COEUR d'ALENE - The Idaho Core Standards will be in place in Idaho K-12 classrooms this fall, and Coeur d'Alene school trustees are among a growing group of citizens who have concerns about the education benchmarks.
"Suppose I wanted Idaho to have the best education in the nation. How do we do it with a nationalized standard?" asked Brent Regan, during a board workshop held Monday in Coeur d'Alene.
The Common Core is a states-led effort to align and elevate education standards. Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna began working with other state education leaders and governors in 2007 to begin developing more rigorous standards for math and English language arts education in the nation. Gov. Butch Otter joined the effort in 2009.
The Idaho Core Standards were given final approval by the Idaho Legislature in 2011.
"The standards are different from the curriculum," said Superintendent Hazel Bauman, during the workshop. "Curriculum is created locally."
In recent months, Republicans and Tea Party activists nationwide have come out increasingly against the standards adopted by 45 states.
Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee issued a resolution calling the standards "an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children."
A recent petition opposing the Common Core was signed by several local citizens, including Duncan Koler, an anti-IB activist from Hayden whose campaign efforts helped lead to the 2011 elections of trustees Tom Hamilton and Terri Seymour.
Glenn Beck, conservative television and radio commentator, came out swinging against the Common Core Standards in March. Idaho schools chief Tom Luna's office swung back by advising Idaho education reporters that Beck was spreading "misinformation," and alerting journalists that "Keep Education Local" websites created by national interest groups also have information that isn't accurate.
"The most popular myth is that these are national standards that were developed by President Obama and his administration and are now being applied in states across the country," Melissa McGrath, Luna's spokeswoman, wrote. "This is not true ... The federal government was never involved in the development of these standards, nor have they made it a requirement in any way for states to adopt these standards."
During Monday's workshop, board chair Hamilton said he has spoken with Luna about the education standards and some of the concerns.
"He didn't say the concern didn't have some validity," Hamilton said. "They are going to address it at the state level."
The shift to Core Standards also requires a change in the student assessment method from the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, or SBAC.
The SBAC website, www.smarterbalanced.org, describes it as "one of two multistate consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by the 2014-15 school year."
"Are we forcing teachers to teach to the test, which by default indicates we don't have that much control over our curriculum?" queried Hamilton.
McGrath told The Press Monday that Luna "remains in full support of these higher standards and their implementation in Idaho."
"We at the State Department of Education strongly believe these higher academic standards are what is best for Idaho students to make sure every child graduates from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce," McGrath said.
Bob Quant, a representative from the Idaho State Department of Education, attended Monday's workshop, and discussed student data collection, another area of concern some have with the Common Core Standards.
Quant said the state's longitudinal data system, which connects school districts with the state education department, accepts information uploaded by districts. The information is encrypted, he said, and when information is provided to the U.S. Department of Education, it is aggregated - the individual names of students and teachers are not provided.
"We don't share servers. Our hardware is not connected to the federal government," Quant said.
The trustees plan to schedule a community chat, likely sometime after the May 21 election, to address the issue with constituents. They also said they would like to gather feedback about the Core Standards from teachers.