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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Common Core

Students to take new test aligned to core standards this school year

As students across the state head back to school, AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi offers an overview of the new standardized testing students will face this year aligned to Idaho Core standards adopted in 2011. Idaho school districts began teaching under the new standards last school year, and students took a field-test version of the new exam, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), but the results didn't count. The Idaho State Department of Education is now referring to the new test as the ISAT 2.0; in the spring of 2015, students will take the test and results will count. Click below for Kruesi's full report.

Common Core and the role of Bill Gates

The Washington Post has published an extensive story tracing the role of Bill Gates in the Common Core state standards for school student achievement; it’s online here, under the headline, “How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution.” The article, which calls the standards “one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history,” quotes Gates saying, “At the end of the day, I don’t think wanting education to be better is a right-wing or left-wing thing.”

Though the standards have recently drawn opposition from tea party groups, the article notes they initially had wide support from across the political spectrum. “The math standards require students to learn multiple ways to solve problems and explain how they got their answers, while the English standards emphasize nonfiction and expect students to use evidence to back up oral and written arguments,” the Post reports. “The standards are not a curriculum but skills that students should acquire at each grade. How they are taught and materials used are decisions left to states and school districts.”

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

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.

Idaho House, Senate education chairs urge support for Idaho core standards

Idaho House and Senate education chairman Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, and Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, have penned a joint “Open Letter to Idaho Legislators” they distributed to Idaho newspapers, among others, this afternoon, urging that the state stick with its new Idaho Core Standards for student achievement in math and English. “We urge you to stay the course,” the two write. “We have raised our academic standards in Idaho and increased expectations for every student to make sure they graduate from high school prepared to be successful. Now is not the time to go backwards.”

The two take on recent criticisms of the standards, including:

  • “A few have said this state-led effort will lead to a national curriculum. But Idaho law prevents this: Idaho Code 33-512 specifically outlines that curriculum adoption is up to the locally elected school board. This is how it was in the past under state academic standards, and this is how it remains today.”
  • “Some have claimed that the state should slow down because the standards were ‘rushed through.’ Yet, Idaho is three years into a six-year process of development and implementation. … It will be another two years before the state administers the first test measuring students against these new, higher standards.”
  • “Several parents have voiced concerns about the collection of data. While these concerns are not related to the standards in any way, we share these concerns. … That’s why Sen. Goedde is working on a bill that would prohibit the State Department of Education from sharing individual student data in the future. Supt. Luna is fully supportive of this legislation.”

They also note that the standards have widespread support, “not just from us, but from every education, child advocacy and business group in the state.” You can read the two lawmakers’ full article here.

Luna says Idaho students’ performance on ‘Nation’s Report Card’ gives preview of new core standards

Idaho 4th graders scored very slightly below average in reading and math, but the state's 8th graders scored slightly above average in both, according to results from the Nation's Report Card, an every-other-year assessment that compares student achievement between states. Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna hailed the results, saying they show the impact of the state's efforts to focus on those areas. “I applaud Idaho’s eighth grade students for continuing to outpace their peers across the nation in reading and mathematics,” Luna said. “It is clear our investments in the Idaho Reading and Math Initiatives and the hard work of Idaho’s teachers are paying dividends to help in better preparing Idaho students for higher levels of reading and mathematics, especially when compared to their peers across the country.”

Luna said the report card also provides a preview of how Idaho students are faring compared to the more rigorous Idaho Core Standards, which the state adopted in 2011 but won't test students on until 2015. The results suggest that just 30 to 40 percent of Idaho students will be performing on grade level in reading and math, as measured under the higher standards.  “It is not because our students woke up one day and were not as smart as they were the day before,” Luna said in a statement. “It is because our students are working to meet a higher bar, learning at a higher level, and that is a good thing for every child and for their future.”

Luna has been defending Idaho's new standards against a growing chorus of political dissent; he said the higher standards will ensure that Idaho high school grads are prepared for college or the workplace. “We have had standards in place since 2002,” he said. “Each time we raise academic standards, Idaho teachers make sure students meet the goals we have set for them, and we know we will see the same success as we implement the new Idaho Core Standards.” Click below for Luna's full announcement.

Of Common Core standards and legislative approval…

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who’s on a “listening tour” around Idaho as part of exploring whether to challenge GOP Gov. Butch Otter in the May primary election, said during a recent stop in Pocatello that the Legislature has not yet addressed the state’s new Common Core standards for public school student achievement; his comment was reported in the Idaho State Journal. But reporter Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News notes this morning that the record shows otherwise: The Education committees in the House and Senate approved the standards in January of 2011. Fulcher served on the Senate Education Committee at the time, and still does; you can read Richert’s full report here.

A look back at the Senate Ed minutes from 2011 shows that when the Common Core standards were brought to the panel on Jan. 19, 2011, there was a lengthy presentation, first from state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, who told the senators that 41 states helped develop the standards with the idea that it had to be a state-led effort, not a federal mandate; followed by aide Luci Willits, who described the standards and their development in detail, even giving an example of a standard for sixth-graders.

“Ms. Willits said the State Department of Education does not have rulemaking authority in Idaho,” the minutes state. “Although in other states the Superintendent can dictate standards changes, in Idaho they have to go through the Legislature.” The standards were presented as administrative rules, for legislative approval.

Fulcher was among the senators on the committee who asked questions about the standards during the presentation; he then asked that the vote on them be put off until a future meeting. Five days later, on Jan. 24, 2011, the Senate committee, including Fulcher, approved the rules unanimously.

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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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