State Board takes first look at proposed new academic standards

The State Board of Education took its first look at a draft of proposed English, math and science standards Monday.

During the virtual meeting, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra shared more than 700 pages worth of proposed standards, developed during the second half of 2020 by three working groups comprising educators, stakeholders, parents and legislators.

Monday’s update was informational and the State Board took no action.

But the real showdown will come in just over a year, when the 2022 Idaho Legislature considers the proposed standards.

The reason new standards are being developed is because the Legislature’s House and Senate education committees called for the state to rewrite them.

In 2020, the House Education Committee voted to repeal all standards in math, science and English before being overruled. The Senate Education Committee did not go along with this plan, but the committees agreed to call for the rewrite.

Because there are hundreds of pages of draft standards to review, Monday’s meeting really focused on the process and timeline, not individual standards.

State Board member Kurt Liebich said it will be important to work with legislators to understand the standards and their differences from curriculum.

Looking back on the 2020 debates, Liebich said many of the concerns legislators shared or heard were not really tied to the standards themselves. Standards can be thought of as a list of things students should know or be able to do by the end of a certain grade.

Instead, many concerns had to do with how the subjects are taught, or the tests or reading assignments teachers give.

Most of those decisions rest with a local school board or school staff.

“I still have a lingering concern that even if we do this tremendously well that the real underlying concern of the Legislature is not going to be met,” Liebich said.

Legislators have already said they are unhappy with the draft proposals.

During a December legislative interim committee meeting, several legislators expressed concerns. Some legislators pushed for standards that focus more on American experiences and exceptionalism, while others bemoaned the number of university officials who had a role in writing the proposed science standards.

Here’s the timeline leading up to the Legislature’s 2022 vote.

  • January-February: Public comment, and an update to the Legislature.
  • March-May: Working groups will consider public comment and further revisions.
  • June: Second draft presented to the State Board.
  • July-August: Additional public comment.
  • October: Final recommendations presented to the State Board.

State Board approves ESSA plan modifications

In other action Monday, the State Board voted to submit changes to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan.

Ybarra and her staff said the changes are necessary because many of Idaho’s interim and long-term goals were tied to performance on standardized tests that were cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, the State Board gave the green light to several changes.

  • The state will push the deadline for its long-term goals back by one year.
  • The state will delay identification of new schools for accountability purposes by one year, until after the 2021-22 school year.
  • The state will modify its growth calculation to cover growth over two academic years, not one. Now, growth will be calculated from 2019 to 2021.

The state plans to submit the changes to the U.S. Department of Education Feb. 1.

The ESSA plan is important because it includes Idaho’s short- and long-term education goals and an accountability plan.

State Board President Debbie Critchfield said the board may consider other changes to ESSA plan down the road.

“COVID aside, we’ve learned quite a bit since we submitted ESSA during the first go around,” she said.

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 [email protected]

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