Utah common core sparks concern


The implementation of the new Utah Common Core has raised questions and concerns in parents across the state.

Celeste Merrill, a mother of four from Provo, said that ever since the change to the Common Core, her daughters’ school has started putting more emphasis on standardized testing.

“I like the idea of having a standardized test,” said Merrill. “But, I don’t love how it’s so hard core that the teachers are driven by the test.”

The belief behind the Common Core is to outline a set of standards for teachers to ensure a set of skills and knowledge that students will have by the time of graduation.

Brenda Hales, lead spokeswoman on the Common Core and Assistant Superintendent has stated that the standards are not a curriculum, but a way to evaluate where students are and a way to plan for where they need to be.

“Just like for (those) at the Y, there are things that they want you to know in order to graduate,” Hales said. “Every single teacher teaches it their own way and a way one teacher teaches it and the way another teaches it are completely different. We have the standards. We have where we want the kids to be and, now that you know that, you have a way to plan your instruction.”

Sarah Banks, has three children in Provo schools and is currently involved with the PTA, but never knew the standards had changed.

“I am very involved in my kids’ school,” Banks said. “I am on the PTA board, but have never even heard of the Common Core. I have not been told anything about it and that concerns me.”

Merrill also stated that she had never been told anything about the new Common Core. She said there were never any notes sent home or meetings held on what the Common Core was or what the change would mean for them and their children.

“A lot of people say they had no input in it,” assistant superintendent Hales said. “But, I went all over the place for a year talking about it. We kept people very aware of what was going on.”

Another concern of both Merrill and Banks is that the Common Core limits the creativity of the teachers and in a struggling economy, will cost the state more.

Stephanie Buhler, a sixth grade teacher at Wilson Elementary, received a series of trainings for each subject in the Core, received model lessons and were taught to plan lessons with the Core in mind.

“I am for it!” Buhler said. “I think change is always good, as long as it is not too overwhelming and they make changes gradually, not expecting it all at once. I think it is a positive thing having students in sixth grade exposed to concepts they would receive in junior high, like algebra and geometry, so they do not feel so overwhelmed.”

In response to the cost concerns, assistant superintendent Hales said that it can’t cost the state more money because, no new money has been allocated.

“It can’t,” Hales said. “Because, there is no new money, for A. And B, in fact, it’s actually costing less money, because in the past the districts had a fund for professional development that was $78 million, that was taken away, so it really is costing less money than in the past.”

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