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A Nampa elementary student working on a classroom computer which will be used to give a Common Core related test later this school year.Idaho public school kids had a new set of learning objectives guiding their schools' curriculum and their teachers' lessons when they arrived for the start of the 2013 school year. These are the Common Core State Standards. They cover math and English language arts, which includes reading, writing and related subjects.The Common Core (which Idaho’s Department of Education now refers to as the Idaho Core Standards) was developed by a consortium of states and has been adopted by 45, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.Timeline 2007: Informal talks begin between a few state school chiefs on writing shared standards. Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna says he was involved in the first discussion. 2009: Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governor's Association form the Common Core States Standards Initiative to create a set of shared standards. March 2010: First draft of the Common Core Standards released for public comment. June 2010: Final draft released. Sept.-Oct 2010: Idaho's State Board of Education holds public meetings on Common Core. November 2010: Idaho State Board of Education votes to adopt the standards. January 2011: Idaho's House and Senate Education Committees vote to adopt the standards. Fall 2013: Common Core becomes the standards for all Idaho public schools.The StandardsThis map shows the states that haven't adopted Common Core standards.Here are a few examples of the Common Core Standards, these are for kindergarten.Reading:With prompting and support ask and answer questions about key details in a text.With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a story.Math:Count to 100 by ones and by tens.Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategiesHere are some links where you can read all the math and English standards for all grades.Idaho had standards prior to Common Core. States have been required to have basic standards for a long time. Supporters say the new Common Core standards are more rigorous and will help students develop skills like critical thinking that they will need in college and in the workforce. Compare and contrast for yourself, read Idaho’s pre-Common Core math and English standards.The 'Common' In Common CoreCommon Core is not just about having high-quality standards. Theoretically, states could write standards on their own that are just as good. The common in Common Core is the idea that a third grader could move from Idaho to Oregon or Florida without missing out on learning fractions somewhere along the way. But it’s also about comparing how students in different states are doing at meeting their standards. Before Common Core, states not only wrote their own standards, but also their own tests to measure students against those state-specific standards.The TestStates are mostly evenly divided in two groups to develop two Common Core linked tests. Idaho joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. While the group that wrote the standards did not take federal money, the groups developing the tests do.00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff72490001The Smarter Balanced Assessment is still under development. In the 2012/2013 school year, some Idaho schools piloted an early version. In the spring of 2014, all Idaho schools will give the test to students in 3rd through 11th grades, though some schools may not have to test 9th and 10th graders. This 2014 test will not be used to measure student learning. It is a practice test to help its developers work out the bugs. The final version is scheduled to be ready in 2015. Take a practice Smarter Balanced test here.The Smarter Balanced test will replace the ISAT which Idaho has been using for several years to measure student progress. However, Idaho’s State Department of Education will likely keep the name ISAT and apply it to this new test.Idaho’s old ISAT was entirely multiple choice questions, but the Smarter Balanced Assessment will have multiple choice and other types of questions like written responses. It uses Computer Adaptive Technology so questions will be tailored to how well a student is doing, getting harder or easier depending on previous answers. OppositionThough the change to Common Core has been in the works for years, it largely flew under the radar. Nationally, opposition began to grow in 2012. Early the next year, opponents of Common Core appeared in Idaho. Opposition has been a grass-roots effort and has come from the far right and far left on the political spectrum.In Idaho, opposition to Common Core has been led by the group Idahoans For Local Education, founded by Boise stay-at-home-mom Stephanie Zimmerman, read what she says about Common Core here. The conservative activist group the Idaho Freedom Foundation is also a prominent opponent of the standards.More recently, the anti-Common Core cause has been taken up by national conservative organizations like Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which wants ending Common Core to be the first step in a much larger effort that includes eliminating the U.S. Department of Education. SupportersIdaho’s Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Gov. C.L. “Butch" Otter have been prominent supporters of Common Core, even while the standards were still being developed. Many other influential people and organizations have also come to Common Core’s defense including business leaders and education groups. Last summer, many of Idaho's Common Core supporters formed a coalition to promote the standards called Idahoans for Excellence in Education. You can see the list of members here and read why they support Common Core here.Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio

Common Core 101: Your Introductory Course To Idaho’s Education Standards

Adam Cotterell
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho school kids are now being taught using a new set of standards known as Common Core. Idaho lawmakers signed off on the standards three years ago, but there’s growing opposition for them to reconsider.

We’ll be reporting on Common Core in Idaho over the next few months, but first, the basics. Our education reporter Adam Cotterell gave Morning Edition host Scott Graf a tutorial.

Q: Adam, what is Common Core?

A: The short answer is it’s a set of education standards. But I think part of the confusion people have is with the word 'standards.' Think of them as learning goals or objectives. Think back to the beginning of this school year when your daughter started kindergarten. I sent you a long list of everything she was supposed to be able to do by the end of the school year. Those were the Common Core standards for kindergarten.

Here’s a reading standard, “With prompting and support ask and answer questions about key details in a text.”  Here’s another one, “with prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a story.” 

Q: Did Idaho have a set of standards last year?

A: Yes. States have been required to have standards for a long time. There’s some overlap between Idaho’s old standards and Common Core. The main difference, in kindergarten at least, was that Idaho’s old standards focused more on foundational skills. Here’s one of last year’s Idaho kindergarten standards, “Hold a book right side up and turn pages in the correct direction.” There are some things like that in the Common Core standards but not as much.

Q: Couldn’t a state use its own standards rather than go with Common Core?

A: Sure, and five states have decided they are better off writing their own. Critics say Idaho should do that too. That includes Stacey Knudsen with the group Idahoans for Local Education.

“Is there no one in Idaho capable of writing a set of standards?” Knudsen asks. “Are there no educators are there no teachers? Do we have so little faith in Idahoans and our own organizations?”

But Tom Luna says it’s not that states couldn’t write good standards on their own. Luna is Idaho’s schools’ superintendent and defender-in-chief of Common Core. He says before states adopted Common Core, there was an incentive to set low standards.

“You would have a state that would set very low math standards. And they would report that 85 percent of their students were meeting their academic goals,” Luna says. “You’d have another state that would set very high math standards. And they would report that 70 percent met their academic standards. And the perception was the state that was reporting 85 percent was doing better than the state reporting 70 percent.”

Q: So how did we get from each state writing its own standards to most adopting the same set?

A: Luna says he was there at the beginning. He says it started in 2007 with an informal conversation between school chiefs from a handful states.

“We realized that we had many of the same issues,” Luna says. “We were graduating students from our schools but too many of them weren’t ready when they went to college, they weren’t ready when they went into the workforce. And then we also realized that it was very difficult for us to compare how our schools were doing state to state.”

In 2009, governors and schools chiefs from 48 states agreed to work together to develop a set of shared standards. They got a big group of experts together to write them and that group released the final draft in June 2010. Then states started adopting them. Kentucky actually agreed to adopt Common Core standards even before the first draft came out. Idaho lawmakers signed off on the standards in 2011.

Q: In your quote from, Luna he talked about comparing how schools are doing state to state.

A: For supporters it’s not just about getting high standards it’s about everybody having the same standards. That’s the 'common' in Common Core. The argument goes: if students have the same learning goals and just as importantly take the same tests, you can easily compare Idaho student progress to that of kids in California.

But opponents really don’t like having standards in common. They’re afraid it will lead to a national curriculum where teachers have no control over what and how they teach and they don’t believe states went into this without the federal government pulling the strings.   

Q: The opposition movement has become quite visible in the past few months. What other objections do they have?

A: It’s a long list. They say Common Core is crony capitalism, that it’s just a way to get schools to buy more things like software and hardware to take tests with. They say it puts more emphasis on high-stakes testing which they see as already overemphasized. They’re concerned about data from those tests being used inappropriately. And a there’s a lot more.

Q: How valid are their objections?

A: They raise some points worth talking about like, are we putting too much emphasis on testing? But there are some objections that are just conspiracy theories and there are other objections that aren’t really about Common Core but about the nation’s education system as a whole.

The concern about data is one of those. What data schools gather about students, what they do with it, and how they safeguard it are important issues but they’re not directly about Common Core.

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio