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Education stakeholders praise Idaho's Common Core standards

Blaine County School District Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes speaks Wednesday in favor of the Idaho Core Standards during a State Board of Education rules hearing.

TWIN FALLS — Several area education stakeholders spoke mostly unopposed Wednesday in support of Idaho’s version of Common Core.

The state’s academic standards dominated comments from students, parents, teachers and school district administrators during a State Board of Education rules hearing at College of Southern Idaho.

Standards are developed by teachers and allow students to be successful in school and life, said O’Leary Middle School teacher Peggy Hoy.

“The standards are working, they are rigorous and they are teaching our students to be critical thinkers,” Hoy said.

The hearing was the second of four scheduled by the State Board on its “rules governing thoroughness,” which include definitions for graduation requirements, standardized testing and special education.

Those rules also provide for the Idaho Core Standards, which establish minimum academic benchmarks all students in the state must meet. The 2011 Legislature adopted the standards as Idaho’s version of Common Core, and slight adjustments have been made since.

Legislators catalyzed a mostly dormant debate over the standards when they ended the 2019 session without reauthorizing more than 8,000 pages of administrative rules. That left Gov. Brad Little to temporarily approve most of the rules until the 2020 session, including the Idaho Core Standards.

Hundreds of requests for public comment legally obligated the State Board to hold hearings on the rules. Following the hearings, the board will endorse the current rules or amend them, and then the House and Senate education committees will have an opportunity to reject parts of the rules.

House Education Chair Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, attended the meeting to gauge public sentiment.

There’s an assumption that something is wrong with the standards, Clow said.

“If you look at the actual standards, they’re fine,” he said. “People can’t really point at an individual standard and say there is something wrong with this.”

Not commenting were members of conservative policy group Idaho Freedom Foundation. The group is largely responsible for the compulsory hearings after collecting hundreds of signatures on petitions calling for the repeal of Common Core.

About 29 people spoke mostly in favor of the standards, but a few unaffiliated residents spoke against them.

Common Core is a top-down socialist mandate from the federal government and is dumbing down students, said Filer resident Adrian Arp.

“We are failing our students, and it’s because of Common Core,” Arp said. “The bottom line is the whole thing stinks.”

Proponents stressed the importance of consistency across the state and the role teachers played in developing the standards.

Common Core sets a high bar to challenge students, said Minidoka County School District Superintendent Ken Cox. It’s important the country uses similar standards, he added.

“We can’t be one nation if we don’t have some uniformity,” Cox said.

Twin Falls School District has invested millions of dollars in working to align curriculum to the standards, and changing those standards now will be expensive, said Superintendent Brady Dickinson.

“When you are changing this constantly it becomes very difficult for a school district to measure their growth,” Dickinson said.

The current standards ensure students think at a higher level, said O’Leary teacher Samantha Mauch.

“I feel like the Idaho Core Standards are fair and they’re rigorous,” Mauch said. “Our students create, they design, they critique, they build and they collaborate with each other.”

Opponents are invited to read the standards and point to the ones they have an issue with, said Twin Falls Secondary Programs Director L.T. Erickson.

“Ask yourself which things you would not have them learning,” Erickson said.

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