BOISE -- Three months into implementation of Idaho Core Standards in schools, educators, administrators and parents in support of the Common Core addressed questions, concerns and criticism about the new standards.
The Idaho Core Standards have broad support in Idaho, but some opposed to the curriculum requirements and assessment changes are hoping legislators will reconsider the standards in the upcoming 2014 session.
Idaho is one of 44 states that adopted Common Core standards this fall. More than a dozen states have frozen or are planning to freeze some aspects.
Panelists say going back on Common Core could be a 'major setback'
The Tuesday afternoon panel discussion for media consisted of Boise School District Superintendent Dr. Don Coberly, Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian) School Board Chair Anne Ritter, Meridian fifth-grade teacher Kendra Wisenbaker and Boise parent Mike Lanza (who also chaired the 'Vote No on Props 1, 2, and 3 campaign against Students Come First).
All had positive things to say about how they've seen the Idaho Core Standards working in practice, and they want to keep building on these standards, not immediately turn around based on criticism.
"We're what? Three months into actual instruction, teachers are really getting comfortable, feeling positive about teaching the new curriculum. I would hate to take a step back," Coberly said.
"It could be a major setback if there is some kind of successful backlash to the Idaho Core," Lanza said.
Teacher: 'The kids are really enjoying what they're doing'
"The implementation of the Idaho Core Standards is going well in the schools. There have been some bumps, as there will be with any new implementation of curriculum and standards. But generally talking to our teachers, they're feeling really good about where we're going with it," Coberly said.
Wisenbaker, like all teachers, has been forced to adjust, especially considering she teaches pretty much every subject: Math, science, social studies, reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary.
While she says it has been a lot of work to make changes, she likes the Core Standards approach and says her students are understanding all subjects better by combining lessons and ideas.
"It actually has been pretty nice to integrate my reading and writing with my social studies content. I really have found that the kids are enjoying social studies a lot more, just because they've gotten a lot of different ways to explore that content," Wisenbaker said. "There is a lot to teach, but the standards themselves kind of allow you that freedom now to make your own decisions on how best to teach."
Writing-heavy curriculum and testing will give different feedback for teachers
Wisenbaker says personally, she's excited to see how methods work and how they'll test during new assessments in two years that, like her lessons, will be more writing-heavy.
"I think that not only for me, but for the kids, it will be powerful because they'll see that what they learn has a huge effect on what they can produce and what they want to show," Wisenbaker said.
She says she's not concerned about how the testing will go from a standpoint of judging her performance, but she does want the feedback so she can keep adjusting.
"I'm excited because I think that the new testing is going to test our kids differently and really get to the heart of do they know what they need to know in order to be successful citizens?" Wisenbaker said.
Small district teachers have voiced concerns about changes
Some of the issues teachers have brought up to KTVB come from those in small districts who are struggling to find the time to re-do lesson plans, especially when they may teach all grade levels in many subjects.
Boise and Meridian say they've heard that from small district superintendents, and to help, they have both made their plans available to all of Idaho's teachers.
"We've made our curriculum available, made any resources that we're developing available to them. When you think about Boise and Meridian, we've always done that, but specifically now, it's about the Idaho Core Standards," Coberly said. "We think that's part of our mission, to help out the other, smaller districts because we have some resources they don't have, so we're happy to do that."
To learn more about Idaho Core Standards, click here to get information from the State Department of Education.