According to Dana DeHaan, the curriculum director for the Cassia County School District, local schools have probably gained more local control than ever under the new Idaho Core Standards.
In 2011, Idaho adopted the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics as Idaho’s new Core Standards.
DeHaan joined Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna on the radio this morning to discuss the new academic standards and how her district is working to implement them at the local level. (Superintendent Luna filled in as the guest host on the Austin Hill show this morning on Newsradio KINF 99.1 FM.)
“We feel like we have probably gained a lot more control over it,” DeHaan said. “We are digging in and writing our own (curriculum).”
DeHaan has worked in public education for 20 years – all in Idaho. Before becoming curriculum director, she taught at every grade level except second grade, bringing years of classroom experience to her current position.
She was working as a teacher when Idaho first transitioned to a standards-based education system in the 1990s and remembers being eager to move to standards.
“For teachers, it helped guide us. It helped make us critical consumers of curriculum,” she said. “They freed us up from the textbooks.”
Now, teachers in Cassia County are excited about the new Idaho Core Standards because they will be “a real bump up in the expectations for all of our kids.”
“One of the biggest concerns teachers had with the previous standards were they were minimum proficiency standards. They were preparing kids for multiple choice tests,” DeHaan said. The new standards are preparing kids for problem solving, critical thinking, and “a deeper level of thinking,” she described.
While on the radio, DeHaan helped answer a few other frequently asked questions we hear about the new academic standards.
Are these new standards “dumbed down?”
DeHaan: No, not at all. The only thing I can think of why they would be considered lower is that much of the content is moved to lower grades than it has in the past. For example, I was working with kindergarten teachers, and we dug into these standards. These standards do not tell you how to teach. We make it clear what is developmentally appropriate. There is time for fun and play, but here is the content. ... They (students) have to fluently subtract up to a certain level. This substantially increases.
Do you see any evidence that communism or socialism will be taught?
DeHaan: No. I have dug through these. The content is still driven by our own Idaho standards, our content of social studies. … I don’t see any evidence of that, neither do any of my social studies or language arts teachers. Cassia County is a very conservative community. I am sure if it was there, my teachers would say something. … They are teaching kids how to think, and I don't think that is a communist agenda.
Are you required to adopt any specific curriculum?
DeHaan: No. Our board makes those decisions. Any new curriculum we buy, our board has to approve.
Will these standards de-emphasize literature or historical texts?
DeHaan: No. In fact, they (students) have to look at original historical documents and look at differing accounts in original documents and form an opinion based on those original accounts. Literature is still emphasized in English class.
What can parents expect to see differently in Cassia County classrooms next year?
DeHaan: They can expect to see a lot more writing come home. … The writing is going to be very driven by the reading and not separate from the reading. Math will focus on problem solving. We will still focus on the algorithms, but we will also ask them to apply those to real-life problems.