Our View: Idaho Common Core critics offer speculation, not facts

January 26, 2014 

The next two decisions the Idaho Legislature should make regarding Common Core/Idaho Core Standards:

1. Stop second-guessing your decision to adopt the standards.

2. Stop seeking information from the uninformed at forums.

We’re not against debate; in fact, we love debate. But whatever that gathering was supposed to be from 3 to 5 p.m. last Wednesday in the Lincoln Auditorium of the Statehouse, it did not rise to that expectation.

We commend the Idaho Senate and House committees for holding the session, but it devolved into an orderly Jerry Springer affair, at which we had to listen to opponents of Common Core trot out half-truths and spew speculative opinions. We though it was a search for fact.

It is nearly frightening that two of the “opponent” panelists are, or have been, Idaho educators and that they have come away with such a warped perception of Common Core — which is merely an approach to education that asks students to articulate or apply what they have learned to real-life situations.

The Idaho Core Standards, our state’s version of Common Core, deal only with math and English language arts. They were adopted in 2011 by the Legislature after nearly four years of study and consideration by Idaho educators.

Idaho has operated from various standards for decades. The Idaho Core Standards were adopted because it was determined our previous standards weren’t tough enough to ready kids to be successful in higher education or the workforce. Way too few high school graduates seek a certificate or college degree. Many of those who have gone on to college find their skills inadequate, and they spend a good portion of their first years in college taking remedial courses.

That’s a terrible value, and a terrible waste of time and money. New goal: tougher standards that by 2020 will see 60 percent of high school graduates successfully completing one-year certification or college level courses. Why? Because the business and employment sectors know that’s what it will take to get a job and thrive. And that’s what it will take for Idaho to survive.

Two complaints voiced Wednesday by Common Core opponents throb in our minds: The Idaho Core Standards are too high and the tests too hard; and kids in third grade must take keyboarding skills.

Seriously? How are Idaho students going to succeed with easy tests? Technology has transformed learning, and keyboards are among the keys to the kingdom. Great teachers equipped with high standards will provide the means, and technology an expanded opportunity.

Complicating an honest evaluation of Common Core are detractors locally and nationally who are reading from the same script of disinformation replete with conspiratorial innuendo. Charges such as: Bill Gates and the United Nations are allies in an effort to bring international and federal control to education guidelines to co-opt the minds of our youth and turn them into bleeding-heart liberal robots who will do for education what Obamacare has done for health care.

Read the George Will column in today’s Insight section, and believe it, and you will be ready to join the Anti Common Core Army. Will is a brilliant political observer often featured on these pages, but he has not done his homework on Common Core — especially as it relates to the Idaho expression of the standards.

Idaho Core Standards are not federally mandated; rather, they are the work of 45 different states that considered how to better prepare students for the future. Idaho has not accepted one federal dollar as a result of adopting Common Core. If someday we choose to change standards, we would not lose one federal dollar. Common Core was not a requirement of stimulus funding, Race to the Top or the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Waiver. Nebraska applied for Race to the Top, but never adopted the standards. Virginia received an ESEA Waiver but never adopted Common Core.

If the standards are not voluntary and there is no local control, why can Idaho tweak them or abandon them? Detractors like to say some states among the original 45 are having second thoughts. If it was a mandate, how could that happen?

Go to www.sde.idaho.gov/site/ICS/ and judge for yourself how we got to where we are. Though there are legitimate issues surrounding testing, we are confident they are being addressed. Idaho Core Standards are an imperfect but promising attempt at improving academic standards.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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