Idaho’s students are ready for higher academic expectations

by Tom Luna

Source: College of Western Idaho Early Childhood Education program
The College of Western Idaho Early Childhood Education program prepares students and future educators

As students across Idaho are heading back to school, the results from last year are in — and it’s great news. Our schools continue to exceed expectations.

This is the second year of the Five-Star Rating System, a system of increased accountability that uses multiple measures to evaluate the hard work of our teachers and students across the state.

The most recent results not only show a majority of Idaho schools are high-performing but also that a vast majority of students are performing at or above grade level in reading and mathematics.

This past year, 90 percent of Idaho students performed at or above grade level in reading. More than 81 percent performed at that level in mathematics. Students have shown growth, especially in the number of advanced students, from just a few years ago.

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While I praise these results, I also know the reality behind this data: While students are performing better than ever in K-12, they continue to struggle after high school.

Eighty percent of students are at or above grade level when they graduate, yet just a few months later, students show up at postsecondary education, and nearly half qualify for remedial courses.

This tells us our standards in K-12 education have been too low. Idaho’s kids are ready for higher expectations.

We are moving toward that this school year. In 2011, Idaho adopted the Common Core State Standards as Idaho’s Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts. They will first be implemented across grades K-12 this fall.

We know Idaho students will rise to the occasion. They’ve done it before.

Idaho first implemented academic standards in 2002. Back then, we didn’t see half of Idaho’s students advanced in reading right away.

It took us several years to get here. It will be the same with these higher standards.

In 2015, the first year we administer the new assessment aligned to Idaho Core Standards, we know not as many students will perform at grade level. In fact, we expect the number to drop by about one-third.

That’s not a bad thing. These standards are considerably higher. This new data will help teachers guide instruction in the classroom and get students to where they need to be before graduation.

What’s critical is that, by meeting these new standards, every child will graduate from high school prepared to go on to college, community college, professional-technical education or the workforce without the need for remediation. We may be far from this goal today, but we know it is within our reach.

MSDE logoany Idahoans — from parents and teachers to the business community — have already voiced their strong support for these new standards.

They want to challenge Idaho students today, through problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, so they are prepared for the world that awaits them after high school.

Transitioning to these higher standards will be hard work in the initial years, but we all recognize it is the best thing for Idaho’s students and the future of our great state.

* Tom Luna is Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction.


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