United For Common Core

August 16, 2012
Author: Mona Burton | Salt Lake Tribune

For many of us, the memory of a bad report card is something that is best left in the past. But that is neither possible nor advisable with our statewide report card, where the record of poor student achievement reflects badly on all of us.

When compared to states that share similar demographics, parental education levels and poverty rates, Utah consistently ranks near the bottom for education performance and policy. A recent report from the Utah Foundation found that our students often rank last on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in math, reading and science tests.

While we have much to be proud of within our education system, we must work to improve the academic achievement of all Utah students. Supporting the Utah Core Standards is critical if we hope to have the kind of graduates who will attract companies and job creators to invest in Utah’s future.

The Utah Core Standards are based on the Common Core State Standards, which are a set of K-12 math and language arts standards, developed by states, the National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Utah was involved in the development of the standards and conducted focus groups throughout the state that included parent groups, teachers, administrators, higher education and business leaders to provide input and feedback. The standards were also studied and reviewed by a host of experts from a variety of sectors and an independent validation committee. The standards are essential knowledge, concepts and skills to be mastered at each grade level. The curriculum used to attain set standards is left up to local school districts, principals and teachers.

United Way of Salt Lake and its board of directors support the 2010 decision by the State Board of Education to adopt the Common Core. UWSL’s goal is to ensure that every child succeeds, every step of the way, from cradle to career. An essential component of meeting that goal is ensuring that kids stay on track in school and are able to be competitive when they enter the workforce. The standards ensure that Utah students are meeting necessary educational achievement levels so that they can perform as well or better than students from other states and around the world. Supporting the standards will help ensure that Utah’s youth are well positioned to take on the challenges of a competitive global marketplace.

As local business leaders, we are sensitive to the rise and fall of our local economy. Utah needs a good foundation of education in order to have a competitive, homegrown workforce that is innovative and prepared. Other states are developing rigorous curriculum to prepare their children for the future, and we can’t let Utah continue to fall behind. The Common Core will allow us to keep up with a competitive economy and help foster Utah’s new wave of entrepreneurs and leaders.

Forbes recently rated Utah as "The Best State for Business and Careers." We have one of the most business-friendly climates in the country due to relatively low operating costs, a low corporate tax rate, a growing population and a burgeoning tech sector. We now need to ensure that we have the innovators and employees capable of taking our state’s economy to the next level.

Support the Utah Core Standards and put our children on the right path for success.

Mona Burton is the chair of United Way of Salt Lake and a partner in the law firm of Holland & Hart. She is writing on behalf of the 49 members of United Way of Salt Lake’s board of directors.

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