These new Idaho Core Standards were adopted after a state-led effort referred to as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Through this initiative, state governors and education chiefs came together to find a solution to a common problem they were all facing: while students were doing well in grades K-12, students were graduating from high school unprepared for the rigors of postsecondary education or the workforce. This challenge is all too real in Idaho, where just 47 percent of Idaho’s high school graduates go on to postsecondary education and, of those, nearly half need remediation once they get there.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Governor Otter joined other states in working to develop more rigorous standards in mathematics and English language arts in 2009. This was a state-led effort. The U.S. Department of Education was not involved in any way. Idaho educators played a role in developing these standards. Once the standards were published in 2010, it was then up to each state to decide whether or not to adopt these standards. States took different paths to best meet the needs of their students. Virginia, for example, decided not to adopt the standards because it believed its standards were already rigorous enough. Other states chose to adopt just the math or just the English language arts standards.
The State of Idaho followed the same process it follows every five years to review academic standards in every subject area and decide whether or not to adopt new standards. The Idaho State Department of Education brought in Idaho teachers to review these new, more rigorous standards in mathematics and English language arts. A comprehensive gap analysis showed a strong correlation between Common Core State Standards and current Idaho state standards with a 70 percent match, but the Common Core State Standards were higher and deeper than previous standards.
Idaho’s colleges and universities also weighed in, telling us that students will be ready for postsecondary education if they master these standards. We also asked the business community in Idaho to take a look at these standards during the review process. The Department held regional public meetings across the state to gather input from educators, parents and Idaho citizens. The Idaho State Board of Education held an open public comment period as well.
In 2010, based on all of this input and feedback, the State Board of Education chose to adopt these standards as Idaho’s new content standards in mathematics and English language arts. The Idaho Legislature gave final approval to adopt these standards as our new state standards in 2011. They are now Idaho’s Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts and part of Idaho’s Content Standards for all subject areas.
These standards, just like standards in every other content area, are the goals the state sets for what every child should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level. The state still only sets the standards. It remains up to each local school board to adopt curriculum, which is the textbook or other materials a teacher will use in the classroom to teach these standards.
Ultimately, the Idaho State Board of Education and Idaho Legislature have oversight of these standards. As with any standards, these standards can change in the future as the state reviews academic standards every five years.
Superintendent Luna told Idaho’s legislators earlier this year, “Just like the standards we had in place before we adopted these, the federal government has never reviewed or approved state standards. And they have NOT reviewed or approved these. These are Idaho standards. If the federal government ever tries to approve or regulate these, no one will fight harder than we will.”
Here are some answers to questions we get asked frequently. Please let us know if you have others.
Q: Why Is Idaho Transitioning to New Standards?
A: In Idaho, we face a challenge in which our students do well academically in grades K-12 but far too many are graduating from high school unprepared for the rigors of college, professional-technical education, or the workforce. We are not alone. Many other states face the same challenge. Therefore, in 2009, Superintendent Luna worked with his fellow state superintendents to take a look at the academic standards in the core subject areas of mathematics and English language arts. Through this state-led, voluntary effort, Idaho worked with other states to develop higher, more rigorous standards in mathematics and English language arts that are comparable with any other country in the world. Our colleges and universities have told us that students who master these standards while in grades K-12 will graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education. That is the ultimate goal we are working to achieve—to ensure all students graduate from high school and succeed in the world that awaits them.
Q: What Was the Process to Adopt the New Standards?
A: In Idaho, we followed the same process we follow every five years to review and adopt new standards. We brought in Idaho teachers to review the standards. Idaho’s colleges and universities also weighed in, telling us these are college- and career-ready standards. The Idaho State Department of Education held regional public meetings in 2010 to gather feedback on the standards. The State Board of Education reviewed the standards in 2010 and held a public comment period. The State Board chose to adopt these standards in 2010. The Idaho Legislature gave final approval for the adoption of these standards as our new state for mathematics and English language arts in 2011. That is when they became the Idaho Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts. It is still up to each local school district to adopt curriculum to meet these standards.
Q: Is the Federal Government Requiring Idaho to Adopt New Standards?
A: No. Idaho voluntarily chose to adopt these standards in 2011. These standards were developed through a state-led effort. The federal government has not been involved in the process of developing or implementing these standards. Idaho signed a Memorandum of Agreement with other states to work together to develop these standards. That document clearly states this is a state-led effort and that the federal government is not involved. Idaho has not received any federal funding that requires the adoption of these new standards.
Q: What is the Timeline for Implementation?
A: Here is a timeline that shows the development and implementation of these new academic standards.
- 2009-10 school year: Idaho worked with other states to create these new standards.
- 2010-11 school year: Idaho conducted public outreach about the new standards and analyzed how the standards aligned with Idaho’s pervious standards.
- 2011-12 school year: The state has offered professional development for district leadership teams and master teachers.
- 2012-13 school year: The state has offered professional development for teachers and school administrators statewide.
- 2013-14 school year: The Idaho Core State Standards will first be taught in all Idaho public schools. (Some Idaho schools have already begun to implement the new standards.)
- 2014-15 school year: The new assessment aligned to the Idaho Core Standards will be delivered to Idaho students in Spring 2015.
A: Idaho teachers and principals are excited about these new standards and how they will help improve student learning in the future. Some schools have even decided to implement these standards early and began teaching to the new standards this school year.
We talked with a few Idaho teachers and principals about the new standards, and here is what they shared with us:
- Andy Grover, Superintendent in the Melba School District, said adopting these new standards “is probably the greatest thing that has happened in a long time in education.”
- Cindy Johnstone, Director of Curriculum and Assessment in the Vallivue School District, called the new standards the “right direction” for Idaho. “It’s difficult when states have to develop that all on their own, but for this state-led effort to come together and do that for us, I think is just an amazing thing,” she said. “I think they are better than what we have. It’s higher quality. It gets at more authentic learning for students so that they are better prepared as problem solvers, as critical thinkers for what lies ahead of them in their life.”
- Giselle Isbell teaches elementary math at Anser Charter School in Boise. She is excited about the new mathematics standards. “I think they really focus on building the structure of mathematics for students, which allows students to have a better and deeper understanding of math as they look at patterns or relationships of our number system. I think the standards allow time for students to explore multiple strategies and models and that is really important. It allows for lots of children to access math where they are, and I think it makes math more meaningful and engaging for the children.”
- Bill Brulotte, the Principal at I.B. Perrine Elementary School in Twin Falls, has been working with his staff to implement these new standards early over the past year. “After looking at the Common Core, it had a higher level of knowledge base and inquiry learning for kids instead of just rote memorization and regurgitating facts. That really impressed me that somebody was saying, ‘No, we want kids to think outside the box, we want them to work at a higher level of knowledge base,’” he said. “I want to take my staff to that higher level, and I want to do it for the benefit of the kids because I think kids can learn so much more than what we give them credit for.”
- Cathy Adams, a 20-year veteran in the classroom and currently a second grade teacher at I.B. Perrine Elementary, has been teaching the new standards for a year now. She said these new standards allow her to spend more time teaching critical, higher-level thinking skills. “I think that’s the key is the higher level thinking skills. That’s what they need in the real world, in a competitive world.”
A: Idaho is currently working to develop the next generation of assessments that will measure these higher academic standards, beginning in Spring 2015. Even with the best professional development the state can provide and the most highly effective teacher in the classroom, we must recognize these standards are higher. It will take a few years for Idaho students to master them. States that have already implemented higher standards similar to these and measured their students for the first time saw a significant drop in the number of students performing at grade level. Kentucky, for example, saw the number of students scoring proficient drop by one-third. We can expect similar results here in Idaho. It is not because our kids woke up one day and weren’t as smart as they were the day before. It’s because we are holding them to a higher standard, and that is a good thing for them and their future.