Groups form in support, opposition of Common Core standards

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Idaho's Common Core standards, which aim to raise the bar for students in math and English, will be integrated into all Idaho public schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

Groups around the state have stepped out in favor and against the new core curriculum standards, which focus on critical thinking and encouraging students to analyze information, form opinions about it, and then communicate it.

Students will be exposed to more non-fiction literature, and focus on building a larger vocabulary in English courses. In math, the standards mean students will dive deeper into a smaller number of math concepts, and learn to use math in real-world situations.

Supporters say these skills will help more Idaho students to succeed in college and in the work force.

"Seventy percent of the jobs in Idaho will require some kind of post-secondary education: a certificate, an Associate's Degree or a Bachelor's Degree over the next seven years," said Rod Gramer, CEO of Idaho Business of Education. We need to make sure more kids go on to some kind of post-secondary education so we can keep the Idaho economy strong."

But groups in opposition of Common Core have also formed around the state, bringing up a number of concerns about the standards.

Some say Common Core allows the federal government to get involved with local education, taking the power away from the state and school districts. But supporters say these are state initiatives, and that everything stays within local control.
"The standards have nothing to do with the federal government," Gramer said. "These are voluntary standards the state has adopted. The federal government has no control, and there is no federal money attached to these standards."

Supporters say Common Core is just changing the standards for Idaho students, not the curriculum.

"This has nothing to do with curriculum," Gramer said. "The local school districts and the teachers are still developing their own curriculum. In each school district in Idaho, the teachers are still creating their own lesson plans."

However, opponents say that lesson plans will take an indirect hit as a result.

"It will change curriculum because there is an assessment, and its a high-stakes assessment, so teachers are going to start teaching to that assessment," Founder of Idahoans for Local Education Stephanie Zimmerman said. "Standards plus assessments are going to equal curriculum."

Advocates say Common Core will enrich the education experience in Idaho, and will help students to compete better with students from other states.

"The standards strengthen the Idaho education system by raising the standards and the bar for what students learn."

Opponents like Zimmerman, a mother of eight, say they're concerned Common Core doesn't play to every child's strengths and could actually hold some students back.

"It's not just my children I'm concerned about, its everyone's children." Zimmerman said. "This once again doesn't leave room for creativity and helping students that are advanced or helping students that are behind. This tracks everyone into the same place."

While there is no common denominator with Common Core, the changes will be implemented starting this fall in classrooms around the state. Students will be tested on the Common Core standards beginning in the spring of 2015.