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Eye On Boise

Tue., Dec. 10, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

Teacher on teaching to new standards: ‘They’re eating it up’

Panel discusses new Idaho Core Standards on Tuesday afternoon at Washington Elementary School in Boise (Betsy Russell)
Panel discusses new Idaho Core Standards on Tuesday afternoon at Washington Elementary School in Boise (Betsy Russell)

Kendra Wisenbaker, a 5th grade teacher in the Meridian School District, says she taught the American revolution differently to her class this year, in line with the new Idaho Core Standards. “My kids have never been so excited about the American revolution, because we’re tying it in to reading and writing,” she said. “They’re eating it up.” The difference: The subject matter extends outside their Social Studies textbook and into their reading and writing assignments, and the students are getting engaged, including through reading a book entitled, “George vs. George,” about George Washington and King George III. “With these new standards has come this idea that you have to integrate,” Wisenbaker said.

Wisenbaker, pictured at right, joined a panel sponsored by Idaho Business for Education this afternoon to discuss the new Idaho Core Standards and how they’re working in Idaho’s schools, which began teaching to the new standards this year, after lawmakers approved them in 2011. Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent, said, “It’s going very well, and I feel like kids are getting a new depth of understanding in math and language arts.” In math, he said students still need to get the right answer, but they must learn to explain how they got there, so they understand what it means, rather than just memorize.

Though the standards have some vocal opponents, Anne Ritter, chair of the Meridian School Board and immediate past president of the Idaho School Boards Association, said there are only small pockets of opposition around the state and in her district; the ISBA gave the standards “resounding approval” at its recent meeting in Coeur d’Alene, she said. "I think the trustees reflect their communities," she said. "I have found if I send the parents to the standards themselves, it alleviates a lot of fear.” For more on the Idaho Core Standards, click here.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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