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Developing new school standards - again

A decade-plus process that involved more than 375 volunteers putting in 35,000 volunteer hours, statewide public hearings, and lots more resulted in Idaho’s current “content standards” for public schools, which define what kids are supposed to learn in each grade, kindergarten through high school, in seven subject areas. The standards were implemented in 2005, and the Idaho Standards Achievement Test checks how kids are doing on the standards - passage is even required to graduate from high school. But today, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter announced a new process: Idaho will join 48 states and territories to develop “common core state standards” in language and math for grades K-12. The national effort, led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, is designed to eventually add a new “assessment,” or test, to see if kids meet the standards.
    
“This is a great opportunity for Idaho to work with other states across the nation to ensure our students are prepared to compete in the 21st Century,” Luna said in a news release today. “Idaho students are not just competing with students in Utah, Wyoming and Washington. They are competing with students in India, China and across the globe. It is our responsibility to make sure all Idaho students are prepared for the world that awaits them.” The new multistate standards will be “research and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills.”

Melissa McGrath, Luna’s press secretary, said the idea is that Idaho will join the states developing the standards, then look at the result and decide if it wants to adopt them or not. “If we as a state decide to sign on to those, then we would need to align our standards, so that at least 85 percent of the Idaho standards met the national common core standards,” she said. “So that may entail revising the content standards, which we do every five years anyway. … It’s really just building upon what we currently have, and working with other states to see how our standards compare both nationally and internationally.”

When Idaho developed its standards, there was much emphasis on how they were Idaho-specific, rather than something determined by the feds. But Otter praised the new effort as one led by states. “This is a great example of states being the laboratories of the republic and taking the lead in addressing common challenges,” he said. “Education is a proper role of our state government and essential to ensuring citizens are prepared for the responsibilities of self-determination. Rigorous standards set the bar high for individual achievement and Idaho’s future.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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