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Politics & Government
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 Supporters Urge Idaho Lawmakers To Keep Education Standards As-Is

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James Dawson
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Boise State Public Radio

Testimony Wednesday in support of Idaho’s Common Core public school standards outnumbered opposition as state lawmakers consider bagging the standards altogether.

Common Core is a set of national education guidelines adopted by many states.

Several teachers and administrators told the House Education Committee that the current standards give them flexibility. They said they allow local school districts to decide how to teach kids in the best way that meets those benchmarks.

State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said she and other board members ultimately decided to back the standards, despite uproar from some parents over their efficacy.

“We voted unanimously to support the standards as they are feeling that it would not be responsible to reject them without anything to replace them with,” Critchfield said.

Fred Birnbaum is with the influential conservative lobbying group, Idaho Freedom Foundation, whose president last year said that state government shouldn’t run public schools. Birnbaum said repealing the standards isn’t a life or death decision.

“I don’t see the downside. We don’t see the downside. This is not the missile coming down on Soleimani if we replace these standards,” he said.

But leaving Idaho temporarily without curriculum standards could cause “mass chaos” according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra (R).

States are required by the federal government to have their own content standards and assess student comprehension based on those standards. Some states have been fined or had their funding reduced by the feds, according to Kristin Rodine, a spokeswoman for Ybarra’s office.

“…reduced funding would have a disproportionate impact on many of Idaho’s most vulnerable students, such as special education students and low-income students,” Rodine wrote in an email.

Some who testified said some books used in classrooms were inappropriate or pornographic, though the example used was not actually from these standards.

Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) read a letter from Geoffrey Thomas, the superintendent at Madison School District #321 in Rexburg, who has long opposed these standards.

Thomas wrote that they resulted in “a massive money grab by curriculum companies and corporate testing agencies.”

Both he and other opponents also said the standards haven’t resulted in better educational outcomes for students.

Committee members will continue hearings on Common Core Thursday morning.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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