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Idaho House Education Committee Cuts Teacher Prep Standards

Idaho Ed News

Standards outlining how Idaho colleges prepare new teachers for the classroom took a blow Tuesday after the House Education Committee voted to cut them entirely.

The broad requirements include things K-12 educators need to know, like how kids develop and learn, as well as separate standards related to each subject they teach.

Rep. Gary Marshall (R-Idaho Falls), a former professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, spearheaded the move to drop these standards. BYU-Idaho’s elementary education program failed to meet these requirements as recently as 2018, according to Idaho Education News.

As a professor, Marshall said it took him an entire semester to gather the needed documentation to prove to state regulators that the school’s programs were up to snuff.

“The bottom line is: it honestly, truly didn’t make any difference to the actual product, the [student teacher] who went into the schools,” he said.

As the school, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was transitioning from a two-year junior college to a four-year institution in the early 2000s, Marshall said the state was rejecting their “creative” ideas to comply with state regulations.

“I’m quite certain that given the opportunity to be more creative that we would see some absolutely marvelous things take place.”

Should these standards be entirely rejected by state lawmakers, it’s unclear what the immediate effects will be.

Tracie Bent, the chief planning and policy officer for the Idaho State Board of Education, said setting minimum standards for new teachers make sure they’re ready and effective in the classroom on day one.

“I don’t want my student to be a guinea pig and I don’t think other parents do, either,” Bent said.

Colleges and universities in Idaho can’t change standards for students currently enrolled in these teacher prep programs. Because of that, Bent said there would be a lag time between when any school might switch up their curriculum and when those graduates start teaching in a classroom if these changes are made.

Democrats on the committee tried to block Marshall from axing these standards, but failed on a party line vote.

Two of them, including Rep. Steve Berch (D-Boise), said they weren’t opposed to taking a look at the effectiveness of these regulations. But Berch said they shouldn’t be blown up without anything to take their place.

“If you’re going to replace a car engine, you’d better have a replacement engine sitting on a pallet right next to the car to put in the car. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to drive that car very far,” he said.

These standards will now be considered by the Senate Education Committee. Those lawmakers can either adopt the same tweaks their counterparts in the House made Tuesday, or block it from taking effect altogether.

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

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!