Guest Opinion: Top-down standards will hurt Idaho kids

February 4, 2014 

The people of Idaho should determine how to best educate our children, rather than bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Numerous federal programs have been sent out and become more onerous, such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and now Common Core, with the most extensive testing program yet.

Presently, a high school student could be required to take up to 16 or more tests (PSAT, SAT, IELA, PLAN, ACT, pre- and post-tests, end-of-semester exams, ASVAB, Science ISAT, AP tests, SBAC, PLATO, benchmarks, CIS, and NAEP). Too much testing is disruptive and counterproductive to real learning. Maybe the wisdom found in the old farmer’s adage applies here, wherein the farmer spent all of his time weighing his pig and not enough time letting it eat and grow.

We have marvelous teachers in Idaho and need to free them to do what they do best — teach. We don’t need a major overhaul of our entire education system. While it’s true that under Idaho Core Standards local districts maintain 15 percent of control over curriculum, our concern is teachers will feel forced to teach to the national tests as we have seen with NCLB. We have national tests — the SAT and the ACT (we place 16th nationally with ACT); we don’t need the Common Core test, and we certainly don’t need the federal government knowing or tracking how our children are doing. The federal government has no business in local education, creating additional problems and burdens by tying up our schools in their bureaucratic red tape. Their noble ideas do not translate into better education for our students nor less stress on our teachers.

So what are some of the possible answers? The most important tests are those given during and at the end of each lesson to determine if students have understood and mastered the material. The “end of course assessments” and tests allow us to benchmark nationally like the ACT and SAT. Our top schools in Idaho are already using “end of course assessments.” By eliminating unneeded tests, we allow teachers to spend more time teaching and less time teaching to tests. We can also look at states whose programs are working, such as Massachusetts, which ranks first in the nation. They raised their standards 20 years ago. If children in Massachusetts went up against other nations, their eighth-graders would rank sixth in the world in math and second in science!

Like Massachusetts, we need to raise our standards and set up our own testing. We need to expect more from our students and give them and the teachers the tools they need.

Common Core is an experiment, and we shouldn’t experiment on our children. A number of states that previously adopted Common Core are now rethinking their position because of the preliminary results and the fear of the federal government encroaching on state sovereignty. We should use programs with proven results allowing for innovation and individualized learning. Students will rise to the level of expectation. If we expect their very best, and teach at the appropriate level, the children will deliver their best. Our Idaho communities know what they expect if we give them the freedom to accomplish excellence. Therefore, let’s work as Idahoans to turn back the national Common Core testing and work together to give our children a great education and a wonderful future.

Sen. Monty Pearce, New Plymouth; Rep. Judy Boyle, Midvale and Rep. Lawerence Denney, Midvale are all Republicans representing District 9.

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