Mom becomes activist to oppose Idaho Core

Stephanie Zimmerman’s chosen career path is motherhood. Her dedication to her job has forced her to branch out and become a political activist, website manager and event organizer.

“I had no desire to do this,” Zimmerman said. “I’m doing this because it’s what’s best for my kids.”

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Stephanie Zimmerman

Zimmerman has jumped into one of the hottest education debates in our country — the implementation of Common Core Standards.

Forty-five states, including Idaho, have adopted Common Core. (Idaho labels them Idaho Core Standards). The standards were created to communicate and measure what is expected of each student at each grade level.

All Idaho teachers are required to teach to the standards this fall. Zimmerman is outraged. There are so many things wrong with these standards, she says, that she’s changed her world to build a coalition of opponents, in hopes of convincing Idaho education and political leaders to change course.

“I can read the documents and see what we signed up for and it really frustrates me that we would do this,” said Zimmerman. “I’d like to see an effort made to put the brakes on this. Let’s get it slowed down and look at it more closely.”

The parents of eight children — their oldest is 15 and the youngest was born in May — the Zimmermans are so frustrated by Idaho Core Standards that they plan to take the kids out of Meridian schools and home-school them this fall. Stephanie will instruct, and spend 20 hours a week fighting the implementation of the standards. That means she’ll be taking on some heavy hitters who have formed their own coalition in support of Idaho Core Standards, a group that includes the teachers’ union, big business groups and Idaho’s largest school districts.

“My kids are starting to resent the time I spend away from them, but they are very supportive,” Zimmerman said. “My husband has done more laundry this last month than he’s done our whole marriage. But these standards were going to affect my children in a very real way and my children are my job.”

Zimmerman clearly remembers when she first heard the words “Common Core Standards.” It was from her sister in Utah, wondering what Stephanie knew about them.

“I Googled it and thought if (Gov.) Butch Otter and (superintendent) Tom Luna signed up for it, it can’t be that bad,” said Zimmerman, a conservative who has openly supported both politicians. “I started doing serious research and then couldn’t sleep at night.”

Zimmerman can find a lot of problems with the standards, but she lists these as her primary concerns:

  • Testing collects data and then “someone else can access information about my children.”
  • There is no data that says these standards will work.
  • The standards track a career path for kids at a really young age. “That really bothers me.”

Her disdain for the standards has led her to do things she never expected — or wanted — to do:

  • Creating a website, Idahoans for Local Education, and all the content on it.
  • Testifying before legislators.
  • Contacting Otter and Luna.
  • Writing opinion articles for news organizations.
  • Organizing an informational event; she expects more than 100 people to attend Saturday’s event, and hear from a handful of national speakers.
  • Recruiting 20 to 30 parents to help “spread the word” about the standards.
  • Interviewing with multiple media outlets (she was recently quoted in Education Week).

“It is clear Mrs. Zimmerman is a dedicated parent who is passionate about her children’s education,” said Melissa McGrath, spokeswoman for the State Department of Education. “Even though we disagree with her on this issue, we respect her drive and her passion as a parent and an Idahoan.”

The  Zimmermans
Bill, Stepanie and their children Dellan, Kyrie, Taige, Heaton, Calem, Rowan, Merrick  and Lavinia (born in May).

Stephanie and her husband, Bill, met at Brigham Young University, where she receive her bachelor of arts in music. After college, the family relocated to the Boise area where Bill works in the mortgage industry.  Stephanie wanted to stay home raising children, gardening, cooking and sewing. There is no time to plant a garden this year.

“Our plan is to continue to educate community members and follow what’s happening in other states that are reversing course on adopting standards,” Zimmerman said. “It’s really hard to feel like you can make a difference, but I have to keep trying for my kids’ sake.”

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Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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