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State board of education reviews new content standards

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 6, 2021

By Justyna Tomtas Lewiston Tribune

The Idaho State Board of Education reviewed the initial draft of new statewide content standards at a virtual meeting Monday, providing members with a first glance at changes proposed in the areas of English language arts, mathematics and science.

The proposed changes to the standards, which outline what students should know in the content areas by specific grade levels, were developed by a workgroup after the Idaho Legislature’s House and Senate education committees requested a rewrite in March of this year.

The draft document includes more than 700 pages detailing the new content standards, but Todd Driver, the state department of education’s director of content and curriculum, said there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, especially in the area of English language arts. That subject area includes the most standards with more than 550.

The board did not dive into the details of the changes and instead was updated on the next steps of the process. The draft document will go out for public comment through February and will be provided to the Legislature in an update. From March to May, the working groups will consider the comments received to guide them as they make further revisions, before presenting a second draft to the state board in June. Two more months of additional public comment will then be taken and the final recommendations will be presented to the state board in October for approval.

The negotiated rule-making process can then start in spring of 2021. If the legislature does not reject the incorporated documents, they could go into effect at the end of the 2022 legislative session.

State board members commended the amount of work stakeholder groups of educators, parents and legislators have so far put into the document, but expressed concerns the changes may not address concerns presented by the Legislature.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said legislators seem to have “philosophical” concerns about how the standards are taught instead of taking issue with the standards themselves.

Board member Kurt Liebich said a prime example is that math is now taught in a different way through the current standards, so parents do not have a good understanding of how they work.

“My lingering concern is even if we do this tremendously well that the real underlying concerns of the legislature are not going to be met,” Liebich said.

Ybarra said school districts have also expressed concerns about potential changes to the Idaho Content Standards.

“The one thing they always say to me is we just get trained, we just get a little bit of data under our belts that we can use, and then we change directions again and we don’t stick with something long enough to be able to use that to see if our initiatives are working,” Ybarra said. “I think that’s one of the things that the Legislature needs to be aware of is all these changes take a long time … to get down through the system and then to have usable data to make changes is going to be affected as well.”

The board did not take action on the draft.

In other news, the state board approved changes to its federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan after some metrics were not collected because of the disruption of in-person education during the coronavirus pandemic.

The unanimously approved accountability addendum will be submitted to the United States Department of Education by Feb. 1. It moves the state’s long-term goals back by one year, extends the state’s growth calculation to two academic years instead of one, and delays the accountability identification of new schools by one year.

The addendum “will ensure Idaho is able to produce accountability calculations and identifications that comply with Federal ESSA requirements, while at the same time, reflecting the priorities of Idaho stakeholders outlined during the original development process,” stated board material.

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