BOISE, Idaho — What K-12 students learn in the classroom could be changing as legislation that would repeal the state's academic standards advances to the Senate floor.
The Idaho Content Standards stem from national 'Common Core' and 'Next Generation' educational standards in math, English language arts and science. According to a 2011 statement by the State Department of Education, the goal was to "develop more rigorous college- and career-ready standards... comparable with any country around the world."
The academic standards list grade-level skills Idaho students must master before graduation. While each school district chooses its curriculum — how standards are taught — they must meet the baseline expectations.
Since adopting the standards over a decade ago, lawmakers have attempted to or discussed rewriting them several times.
Lawmaker concerns led the House Education Committee to repeal the criteria in 2020. Following the decision, lawmakers and education agencies have launched several initiatives to eliminate or modify unfavorable guidelines.
Links to the most recent revisions of Idaho's academic standards are available here.
According to SDE Deputy Superintendent of Communications and Policy Marilyn Whitney, Idaho isn't the first to consider ditching Common Core.
"Many states have rewritten their standards since they first adopted what everyone refers to as a common core, including Massachusetts, Indiana, Florida, and Oklahoma," Whitney said on Thursday. "We have been in contact with them, and they have indicated that they'd work with us if we were interested."
In early March, Republican House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Lance Clow from Twin Falls proposed two new pieces of legislation to replace the Idaho Content Standards. Both need House, Senate and governor approval to complete the process.
Clow's legislation, co-sponsored by Republican Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Steven Thayn from Emmett, are:
- House Bill 716, which would force the current content standards to be replaced with a new set developed by SDE, Idaho teachers and lawmakers over the last two years
- House Concurrent Resolution 39, which would nullify the current standards in English language arts, math and science
Both pieces of legislation have already passed out of committee and the House floor with majority approval.
Idaho's educational standards are reviewed and changed by the State Board of Education per Idaho rule. The SBOE last renewed the standards in 2018.
Usually, changes are proposed to lawmakers during the session by the SBOE. However, the new standards proposed in Clow's legislation were not adopted by SBOE.
"If they would have put it forward, we would be in that process or already done with that process. We would probably be looking at a pending rule right now instead of replacing the standards the way we've done it," Clow said on Thursday. "So it is out of frustration that we've gone to this process."
Last Thursday, state board members met to discuss taking an official position on the two pieces of legislation. However, members could not reach a majority consensus after much discussion and decided to remain "neutral."
In a news release from SBOE, board president Kurt Liebich said members were concerned about changing the standards' overall and financial impact.
"The problem is the Board doesn't yet know whether the Legislature will provide funding to ensure that our student assessments are aligned to the new standards as required by federal law," Liebich said in the release. "When you factor in professional development and possible curriculum changes, we heard for the first time today that the implementation cost could be more than $50 million if these proposals become law."
Backers of the legislation also say that the changes would not deter significantly from the state's current standardized tests, which would be federally required to revamp and better align with the new standards. Clow's legislation estimates it will cost up to $375,000 to review potential gaps.
SBOE member and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra said that she supported repealing the 'Common Core' standards — which she helped develop.
Ybarra contended that the public wants to replace the 'Common Core" and move forward.
"The people of Idaho are not happy with public education," Ybarra said during the SBOE meeting. "We are under attack, and I just cannot express enough the need to go down this path."
According to an Idaho Attorney General's Office opinion originally reported by Idaho Education News, repealing Idaho's academic standards could risk federal funding.
While Clow's dual legislation is designed to pass together, the AG opinion noted that the passage of only one could jeopardize the federal funding, which is based on Idaho maintaining standards in math and English.
If passed, schools would have nearly two years to implement a new curriculum that better aligns with the updated standards.