At the Statehouse, an ISAT opt-out movement surfaces

Some legislators would like to allow school districts to opt out of a new test aligned to Idaho Core Standards.

And while the “opt-out” bill hasn’t officially surfaced, it has already had one minor, ripple effect. It prompted the Senate Education Committee to put the brakes on an administrative rule that really has nothing to do with the new Common Core assessments.

On Monday afternoon, Senate Education had a rule on its agenda that would define limited English proficient students. Under the rule, LEP students would be defined as students who do not receive a proficient score on a language assessment. (That language appears on page 76 of the committee’s docket of rules.)

No one on Senate Education voiced any issue with the new definition, but the LEP rule is on hold indefinitely.

The sticking point appears on page 75 of the rule. Here, the rule reinforces some old language that is already on the books — requiring that 95 percent of a school’s students take the spring Idaho Standards Achievement Test. This requirement is designed to make sure a school administers the standardized test on nearly a universal scale. In the past, schools that have failed to hit the 95 percent threshold have been marked down on the state’s five-star school ratings.

With the state launching a new statewide assessment based on Common Core — ISAT by Smarter Balanced — some Senate Education members have heartburn with the 95 percent threshold.

Bob Nonini
Sen. Bob Nonini

Some lawmakers want to push a bill that would allow schools to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, Coeur d’Alene Republican Bob Nonini told fellow committee members. But if a school pursues an opt-out policy, and enough parents take the school up on the offer, the school will not hit the 95 percent threshold.

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After some wrangling over parliamentary procedure, committee members were told they could not strike the 95 percent language from the rule — although they could repeal it through other means. Amidst the confusion, the committee decided to put the LEP rule on hold.