The Idaho State Board of Education held hearings in August about Common Core education standards. Comments made by attendees prove that parents, students, business owners, and even some educators are not entirely supportive of the standards that Idaho adopted almost a decade ago.
Interestingly, the standards are being backed chiefly by the state’s education labor union, the Idaho Education Association, which needed to mobilize teachers to show up at the hearings to have the standards appear more publicly favorable than they actually are.
But even counting for the labor union efforts, Common Core opponents outnumbered supporters at the State Board of Education’s meeting in Coeur d’Alene, though there was no news coverage of that hearing. At the Idaho Falls meeting, the crowd appeared evenly split between Common Core opponents and supporters. Only at the Nampa and Twin Falls meetings did educators—so called “education stakeholders”—outnumber Common Core opponents. At those hearings, teachers who supported the standards grumbled aloud about Common Core’s overemphasis on “teaching to the test.” That’s hardly a glowing endorsement of an education policy that’s had ten years to develop a favorable following.
The aforementioned meetings and more demonstrate that time has not been kind to Common Core. Though a valiant effort has been made to show broad public support for Common Core, many of the same objections that were voiced before Idaho’s implementation of the standards persists.
Additionally, though it is notable that public school employees signaled they want Common Core to stay, parents and other taxpayers voiced their ongoing discontent with the standards for a variety of sensible reasons including concerns about diminished academic performance, lack of local or state control over the standards, and worry that the content is insufficient to produce an educated citizenry.
Now it’s up to the State Board of Education to decide whether to listen to the feedback or simply ignore it. Remember, the Common Core hearings weren’t something that the agency asked for. They meetings resulted from the Legislature refusing to renew state government regulations, which include Common Core, and the insistence of nearly 1,000 Idahoans that public meetings be held to review Common Core policies. And there remain vast sections of Idaho where residents didn’t have a chance to weigh in because they live too far from public hearing locations.
After all has been said, the agency could sit on its hands and embrace the status quo, but that requires ignoring the potential political backlash of appearing tone deaf or immovable despite negative public feedback. The education board knows full well that the Legislature, which convenes in January, could countermand a board decision to keep the standards. Lawmakers have the final say on whether Idaho should exit Common Core as other states have done.
One fact is evident: Continued division persists about Common Core. The status quo is not acceptable. State officials need to step up to the plate make meaningful changes, make implementing its standards voluntary, or abolish Common Core entirely.
Written by Wayne Hoffman, the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.