Utah schools prepare to adopt new core curriculum

Utah teachers are getting ready to take on a new challenge.A new curriculum, called the Common Core State Standards, has recently been adopted by the Utah Board of Education. It is a state-led effort that has been coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.The new core will completely reconstruct the way math and language arts are taught in K-12 public schools. The core curriculum will hopefully help close the gap between high school and college classes, align education standards with the other 40 states adopting the curriculum and allow Utah schools to better compete at an international level.”This is not an easy transition. Sixth grade math will be a whole new ball game,” said Logan City School District Superintendent Marshall Garrett.The district voted mid-December to accept new math courses next fall that follow the core. Cache County School District has also begun work on making their schools comply with the new curriculum.Logan City School District will begin implementing the core this fall, but full implementation will take about 2.5 years. The district is starting the new curriculum by first introducing the new courses to sixth and ninth grades. This summer, sixth and ninth grade math teachers in Northern Utah will go to workshops to learn how to teach the new curriculum.Math courses will no longer be divided by type of math, such as algebra and geometry. These math subjects will be combined in classes and taught together over the years. Middle schools will teach math six, seven and eight, and high schools will teach classes called secondary math one, two and three. This is based on the international mathematics model, Garrett said.Math seven and eight, as well as the secondary math classes, will have honors options. An optional math lab will be offered and will act as a “safety net” for high school students taking the new curriculum, Garrett said.The state has not completely defined the new classes to be taught in the fall yet. Garrett said the hope is more information will be available in March so teachers and administrators can begin planning.”Teachers are starting to do some planning now, but it’s planning kind of in a void, in the dark,” he said.Garrett said a verbal agreement was given by the State Office of Education that students entering into the new curriculum will be exempt from end of level tests this year because there are no tests developed to fit the new curriculum.”That has been done verbally, but not in writing. So we’re waiting for the writing and we will hold them to their word,” Garrett said.In order to teach the new math curriculum at the high school level, teachers must have a level three license. Garrett said only one teacher does not already meet this license requirement.The Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave letter grades to Utah’s current curriculum and to the new core curriculum in a recent study. The Institute gave Utah a C grade in language arts education and a B+ to the new common core language arts curriculum. The report states that “shortcomings” in the current language arts curriculum “lead to the omission of more than 35 percent of the essential K-12 content,” and that the new curriculum standards are “superior” to what Utah already has. The current math program, however, earned an A- grade, the same grade as the new math curriculum.

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