East Idaho educators voice support for Core Standards

IDAHO FALLS — East Idaho educators had a clear message for the State Board of Education Tuesday night: Leave Idaho’s version of Common Core alone.

“(The standards) have added to the educational literacy of my students, who now know better what is expected of them,” said 29-year Pocatello teacher Mary Ann McGrory.

McGory joined at least a dozen other educators to support the statewide K-12 learning standards during the State Board’s fourth and final round of public hearings on Idaho’s “rules governing thoroughness,”  a far-reaching rule that includes the standards.

Rep. Julianne Young.

The hearings followed the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s circulation of petitions focused on the standards, which the conservative think tank has pushed to repeal. A multitude of resulting signatures left the State Board legally obligated to hold the hearings.

Educators’ general support for the standards on Tuesday reflected feedback from earlier meetings in both the Treasure and Magic valleys.

Over 100 people attended Tuesday’s three-hour meeting at the College of Eastern Idaho.

Most attendees who testified voiced their support, yet comments also shined further light on the lingering debate over the standards, which went in place in 2011.

“We’re turning out dummies, a YouTube generation,” said one local parent, a contractor, who railed on math achievement in Idaho and said some of his young workers can’t read a tape measure.

Current and former state and K-12 leaders added voice to the opposition.

Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, lamented the similarities between Idaho’s Core Standards and Common Core. Young said emphasis on nationwide standards saps state and local control of public education.

“Idaho doesn’t need to latch on to every big think-tank idea,” Young said.

Former Madison School District trustee Maria Nate read a portion of a letter from the district’s superintendent, Geoff Thomas, who lamented costs tied to teaching and assessing learning of the standards.

Madison spends a “tremendous amount of money on testing and curriculum” tied to the standards, Nate said.

Maria Nate

Others testified of the need to resist linking the standards to challenges facing education and hindering learning.

“Correlation does not equal causation,” said one Madison teacher who supports the standards.

Bonneville School District Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme pushed back on testimony connecting the standards to low math achievement — and claims that Idaho teachers are failing students.

“That is deeply offensive to me,” Woolstenhulme said.

Of the at least 36 who testified Tuesday, at least 14 said they opposed the standards.

Others offered mixed reviews. At least two teachers said they supported the standards, but lamented state testing requirements and procedures for assessing them.

Several state leaders attended Tuesday’s meeting, including State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman; Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls; and Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls.

The State Board will review the rule this fall. The 2020 Legislature will have the final say.

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