Common core ed standards face hearing in House committee

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Rep. Reed DeMourdant listens to testimony in the House Education Committee on common core education standards.

“This will do to education in Idaho, what Obamacare is doing to health care in Idaho,” believes Boise resident Stephanie Zimmerman concerning a national education program, the Common Core Standards Initiative.

A mother of eight children, Zimmerman was offering testimony before the House Education Committee Thursday during an informational hearing about common core, which the state Department of Education supports.

At issue is the idea of Idaho becoming compliant with the program. The goal is to have K-12 curriculum standards of all 50 states. Begun in June of 2009, the initiative is supported by both the National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is the immediate past president of the schools’ group.

“Shouldn’t we all come together, to improve the educational opportunities of students nationwide?” asked Luci Willits, of the Idaho Department of Education. Willits was promoting Idaho’s compliance with the nationwide initiative, but called it a “state-led initiative.” According to her, Idaho is already compliant with the nationwide standards in the areas of English, Language Arts and Mathematics.

The common core agenda is being adopted in states as diverse as Vermont and Oklahoma. In 2010, state officials in neighboring Utah adopted the common core standards in both the disciplines of mathematics and language arts. But, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, controversy erupted there once evidence of standardization emerged in classrooms.

Zimmerman, who is affiliated with the nonprofit Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts (a group that opposes the common core initiative), told members of the committee that her son is a freshman in high school and is already studying calculus. “Calculus isn’t supposed to happen during the freshman year (under common core), but he’s advanced,” Zimmerman told the committee, and noted that in her view, her younger children will be held back from advancing beyond their grade level as the common core initiatives are more fully implemented.

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, asked Dr. Carissa Miller of the Idaho Department of Education, who was present at the hearing, to respond to Zimmerman’s concerns. Miller denied that the initiatives hold students back, or interfere with their advancement.

“Right out of the gate, I shared some of her concerns,” Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, told IdahoReporter.com after the committee hearing about Zimmerman’s apprehension. “I don’t want to see us adopt a national curriculum, but I don’t think this (common core) is a national curriculum. I believe this truly is a state-driven effort.” Horman has served on the Bonneville School Board for 11 years, and said she wanted to know more about Zimmerman’s concerns.

“I voted for the common core standards, but I agree that we have to watch these things very carefully,” said Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, in the committee hearing. “More innovation comes from a de-centralized system, rather than a centralized system. Let’s watch this very carefully, and not move towards a national curriculum.”

“Candidly, there have been efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to co-opt this state-led initiative,” noted education committee chairman Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle. “I’ve spoken about this with Superintendent Luna, and he’s spoken about it with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Superintendent Luna assures me that if this moves towards a nationalized curriculum, Idaho will back out of the initiative.”

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