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Idaho Still Has Current Issues With Common Core

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.

 

Released Scores

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.

 

Released Controversy

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.

How common core standards have changed education

classroom-379216_640Education would not have evolved to the place where it now stands were it not for standards, those well-defined articulations of what students should know by a particular benchmark, such as a certain grade level. Some states use terms like essential knowledge and skills to define such standards. For example, in Texas they have the acronym of TEKS, for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. At any rate, state agencies had their state specific standards outlined in detail so that educators and others would be in compliance by setting up lesson plans and activities that exposed students to the right learning opportunities and content at the right time. Ultimately, standards informed what a graduating student should know when they finished high school. The only drawback, was that Johnny could move from Texas to Virginia and find that another standard was in place while he was getting his education. This could conceivably put him too far behind or too far ahead of his peers. Common Core standards were designed to eliminate the variances among different states.

One additional argument in favor of a common standard was that graduating high school seniors could find themselves in a college or university in another state where the preparation was deficient. Many reasons were raised that seemed to justify an across-the-board standard. It’s math and English language arts, some core subjects, that are directly impacted by the new standards. A justification given for focusing on these subjects is that they are building blocks for other subjects like Social Studies and Science. Common core applies to grades from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

Teachers were contributors to the dialog related to Common Core, and were involved in its development and implementation. Parents, administrators, state leaders, experts and others were involved in the process, as well.

Even with the advent of standards that were held to be agreed upon as consistently relevant and appropriate for all states, there was no mandate that any participate if they chose to keep their state standards intact. After all, it is a standard and not an absolute law. There are a few states that opted out, but, according to www.CoreStandards.org, 43 states are now participants.

What it means for teachers in the participating states is that the tools, resources, materials and other things should provide content that aligns with the standards. In addition, teachers in various states can now work together to develop curriculum material that aligns with the standards.

Likewise, each state does not have to have its own unique assessments with common core standards. The core standards website indicate that each state’s best came into the mixing pot, so that the end result would be a top-tier set of standards for core subjects that would provide rigor, be aligned with future goals and based upon research. Even the standards and ways students learned in other countries where student performance was high was taken into consideration.

In addition to the need for new curriculum material, ranging from digital resources, books, teacher materials, headsets for testing, audio/visual aids, flash cards, maps, textbooks and other resources; common core also requires that teachers in participating states receive adequate training so they can take their new standard back to the classroom and properly implement them. Without teacher training, and teacher buy-in the common core standards would amount to interesting text on paper.

Policymakers, leaders in business, the College Board, the National Parent/Teacher Association, and other thought leaders are in support of common core standards, according to the website.