Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has flipped his position on Common Core, saying he now wants the standards and accompanying standardized tests to be removed.
It’s a substantial turnaround from the rest of his political career. Herbert was governor when Utah adopted Common Core in 2010, and stood by it as grassroots sentiment against it grew among Republicans. In response to attacks on it in 2014, Herbert ordered two investigations into Common Core to determine whether the standards were legal, whether they ceded authority to the federal government, and whether they were more academically rigorous than what the state had used before.
The reports, released in early 2015, found that Common Core was both legal and more rigorous than the state’s old standards, and Herbert took no further action. For a time that seemed to be the end of things, but on Wednesday Herbert announced he had changed his mind.
“Today I am asking the State Board of Education to consider implementing uniquely Utah standards,” Herbert said in a letter to the state board of education, “moving beyond the Common Core to a system that is tailored specifically to the needs of our state.” Herbert also called for the state to consider dumping its new SAGE standardized tests.
Whether the board will actually comply with the request remains to be seen.
Herbert’s call came just one day after North Dakota state school superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced that the state would replaced Common Core by the fall of 2017.
Like with Baesler, Herbert’s decision appear to be motivated by electoral politics. Herbert is running for a third term, but is facing a tough primary challenge in June from fellow Republican Jonathan Johnson. Johnson has called for ending the SAGE tests entirely and has also bashed Common Core. By changing his position, Herbert avoids being outflanked on an issue that arouses a great deal of enthusiasm among some Republicans.
Even if Herbert’s demand is complied with, it may not lead to dramatic changes in the state’s schools. Numerous states have either overtly replaced Common Core or subjected it to a review process, but in almost every case the final product has been seen as extremely similar to Common Core. In Oklahoma the new standards are clearly different, but even Common Core foes have condemned them as poorly-designed and less rigorous.
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