A Recent History of Utah’s Math Standards

I keep hearing accusations that we are against higher standards and thought it would be appropriate to set the record straight since the facts show the USOE certainly isn’t concerned with higher standards.

As one individual who was very involved in the math standards issue the last several years I would like to give you a little background and then a few links you can read in depth on the subject if you’re really interested.

Utah’s math standards prior to 2007 were rated a D by the Fordham Foundation. These standards were quite poor by all accounts and gave Alpine School District (ASD) the leeway to cease teaching children the times tables and long division in schools. For several straight years the times tables were not taught to students causing massive problems as they moved through their K-12 schooling. These math programs were 100% constructivist based and the wise teachers that saw the major problem this would cause had to shut their doors in order to teach children the times tables. There is a long history here which is all found on my website if you’re really interested, but the short of it was this: ASD refused to listen to thousands of parents on two different petitions who requested they drop this program because, to loosely use their language, “we are the professional educators and know what’s best for your children.”

So we took the only action we could and went over their heads to our elected representatives since our elected school board was in the district pocket. We convinced legislators we had a problem. They held hearings and the state was adamantly opposed to raising its standards, especially since they’d just reviewed the standards about 5 years earlier (if I remember the time frame correctly) and weren’t going to do it for a few more years.

They fought back and brought in West Ed who compared our standards to 3-4 other states to show that we were comparable. It was pathetic. They were defending some of the worst standards in the country, tooth and nail by comparing us in a way that said, “see, they do addition, we do addition.” Our side that wanted stronger standards brought in Dr. Jim Milgram, a world renowned math professor at Stanford and someone who had actually written math standards for states and studied international math standards. He tore the Utah math standards apart showing how weak, flawed, and mathematically incorrect they were, and by the time he was done, West Ed had lost all credibility.

The state superintendent at the time was Patti Harrington and the legislature asked her to give Utah world class math standards on par with Singapore and Japan to which she agreed. The USOE had no desire to raise our standards and said ours were sufficient. They never did compare the standards to these other top performing countries, but we did wind up with new standards rated an “A-” by the Fordham Foundation. The USOE was adamantly opposed to just adopting another state’s standards. We wanted to just adopt California’s standards for 2 reasons. One, it meant we’d get some of the very best standards in the country (and Fordham has said CA’s standards and a few other states are better than the new Common Core math standards), and second, there were loads of textbooks written for the CA standards so we’d be ready to jump right into curricula material that was designed and tested.

The USOE wouldn’t have any part of this idea because they said Utah has different values from California so it wouldn’t be right for us to have the same standards. What total hypocrites. Along comes Common Core subjecting Utah to the same standards as a conglomeration of all other states, and subjugating us to be a minority vote to the decisions of other states, and without any debate or griping about changing the standards when we’d just done it a couple years prior, the state board adopted Common Core (also rated an A- by the Fordham Foundation after they received large money from the same special interest groups pushing Common Core nationally).

Our efforts with this website have never been about rigorous standards. We have already proven that we are the ones actively seeking stronger standards before anyone in the USOE ever thought about it. This has never been about standards that indoctrinate. Those are straw man arguments that the USOE has pushed to be able to tell people “here, read the standards and you’ll see there’s nothing indoctrinating in them” and then people believe them even though they’ve lied about our position. We have never said the standards indoctrinate anyone. This has been about the total loss of local control of education and subjecting ourselves to the federal government’s control of all aspects of the education system. There are serious concerns about the assessments and how the feds have funded them, but that’s information you can find elsewhere on this site.

If you are interested in reading some of the actual account from when it happened, you can do so on these pages of my website:

Discussion with state board members on what world-class standards meant.

How the USOE didn’t take their charge seriously and even appear to have intentionally torpedoed the effort to give Utah strong standards.

Testimony that even the 2007 math standards still didn’t even reach the level and clarity of California’s math standards.

Here are a few examples in a table on this page concerning how Common Core is inferior and much less clear than California’s standards and even the Fordham Foundation admits that. (see table 1)

So again I ask, why doesn’t Utah just adopt the California standards without any federal strings attached (or other highly rated states that have better standards than Common Core). CA has textbooks readily available and since they are now plunging down the Common Core path, we could probably buy used textbooks for the price of shipping.

Based on these experiences, it is hard to take the USOE serious when they say they want to raise Utah’s standards. Common Core was never about raising standards, it was pulling a Race to the Top lottery handle in the hopes of hitting a federal jackpot. Too bad we came up losers on the money and are now contractually obligated to have Utah taxpayers expend millions of dollars changing our standards and paying all the expenses associated with that.

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