Idaho Ed Board backs off high stakes testing, for now

High stakes testing is off the table for Idaho’s 10th-graders — at least for now.

What happened: Idaho’s State Board of Education unanimously agreed Wednesday to waive the requirement that the Class of 2018 – this year’s 10th graders – be required to pass the test associated with Common Core State Standards by the time they graduate.

What about ninth graders? The state was also going to require ninth-graders to take the exam this year, but waived that requirement as well.

Why? State Board members want to look more deeply into the exams and their purposes. They are planning a workshop on the tests in December and a discussion at their board meeting in April.

What was wrong with the testing? Each grade has its own concerns. The federal government requires achievement tests be given in third through eights grade and once in high school. Requiring the ninth grade test would mean taking two tests in high school. Educators said a test that can run up to eight hours over several days robbed time for instruction. Sherri Ybarra, the state superintendent of public instruction who pushed for the waiver, favors the minimum testing required by the federal government.

What about 10th grade? Ybarra has argued that the fate of a student’s graduation shouldn’t come down to a single test. She favors multiple measures over multiple years. Other educators, such as Boise School District superintendent Don Coberly, said students who were amassing college credits in his district have struggled to pass the test based on Common Core, which sends a mixed message about college readiness.

Are the requirements gone forever? That will likely be up for discussion. Board member Debbie Critchfield has heard a number of complaints about the exams, including that districts don’t get enough feedback from the tests to help students improve their performance. Board discussions over the next several months will likely decide what happens to the exams.