Higher standards for stronger Idaho

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For the sake of the state's businesses and its economy, Idahoans should embrace Idaho Core Standards.

That's not simply the opinion of The Press editorial board. It is an emphatic recommendation from a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization called Idaho Business for Education.

Idaho Core Standards is our state's version of Common Core. Idaho Core Standards raises the bar for students to perform better in math and reading, and also provides tools for all those higher expectations to be met. The standards are higher and so is accountability.

Unfortunately but probably inevitably, Common Core and Idaho Core Standards became political targets barraged by some legitimate concerns, some misinformation and some outright lies. Initially, 46 states signed on to their versions of the education reform program, but lately - as the November general election creeps closer - several states have abandoned ship before it actually had a chance to sail.

In Idaho, the governor, superintendent of schools and best-informed legislators were strongly supportive of Idaho Core Standards, and in several cases - Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene comes quickly to mind - they were fired by voters in the primary.

Our message today is simple but of great importance: Please give Idaho Core Standards a chance to improve the performance of Idaho students. And again, that's not just The Press asking; it's business and education leaders from around the state.

Idaho Business for Education is comprised of 88 member businesses, a broad cross-section of employers large and small. Basically, the organization formed because it was alarmed by the gap between what employers need in employees, and what our education system is producing.

Last week, IBE's leadership team - which includes Coeur d'Alene's Judy Meyer - came to town and met over breakfast with a couple dozen North Idaho employers and college officials. No plank in the IBE platform was more passionately extolled than supporting Idaho Core Standards.

IBE President and CEO Rod Gramer noted how several states have repealed their version of Common Core.

"We cannot afford to let that happen in Idaho," Gramer said, noting that 75 percent of community college students and 25 percent of students at four-year institutions need remedial English and math classes. The problem starts much earlier, of course: One-third of Idaho students are already behind in reading by fourth grade.

IBE is beating the Idaho Core Standards drum because of its recently concluded statewide survey of more than 300 businesses, who clearly identified four "soft" skills employers want:

* Perform with integrity

* Contribute to a team

* Acquire knowledge

* Communicate orally

Gramer and IBE founder Skip Oppenheimer said those last two - the ability to learn on the job and to talk with people - are specifically and significantly addressed by Idaho Core Standards. The standards link businesses and education, graduates and jobs.

Don't take the politically expedient route and just say no. Let's give Idaho Core Standards a chance to prove its worth. If it fails, together we can seek reform elsewhere.

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