Guest Opinion: Butch Otter on Idaho's Common Core Standards

GUEST OPINION: WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND

March 22, 2014 

The State of Idaho has a responsibility to provide public schools that prepare our students to be competitive wherever life takes them. That's consistent with my K-through-Career approach to improving our education system.

We also know that every child learns differently - in different ways, at different rates, and to different potentials. That challenges us as leaders to identify academic standards both rigorous and adaptable enough to achieve the best outcome for each Idaho student. I believe we have.

Idaho Core Standards reflect the development of public policy as the Founders envisioned it - driven by the states as the laboratories of the republic.

In 2009 Idaho joined a consortium of states to craft more rigorous standards for mathematics and English. The publication of these standards, and their implementation, remains a state-led effort seeking only to develop better tools to measure and foster student achievement.

In 2010 the State Board of Education elected to adopt these new standards. It found that they met or exceeded those already in place in Idaho and recognized that increased rigor will better prepare our students for higher education and competition in a challenging global job market.

The Legislature, with Senator Fulcher's support, approved these standards in 2011. Their implementation sets a higher bar and demands more of our students and our educators.

However, it's important to remember that the State Board of Education reviews our standards every five years. So while we will find great value in measuring the performance of our kids with those from other states, regions, and nations, our standards and curriculum remain ours alone, and Idaho retains every right to change direction should the standards not deliver. The citizens of Idaho alone are in control.

I enthusiastically support the broadly embraced effort now advancing to improve education in Idaho based on the 20 recommendations of my Task Force for Education Improvement. These recommendations, some already being implemented, were crafted by educators, business leaders, legislators and community members.

The Task Force made the Idaho Core Standards a key part of achieving our 2020 goal of 60 percent of Idahoans, ages 25 to 34, attaining some form of meaningful educational certification beyond high school. Indeed, educators at all levels say the value of our standards is what they will enable our students to accomplish.

Our Legislature, the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education will keep advancing policies that are in the best interests of our students. Innovative, Idaho-driven solutions inevitably will get attention from other states and even the federal government. That does not diminish their value to our own education system, and our own students.

As a state we continue to invest in the proper implementation of technology to serve our students and educators. Whether it is using iPads at Paul Elementary or providing broadband Internet connectivity through the Idaho Education Network, it is clear to me that Idahoans bring tremendous energy to doing what is right for our students.

The Idaho Core Standards may draw a lot of attention and even inspire imitation from the U.S. Department of Education. They also are sure to be the focus of some controversy, as with anything involving our children's future. But in my view, the standards represent our self-reliance and just determination to do what it is in our own students' best interests, to be implemented, maintained, modified or rejected as our experience suggests.

Otter lives in Star.

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