Common Core questions pass test — with rare exceptions

For every 1,756 questions that passed muster, one remains in limbo.

That’s the scorecard from the state’s Bias and Sensitivity Committee — a group of 120 Idahoans who reviewed questions for new statewide tests aligned to the Common Core standards.

The teachers, parents and administrators worked in Boise from Dec. 15 through Dec. 18, reviewing questions for a variety of red flags. They were supposed to look out for stereotyping, ethnocentrism and controversial subject matter — such as religion, sexuality, current politics and math questions that refer to gambling.

The committee reviewed 33,364 questions.

Only 91 were “double-flagged,” said State Department of Education spokesman Brady Moore. That means at least two committee members thought the questions were inappropriate.

These 91 questions went to a 30-member subcommittee for a more thorough review. This committee signed off on 72 of these “double-flagged” questions. But the committee will meet next Tuesday to take a closer look at the remaining 19 questions.

The committee doesn’t get the final word. The committee can recommend dropping a question, but it’s up to the State Board of Education to make the decision.

Ten of the 19 flagged questions cover English language arts; nine are math questions. However, it’s unclear why the questions are in limbo, since the review process is confidential.

Even if Idaho winds up rejecting any or all of the 19 questions, they will remain under wraps, since other states may end up using them.

“We don’t own the questions,” Moore said Tuesday. “Smarter Balanced owns the questions.”

Smarter Balanced is one of two contractors preparing tests that align to Common Core standards. Idaho has taken a prominent role in the multistate Smarter Balanced consortium.

Despite Idaho’s involvement in the Smarter Balanced consortium, the 2014 Legislature voted overwhelmingly to create a 30-member test review committee, at a projected cost of $75,000. State superintendent Tom Luna expanded the committee to 120 members, saying the added membership was needed to review all of the possible questions.

In the spring of 2015, students across the state will take the new assessments — known officially as the Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced. Schools field-tested the assessments earlier this year, but 2015 will be the first time the tests are used to measure student achievement and school performance.

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