Idaho ed reform could reset the school landscape

An eight-month look into Idaho public education this year produced much more than a hefty to-do list.

It may well be an education game-changer. It could alter the conversation about education from “what’s my kid learning” to whether they are learning enough to compete in Idaho’s and the nation’s marketplace.

At the Boise City Club Wednesday, Richard Westerberg, chairman of  Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force on Improving Education, joined task force members Linda Clark, Meridian School District superintendent, and Mike Lanza, a Boise parent, to talk about what  ed reform means as the Legislature prepares to consider the task force recommendations.

One thing is sure: It isn’t the same old, same old.

“We’re not attempting to take a small step in education,” Lanza said.

Consider:

Teacher pay  could  move from a system based on years in the classroom  and college credits attained to one based on merit, with teacher evaluations and some accountability for how well students perform in their classes.

Learning could go from a system dominated by time at the desk to what children actually know.

Idaho Core Standards and achievement testing are a backdrop for these proposed changes in how schools conduct business. Idaho Core Standards are the state’s version of Common Core State Standards adopted by 45 states around the county. It’s a college and career ready set of standards.

The goals themselves appear under attack in Idaho by opponents who say they will force a change in curriculum in Idaho schools.

But Westerberg said the standards are goals, not curriculum. Standards decide what students must learn. Curriculum, which Idaho educators say is in the hands of local school boards, decides what is taught and what textbooks are used.

Testing is another big change coming to Idaho schools: Students in grades 3 to 11 will take the achievement test based on Idaho Core Standards in spring. But you won’t get any results; it’s meant as a test of the test. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has some 22,000 questions it wants to field-test before students start taking the real exam in 2014-2015.

Posted in In The Classroom