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Superintendent's Corner - What you may not know about the Utah Common Core standards

Article Date: 
18 July, 2014 (All day)

You’ve probably heard a lot about the Common Core.  I have too – both good and bad.  
I have found that many people who dislike the “Common Core” are not particularly against the specific “standards.”  I have friends who have an aversion to the manner in which they believe the Common Core was created and see the effort as a federal intrusion into local governance.  Like them, I am a proponent of local control and feel strongly about local governance through the elected members of the Morgan Board of Education, but I also believe that standards are a good thing.  
You probably already know that the Utah State Board of Education has constitutional authority over setting standards for Utah public schools and began to select more rigorous standards in all academic subject areas in the mid-1980s. The standards have been revised many times. The state board studied common core standards in 2010 and determined to revise the Utah Core Standards in two areas:  English-Language Arts and mathematics. They felt that this would enable students to be better prepared for the future. 
Morgan teachers have always followed the state standards and have been implementing the new standards in English-Language Arts and mathematics for the past three years. Core Standards are not a curriculum. The standards include guides and samples for teachers, but do not prescribe curriculum. I’ve taken a few examples from the 2nd Grade Mathematics Core Standards to share with you:  Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction; Understand place value; Measure and estimate lengths in standard units. Upon close inspection and comparison, you may find, like I did, that many of the standards for mathematics in elementary and middle school have not changed that much but have become more rigorous. The same can be said for the standards in English-Language Arts.  
In high school, math courses have moved from a traditional model of algebra, geometry, Algebra II and calculus to an international model of Secondary Mathematics I, II and III.  The content is much the same, but the sequence has changed to an integrated approach.  
Students are now required to not only get the correct answer, but to justify “why.”  This requires a deeper knowledge, understanding, and practical use of mathematics for both students and teachers.    
Beginning in the August board meeting, the members of the Morgan Board of Education will review the standards in mathematics beginning with the standards for Kindergarten, continuing systematically through all of the standards month by month. 
Individual school community councils are being encouraged to do the same. This is a combined effort to better understand the standards and to make the standards our own.  When school resumes in the fall, teachers in the Morgan District will provide information to parents detailing the standards they use, their learning objectives and curriculum, and the textbook and other materials they use.   
I invite you to look at the specific standards.  All of the standards are available on line at the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) website. We also have copies of the English Language Arts and Mathematics Core Standards at the Morgan District Office which we would be happy to share with you.