When it comes to Common Core education standards in Idaho, there’s one thing on which we can agree with state Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls. “These things have become so politicized in our state,” Marshall said during a House Education Committee meeting last week, as reported by Idaho Education News.
“We must find a way to depoliticize our educational standards,” he said. “We cannot come back year after year after year after year and be in this same situation.”
If only there were some process by which we as a state could have deliberated over these standards using the input and counsel of experts in education, such as teachers and principals with years of experience, parents, school board members, business leaders and education advocates.
If only we could have begun this discussion back in 2007 with Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, then met in 2009 with other state superintendents and the National Governors Association to come up with a common set of core standards that we could all agree upon, so that if an eighth grade student moved from, say, Nevada to Idaho, that student wouldn’t miss a beat, because those two states would be on the same page when it came to the expectations for that student.
And then, after coming to an agreement on those standards, if only we could have brought those standards to a group of people in charge of implementing public education in Idaho — let’s call this group of people the State Board of Education.
If we were thinking ahead, we’d have that State Board of Education hold a series of public meetings all over the state to introduce and discuss those standards with the public.
Then, we’d have that State Board of Education vote on those standards and approve them in 2010.
After that, we’d bring those standards to the Legislature to approve them in 2011.
Then, we’d give those standards a chance to work, agreeing that we’d revisit those standards after some time to see how they’re working.
We would assess the standards and discuss what changes we might want to make after consulting with parents, teachers, administrators and others.
We would do this in 2015 and 2016, at which point, the state board would approve amended standards.
We would use test scores to measure performance, recognizing that test scores may suffer because we’ve raised standards. We’d also listen to everyone, not just a few who don’t like the standards for one reason or another or on strict philosophical grounds. We would also listen to the parents, teachers and administrators who tell us what’s working and why we should continue with the core standards. We wouldn’t simply dismiss their testimony and throw out the standards whole cloth.
We would then have the Legislature approve the amended standards in 2017.
If only we had done all that.
Oh, wait, we did.
This was a lengthy and involved process that took years of public meetings, research, study, feedback and votes to make it happen.
But 10 Republican members of the House Education Committee, including Marshall, voted last week to scrap all that work and start over. Fortunately, Idaho dodged a major bullet, as the Senate Education Committee exercised some good judgment Wednesday and approved the standards on a 9-0 vote.
There will be a chance again in 2021 to review the standards as part of a scheduled review. This is a good process that works. Legislators should stick to that process and quit injecting politics into this process every year.
As Rep. Marshall himself points out, “We must find a way to depoliticize our educational standards.”
This editorial was published by the Idaho Statesman of Boise.