to the federal government…Additionally, the Board affirms school district and charter boards’ statutory control in setting their own curriculum,” the Utah Board of Education said in a statement following the 2014 review.

Some Utah officials consider another review of the state’s academic expectations unnecessary. “What I see is like painting a wall, and we just painted it,” said Leslie Castle, a member of the Board of Education. “We just did some of these standards…It seems like a very odd way of doing business. I’m not in favor of that.”

“[The decision] brought great angst among our members,” said Lisa Nentl-Bloom, executive director of the Utah Education Association. “This is not the time to start over. This is the time to continue to work to create the best standards we can, but not to start over from scratch.”

What’s important to note is that Herbert’s call for the review of Utah’s standards is entirely political. And what we’ve learned is that changing academic standards based on political pressure is the wrong move for students.

The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board wrote this month, “The campaign platforms of [gubernatorial challenger Jonathan] Johnson and, now, Herbert do little to improve our efforts [to assess students] and instead sadly surrender to the uneducated fears too many of us harbor about education,”

An analysis by the Collaborative for Student Success reiterates that point: “By caving to political pressure, Gov. Herbert could put Utah classrooms on a path of disruption and uncertainty, and subject the state’s teachers and students to inferior academic expectations.”