The Future of Education in Utah

Unlike states, such as Massachusetts, Utah’s implementation of and current standing regarding Common Core is relatively divided. As it stands, no one is entirely sure which way the state will swing after they agreed to the standards August 8, 2010. Since then, small changes have been made but bigger and bigger steps are being taken to create a distance between the federally created standards versus those of the state itself.

Bringing the Core to the West

Utah’s story goes further back than 2010. The real issues began under the No Child Left Behind Act that increased the power of the federal government’s say in how state schools are run. Under this Act, all Utah students must pass their statewide tests. Should this not happen, the failing schools would face a complete restructuring, including firing teachers and principals. The rub, however, turned out to be that a waiver was created with the only stipulation being adoption of better career and college standards, namely in the guise of Common Core.

This led to its adoption as the Utah Core in 2010. The state then received its first waiver not too long after. This waiver continues to last until June 2015 unless Utah decides against renewing. Instead, it looks as though the state will forego a renewal in favor of a $30 million appropriation to fund bettering their own school system themselves.

Part of this decision has revolved heavily around the Utah Core. After adoption, a committee was appointed made up of college professors that reviewed the standards set forth. They checked them to see if they were more rigorous, actually prepared students for college and based around best practices.

The committee found the standards to be more rigorous as well as better aligned in comparison to the relatively hodgepodge collection of knowledge used by the old system. They also required students to practice a level of higher analysis, something never seen in the state before. All in all, the professors believe it to be a great way to improve the future of Utah’s children.

During this time of evaluation, the public was surveyed to keep the entirety of the state’s thoughts in mind. Over half ended up supporting the increased rigor brought on by the new standards. Even with a rather positive view of the standards, there were many comments from the public detailing the hindrance of the implementation. According to them, there was simply not enough development for the teachers to properly adapt to the new system. This can be traced back to the teacher training budget of $77 million that was gutted to a mere $1 million during the recession.

Utah’s Future

In 2012, the state decided to reduce animosity by removing itself from the consortium of a collection of states working together to develop general knowledge tests based on Common Core. While this doesn’t determine if the state will or will not use the tests, it nonetheless reduces Utah’s voice in the developmental process. Many saw this as a smart move since working on the test would automatically sign up Utah for using that specific one even though a wide array of statewide options are available.

In the end, this did not lead to a drop of Common Core altogether. Because many in the state see it as a set of standards that will improve their rather mediocre school system, there has been not much of an outcry against the program. The only problem that’s been shown is the public’s wariness of government involvement, causing them to do what they can to keep the government out while somehow incorporating the federally created way of education. As for the children? Data is still being gathered. The transitional time is over in many states, meaning we should know its effect on Utah in a few more years.