House Education repeals English, math and science standards

After weeks of anticipation and divisive hearings, the House Education Committee voted to outright repeal English, math and science academic standards Wednesday. The committee also voted to remove the senior math requirement and several appendixes referenced in the standards.

The committee repealed the standards despite the fact the majority of public testimony during three days of hearings last month favored retaining the standards in their current form.

The move puts pressure on the Senate Education Committee, which has not weighed in, and won’t before next week. Under the Legislature’s sometimes convoluted rulemaking process, Senate Education has the power to join the House in rejecting the standards — or approve the standards, which would be enough to nullify the House’s action and keep the standards on the books.

If the Senate agrees with the House, Idaho would have no standards on the books for English, math or science, which some educators said could lead to uncertainty or chaos.

Rep. Judy Boyle

House Education spent nearly two hours discussing the standards Wednesday, with Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, leading the push for repeal.

Boyle, a sixth-term lawmaker, complained about the way Common Core standards were introduced via administrative rule in 2011. Boyle said lawmakers were blindsided by the standards, which she said have not resulted in increased student achievement.

“We have not had our test scores go up … we have frustrated kids … it is time to pitch these out and find something that actually does work for our kids,” Boyle said.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, a Stanley Republican and retired science teacher, also pushed for repeal. She said test scores are stagnant while pointing out Idaho has not made progress on its goal to have 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.

“There is no way we are putting kids out who are capable of going to college,” Moon said.

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, also pushed for repeal, despite vocal support for the standards from the West Ada School District, which she represents. DeMordaunt said she is concerned about complaints she has heard from parents and neighbors.

“There is a belief that parents can no longer help their students with math,” said DeMordaunt, repeating a common refrain from the past month of hearings.

Moon said that the standards cause students to hate math, as evidenced by the fact that they no longer want to play the dice game Yahtzee.

Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, a retired teacher and Brigham Young University-Idaho administrator, said the standards debate has become a distraction.

“These things have become so politicized in our state,” Marshall said. “We must find a way to depoliticize our educational standards. We cannot come back year after year after year after year and be in in this same situation.”

However, Marshall didn’t point out that his Republican colleagues on House Education have led the charge to hold standards hearings during four of the past five legislative sessions.

While a majority of  committee Republicans backed repealing the standards, House Education’s three Democrats, Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and Vice Chairman Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, opposed the move.

Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise, criticized Republicans for saying rejecting standards won’t disrupt Idaho’s public education system. Republicans are counting on the State Board of Education to put in temporary new standards after the legislative session adjourns.

“We can’t just assume we’re just going to count on someone else to do the right thing to protect us from implementing the wrong thing,” Berch said.

Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City, pushed unsuccessfully for approving all of the standards. McCrostie, a music teacher, said he has concerns about testing requirements. But he said continued efforts to repeal the standards sow confusion in Idaho’s schools and decrease morale among professional educators who travel to the Statehouse year after year to ask legislators to leave the standards alone.

Kerby, a retired school superintendent, urged Republican colleagues to choose a slower, more deliberate approach over an immediate repeal. He pointed out English and math standards will be up for a regularly scheduled review in 2021. He urged the committee to partner with the State Board and the State Department of Education on standards review and provide feedback at that time.

“We can take care of this with a very thoughtful process that provides stability for our schools that won’t have people wondering what the standards are going to be next year and what’s going to happen the year after that,” Kerby said.

Senate Education now gets the next move — and until that happens, it’s impossible to gauge the impact of House Education’s vote.

On Tuesday, Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, told Idaho Education News that his committee might vote on standards as early as Thursday. But at the outset of Wednesday’s Senate Education meeting, Vice Chairman Steven Thayn said the standards won’t come up until next week. Thayn, R-Emmett, presides over the rules process in Senate Education.

How House Education voted

Yes on repeal (10)

  • Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale.
  • Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins.
  • Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene.
  • Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle.
  • Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley.
  • Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.
  • Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow.
  • Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls.
  • Rep. Jerald Raymond, R-Menan.
  • Rep. Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls.

No on repeal (five)

  • Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls.
  • Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth,
  • Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.
  • Rep. Chris Abernathy, D- Pocatello.
  • Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise

Senate Education works through other rules

Four hours after House Education repealed the academic standards, Senate Education met to work through a set of less controversial rules.

The new State Department of Education and State Board rules cover a laundry list of topics, from state Opportunity Scholarship requirements to suicide prevention training for teachers and school employees. These proposals are separate from the so-called “omnibus” education rules, which include the teacher certification and academic standards language House Education rejected this week.

Senate Education had already held hearings on the 10 new agency rules, so it took the committee barely a half an hour to plow through the list.

But the larger rules debate flavored Wednesday’s meeting.

Discussing a rule that would move Idaho’s middle school science test from seventh grade to eighth grade, Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, lamented the process of asking teachers to rewrite science standards again. “I’m having trouble wrapping my head around how that’s going to change anything.” The committee approved the rule on the science test.

The committee delayed one vote, on a rule addressing teacher certification. While it’s a different rule than the certification rule House Education rejected Tuesday, there was enough overlap that Mortimer made a motion to put the new rule on hold.

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.

 

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at ccorbin@idahoednews.org

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