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.
Here are a few examples of the Common Core Standards, these are for kindergarten.
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.
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 strategies
Here 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 Core
Common 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.
States 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.
The 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.
Though 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.
Idaho’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.