Idaho Protestors Would Distrupt Schools, Jeopardize Academic Improvements

 

Idahoans for Local Education and Idaho Education Watch will host a “Buck the Core” rally at the Idaho Statehouse next Monday to urge lawmakers to replace the state’s learning goals, Idaho Education News reports.

“It’s time for Idahoans to send a clear message to their elected officials that federal and state micromanagement of education is not working,” the group suggests. “It’s time to return to common sense and local control and to let teachers do their jobs.”

However, it would be a mistake for Idaho officials to retreat from high, comparable standards, especially as the state begins to see student-performance improvements from raising the academic bar for all young people.

Like most states, Idaho began to see student proficiency scores improve last year on statewide assessments. These gains were particularly punctuated among third-grade students, who have spent most or all of their academic careers learning to meet higher expectations. In third-grade, math proficiency rates increased by 2.3 points.

“These findings send a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests,” explains Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s Secretary of Education.

The outcomes from the few states that have taken the ill-advised “repeal and replace” path demonstrate that such efforts not only create disruption and uncertainty for students and schools, they invariably lead to either nearly identical or, worse, inferior learning goals.

Lawmakers in South Carolina, for example, replaced the state’s education standards. Analysis later showed that the new learning goals were 92 percent aligned in math and 89 percent aligned in English language arts to those they replaced.

Oklahoma is the only state to replace its education standards with a set of discernibly incomparable classroom expectations. An independent review of the new standards conclude that they “will disadvantage Oklahoma students compared to their peers in other states; students in Oklahoma will be less prepared to successfully enter college and careers.”

The Every Student Succeeds Act explicitly prohibits federal authorities from meddling in states’ standards, assessments or accountability systems. Idaho leaders should cast off political pressures and use the new law to continue to strengthen their learning goals for all students. To change course now would put students, teachers and parents at a loss and undo the gains the state is making.