Four years ago Idaho joined the 43-state consortium aimed at developing a new set of standards in math and English language arts. Now, the first results are in from Common Core, showing that only half of the state's students or less in grades three to eight and 10th grade are proficient or above in math and English.
Math ratings were the most troublesome, but both math and English need improvement. Bill Roberts of the Idaho Statesman writes that the results from the Common Core tests, known as the Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced, named for the group of states that assembled the test, gives educators a measurement to establish an ongoing educational game plan for their state's young people.
The state test has been criticized by those against Common Core, a set of standards developed to establish what students should know in the areas of math and English before they graduate. But many are squarely behind the education reform that is the backbone for the changes.
Sophomores in high school were already out of the early grades when the new math curriculum was introduced. Common Core's approach is about understanding math concepts at an early age and challenging students to think critically. Jonathan Brendefur, a math professor at Boise State University who works with Idaho schools to improve math instruction, said he thought students had done pretty well considering that they are still adjusting to the new standards.
Barbara Morgan, a former NASA astronaut and distinguished educator in residence at Boise State, said that although the scores are not what they should be, it is the right thing to do to press on with the Common Core standards. This is necessary if students are going to become proficient in technology, science, engineering, and math, she said.
Most importantly, the test scores will be used to establish how instruction can be improved, according to Don Coberly, the Boise School District superintendent. He will encourage the state to show districts where information from the results can be found so that teachers can mold their instruction appropriately in time for the new school year that begins in August.
The Twin Falls Times-News reports that the percentage of students who scored at "proficient" or "advanced" levels on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests was, on the whole, higher than state officials had projected. Across the state, the proficiency range went from 46% in fourth grade to 61% in 11th grade on the English/language arts test. On the math test, 30% of 11th-graders scored at the proficient level or higher, but 50% of third-graders met the proficiency mark.
The Associated Press reported that Idaho students ranked higher on the new standardized testing compared to the national benchmarks used to measure math and English/language arts proficiency. They added that the state offered a practice version of the testing instrument last year so that teachers could evaluate and smooth out any kinks in the new system.
AP reported that Idaho students scored above projected proficiency levels in all grades for the English/language arts and for most grades in the math portion of the standardized tests.