Following the rejection of the Student’s Come First Laws in last November’s referendum, the 2013 legislative session together with the newly formed Education Task Force appointed by the governor’s office, offer to bring forth the best ideas on how our K-12 students should be educated.
What is being largely overlooked in this process is that education reform in Idaho is already taking place.
The Common Core state standards will start in all Idaho school districts 2014-15 school year. As of today, 47 states have signed on and are implementing Common Core into their K-12 curriculum.
Common Core represents a huge, fundamental shift in how we will teach our students: the new standards are far more rigorous and involve more in-depth understanding than anything our children have previously experienced. These standards emphasize teaching math more in-depth, and teaching English and language arts through not just classic books but also historical documents and technical manuals.
Project-based learning and student collaboration are two key components underlying Common Core. Mathematics learning will focus on thinking and applying skills, not just the rote memorization of how to solve a problem. Writing will be more argumentative, and students will be asked to explain their thinking and understanding.
For example, a sixth- grade Common Core performance-based question asks students about planning the most economical field trip, giving them a map of the distances to possible destinations, such as a museum, zoo or aquarium, results of a class vote and cost comparisons that include admission fees for each site. The student must then argue for the best choice field trip based on the information and measuring against different criteria. Sample math questions such as these ask students to explain how they arrive at an answer instead of just filling in a multiple-choice bubble.
The goal of Common Core is to prepare students with the competitive skills they will need for college and their careers. Teachers in our Boise School District have been diligently working on implementing the Common Core curriculum since 2011, spending countless hours in professional development to prepare for the daunting task of teaching our students in a new way. I urge all of those invested in education reform in Idaho, most notably our lawmakers, to take a hard look at Common Core. I think they will discover, that a significant step towards education reform in Idaho has already been initiated.
Troy Rohn is a Boise School Board member.