One of the later adopters of Common Core as of January 24, 2011, Idaho has faced a tumultuous end to 2015. With scores on the state’s first assessment based on the Common Core coupled with parents fighting to have a say on opting out of the program altogether, the state is doing what it can to find a happy medium within such a complex situation.
In July, Idaho released the preliminary results of their Idaho Standards Achievement Test, one put together by Smarter Balanced, a consortium of states working together to create exams based off of the Core’s new standards. Unsurprisingly, the results were low. As a new test asking about higher standards, virtually all educators were expecting a dip in scores as both they and the children learn to adapt.
As it stands, only half of all students are proficient or more in both English and math. Critics ask for more information, such as figuring out how reliable the test actually is. Teachers are working to figure out how best to improve these grades come the next test. Because of this, most educators all but expect the scores to increase over time.
Common Core is one of the nation’s most debated topics at the moment in regards to education. While Idaho has managed to get through the past four years relatively unscathed, this recent year has proven to be challenging.
In the latter half of this year, parents banded together to create a “parental rights” bill. This document was designed to require all Idaho schools to create opt-out processes for parents, giving them the legal right to shield their children from material they don’t agree with. Luckily, it was a bill that died in a House Education Committee hearing.
The reason this has been so frustrating for educators is the fact that student participation is directly tied to government funding. In an age where schools scrape the bottom of the barrel year after year, losing $57.2 million would be a crippling blow. Current law states that in order for Title I funding from the government to continue, at least 95% of all students in the state have to participate in the annual testing. If parents had gotten the bill to pass, this would have resulted in drastic educational harm in addition to severely increased taxes to make up for the deficit.
Crushing the bill, however, doesn’t mean that the educators of the state aren’t listening. Idaho’s superintendent Sherri Ybarra is doing everything she can to find a balance without sacrificing the funding desperately needed to protect the most vulnerable students across the state. For this, she’s putting her faith in a continually developing Core standard set that will produce great results in the future.