Small turnout at standards meeting in Idaho Falls

One parent and a handful of East Idaho educators showed up at the Hampton Inn in Idaho Falls Thursday night to provide input and seek clarification on a variety of current Idaho academic standards.

“This is the smallest group we’ve had by far,” said Scott Cook, the State Department of Education’s director of academic support, services and professional development.

Idaho Falls was the third leg of a cross-state tour for Cook and several other coordinators presenting standards from a variety of subjects, ranging from English and math to arts and humanities.

“We’re trying to give as much opportunity for stakeholder input on these issues as we can,” said Cook, adding that Idahoans can provide feedback online.

Previous stops in Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston brought heated opposition from some parents, Cook said — regarding the recently rewritten science standards, which the Legislature killed earlier this year. Lawmakers said the public comment process was inadequate. However, some of the teachers who worked on the standards said they believe issues such as global warming and scientific renderings of the history of the universe may have played a role in the Legislature’s decision.

One of those teachers attended Thursday’s meeting.

“I’m here to defend the rewritten standards,” said Ralph Peterson, a 39-year veteran science teacher at North Gem High School, “and I’ll be in Pocatello tomorrow night to defend them, too.”

Despite making a nearly two-hour drive to the meeting, Peterson faced no opposition Thursday. On the contrary, the sole parent in attendance keyed in on what he referred to as “lacking” Common Core math standards.

“Mental math is neglected in the standards,” said Suketu Gandhi, who has a 13-year-old daughter enrolled in the Idaho Falls School District. “Converting fractions into decimals to make multiplication easier is also ignored.”

Gandhi also expressed his frustrations with the Idaho Falls School District, which he said has ignored his requests for closer scrutiny of the current math standards.

“That’s why I came here tonight,” he said. “It’s important for someone to hear.”

Cook said all public input from the tour will be gathered and assessed by a “standards working committee,” made up largely of stakeholders who have experience in vetting public comments.

“We look for a few specific things in the input,” Cook said, “particularly trends in issues, as well as suggestions that are specific enough to possibly render change.”

State officials will round out their tour next week, with stops in the following cities:

  • April 22. Pocatello, Hampton Inn, 151 Vista Drive.
  • April 25. Boise, Red Lion Downtowner, 1800 W. Fairview Ave.