Common Core readiness: Idaho’s grades mixed

States are racing to implement the comprehensive — and controversial — Common Core standards, and Idaho starts out more or less in the middle of the pack.

A new national study gives Idaho high marks for teaching low-income students, but says Idaho has a weak record for teaching Latino students.

The point of the study, released Tuesday by The Education Trust of Washington, D.C., is summarized in its title: “Uneven at the Start.” As 45 states and the District of Columbia prepare to implement Common Core, some states have stronger track records in academic performance and student growth.

But every state has work to do.

“In almost every jurisdiction, these new standards represent a serious stretch, both for students and for schools,” writes Natasha Ushominsky, the report’s author.

The study is based on scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — which The Education Trust calls “the best available proxy for how states will fare on new college- and career-ready standards.”

Among the Idaho findings:

  • Tracking performance across subjects and grades, Idaho was among seven states showing a “fairly positive” track record for preparing low-income students.
  • Looking across subjects and grades, Idaho was among 12 states that lagged behind the nation in preparing Latino students.
  • Idaho fourth-graders scored above the national average on the reading NAEP. Idaho’s overall average score was 221, compared to a national average of 220. For low-income students, Idaho’s average score was 210, and the national average was 207.
  • From 2003 to 2011, Idaho logged some improvements in fourth-grade NAEP reading scores: 2.6 points overall, and 2.9 percent for low-income students. The state’s improvement lagged behind national trends, according to the study, but not significantly.

The impetus for the study is the movement toward Common Core standards — such as the Idaho Core Standards in math and English language arts. Idaho schools will teach to the standards this fall. Student assessments will be field-tested in the spring of 2014 and fully adopted a year later.

And the Education Trust study comes as Idaho teachers and school administrators are making final preparations to teach to the Common Core standards. In all, nearly $22 million is being spent on Common Core professional development statewide.

Such professional development is key, this week’s study indicates, since even above-average test scores do not necessarily mean a state is ready to teach to Common Core standards.

“Today, no state is performing as well as we need it to, especially for its low-income students and students of color,” Ushominsky writes.

To learn more: Use The Education Trust’s interactive website to chart Idaho’s test scores.

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