Common Core online chat yields lively debate but no consensus

More than two dozen participants got answers to 45 questions during our Common Core online chat today. The number of chat samplers shot from 0 to 60 early on and held at the 50 to 70 level throughout the two-hour chat, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Common Core, which is going by the name of Idaho Core Standards in our state, establishes stiff standards for math and English language arts. Even though some schools around the state already have adopted new core standards, the main roll-out will take place in Idaho schools this Fall.

Acceptance of the standards has been hit and miss around the country. It is possible to find Republican and Democrat supporters — as well as staunch critics from both political parties.

A panel consisting of Idaho Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Idaho Business for Education President Rod Gramer, Idaho Freedom Foundation founder Wayne Hoffman and Boise School District teacher Lindsey Yundt each took the virtual podium for 30 minutes, fielding questions and responding to comments.

If you haven’t had a chance to review the questions and answers you may do so at

Luna and Gramer are on record as supporting Idaho Core Standards and Hoffman is against the education reform initiative. Yundt is professionally involved on a team that is creating and adopting curriculum that will incorporate the standards.

Key to the Common Core philosophy is applying critical thinking to traditional academic skills. In math this could play out by making certain kids know how to “make change” in a retail setting or “making a financial forecast” in business plan scenario. Though critical thinking skills are nothing new in education, the emphasis on them is.

Luna, who said he has been working with state education officials from other states on core standard issues since 2007,  wants to be able to demonstrate how Idaho kids stack up against those just across the border and all across the country.

Gramer cited statistics that showed Idaho students need to be better positioned to compete in the job market.

“We need a highly educated and skilled workforce so that Idaho’s businesses can compete in the 21st Century. Studies show that more than 60 percent of our state’s jobs will require some level of post-secondary education by the year 2018. Yet right now only about 34 percent of Idaho’s 25-34-year-olds hold post-secondary education. We must turn that around if Idaho’s economy is to thrive.”

Hoffman, who said he has two children in Idaho schools, said his issues with Common Core are that “it sets a ceiling, not a floor; that the standards have not been fully vetted and that the federal government seems determined to co-opt, and possibly misuse, the common core standards.”

Yundt gave some insight into ways the standards will be implemented in Boise schools and was optimistic that, over time, Idaho Core Standards will improve students’ critical thinking skills — keys to academic and career success.

“In math, I am trying to develop performance tasks that the kids do care about, and the Common Core allows time for that. Because we don’t teach as many topics each year, I can use my students’ interests to help guide my instruction, and allow them time to work on tough projects and have good discussions about their thought processes. I think there is a lot of value in that.”


Posted in Hello Idaho