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Duncan to Utah: You Have Control Over Standards

The ongoing story of Utah and the common standards gets curiouser and curiouser. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has written a letter to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Larry K. Shumway, stating that Utah has "complete control" over its standards.

Wait, does that sound oddly familiar? Does it sound, in fact, exactly like what Shumway himself said in a letter to Duncan?

That's because it is.

OK, a quick refresher: The Utah Senate passed a resolution last week directing the state board of education to reconsider its June 2010 adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

As we reported to you, Shumway wrote a letter to Duncan last week, asserting the state's right to complete control over its academic standards. And now Duncan has written back, saying he agrees completely.

The state board of education also wrote a letter to the state Senate's standing education committee, saying it would schedule a public forum on the common standards.

(All these letters were disclosed on the official blog of the state board and state office of education.)

The kerfuffle in Utah unfolds as rumblings work their way through South Carolina, as well, as we've reported to you. Lawmakers' thoughts about stepping back from the standards drew a sharp response from Duncan.

The skepticism is reverberating nationally, as well. Conservative pundit George Will wrote an essay that ran in newspapers last week, including The Washington Post, accusing federal officials of "pretending" that federal law doesn't forbid the kind of role it is playing in support of academic standards. The Boston-based Pioneer Institute put out a white paper making this argument last month.

And a recent study by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, a common-standards opponent, put a hefty pricetag on the cost of implementing the standards (the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Kathleen Porter-Magee weighed in with a skeptical take on that study.).

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