Almost nine years after Idaho adopted Common Core, state officials still can’t say whether the supposedly-more-rigorous education standards have made a positive difference. Worse, mounting evidence from across the country shows the standards are nothing short of a disaster.
I asked both Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherry Ybarra’s office and the State Board of Education (SBOE) to supply proof that the standards have worked. Ybarra spokesman Kris Rodine said ISAT test results are one measure that “Idaho students are making progress toward proficiency on higher standards of knowledge and demonstration of skills.” She stopped short of saying the standards, adopted by the SBOE in 2010 and ratified by the Legislature’s education committees in 2011, are working.
But results seem to contradict what Ybarra’s office is saying, at least for recent years. The new ISAT-SBAC testing that began in 2014-15 has several years of data that reveal Idaho’s sixth-graders taking the ISAT in 2017-18 are less proficient in math, but slightly more proficient in English from when they were tested as third graders in 2014-15. Similarly, seventh graders tested last year showed a drop in their ISAT science scores from when they took the test in fifth grade. A deeper dive on ISAT results is needed to review different student subpopulations to better understand these trends.
For its part, the State Board of Education acknowledges that it doesn’t have the data to quantify student performance resulting from Common Core. The SBOE did note that scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show Idaho fourth and eighth-grade students aren’t doing any better on reading or math. Their scores are either stagnant or slightly declining. Fourth-grade students are doing better on reading than they were a few years ago, but current scores are about even with scores from ten years ago, according to NAEP.
“In order to better understand if the increase in fourth-grade reading scores was affected by the implementation of the Common Core standards, we would have to do a research project where we tried to control for other changes which may have been occurring at the same time,” said SBOE researcher Cathleen McHugh.
Lackluster test results would probably not surprise other researchers who recently reported that Common Core education standards have caused a decline in academic performance for students nationwide.
The researchers, paid by the federal government to assess Common Core, said, “Contrary to our expectation, we found that [Common Core] had significant negative effects on 4th graders’ reading achievement during the 7 years after the adoption of the new standards, and had a significant negative effect on 8th graders’ math achievement 7 years after adoption, based on analyses of NAEP composite scores.” The federally-backed researchers, who were part of the Obama administration’s effort to impose Common Core on the states, also hypothesized that without the new education standards, test scores for students would be higher today than they are now.
No results or bad results are among the reasons states are abandoning the Common Core experiment, the most recent defectors being Florida and Georgia. Other reasons include the fact that many teachers and parents now loathe Common Core, as they both must deal with notoriously nonsensical education curricula designed to support the standards.
The good news for Idaho is that Common Core, which state officials dubbed “Idaho Core” to trick parents into thinking the state hasn’t embraced Common Core, is contained within the thousands of pages of administrative rules that the Legislature must review when it convenes in January. More good news is that Gov. Brad Little said he’s putting a premium on accountability in Idaho’s public schools. And if accountability is important to him, you can hope that Little and lawmakers have ample reason to end the state’s Common Core attempt.
Written by Wayne Hoffman, the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.