In June of 2010, the Utah State Board of Education voted to raise the bar of performance expectations by adopting a more rigorous set of standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. The Board approved the new Utah Core Standards as part of its overall mission to ensure that all students are prepared for college and careers in today’s economy.
Historically Utah has had a set of core standards for all the academic areas taught in our K-12 public schools. The new Utah Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics establish a framework for high quality instruction. They help Utah teachers ensure academic achievement for Utah students by defining the essential knowledge, concepts, and skills to be mastered at each grade level or within critical content areas. They are like a set of building codes. They define what students should know and do as they move on to post-secondary training, college, or a career.
The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. They were developed using research results and reviewing state and international standards from across the country and globe.
English Language Arts standards focus on literacy in English, Social Studies, Science, and Technical subjects. They are designed to ensure that all students are college and career ready by the end of high school. There is a much greater focus on reading for comprehension, writing and grammar, and multi-media production.
The structure of the new Mathematics standards is in line with that of countries with high mathematics achievement. This transition to “world-class” mathematics instruction is perhaps the biggest change students, teachers, and parents will encounter. The new core takes an integrated approach: (1) examining the interrelationships among mathematical concepts, and (2) studying topics more in depth.
Seventh through eleventh grade courses combine Algebra and Geometry concepts in an integrated manner instead of teaching them as separate courses. We believe this approach better prepares students for the ever increasing quantitative skills needed for our rapidly advancing technical economy. Beginning in the seventh grade, course titles have changed. Seventh graders enroll in Math 7, eighth graders enroll in Math 8, Freshmen enroll in Secondary Math I, Sophomores enroll in Secondary Math II and Juniors enroll in Secondary Math III. Remedial courses are available for those requiring individualized help. Honors courses are available at each level for our more advanced students. Students will be able to take the same number of college courses as in the past.
We have been transitioning to the new Utah Core Standards for the past four years in the Millard School District. Students have been challenged to learn more difficult subject matter. Teachers have received detailed professional development to assist them in implementation of the new standards. Establishing higher standards for students, teachers, and leaders, and providing the necessary resources to achieve these standards is fundamental to ensuring all students are prepared for today’s world.