Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Idaho Core Standards

Dear Parents,

This fall, your child's teacher will begin teacher to higher academic standards in Mathematics and English  Language Arts.  These standards are not only higher but also comparable with any other country in the world.  This will bring changes, but we are working to prepare our staff for them.  We are also excited for the professional development and learning opportunities these new standards bring for both our students and our school district.

The new Idaho Core Standards were adopted after a state led effort referred to as the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  Through this initiative, state governors and education chiefs across the United States came together to find a solution to a common problem all states are facing today;  while students are performing well academically in grades K-12, too many students are graduating from high school unprepared for the rigors of post secondary education or the work force.  This challenge is very real in Idaho where 46% of Idaho's high school graduates go on to post secondary education and of those, nearly half must take remedial courses.  At a district level, we have worked to address this challenge in several ways and we are pleased to see it being on a state level.

The Idaho standards are the goals that the state has set for what every child should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level.  Our local school district will still determine the curriculum and materials that will be best to help teach these standards in the classroom.

Here is a look at how the standards will change in English Language Arts and Literacy:

First, students will read challenging texts in every class.  They will continue to read classic literature, stories and poems in English classes, but will also be challenged with studying and analyzing non-fiction texts in all subject areas as well.  As a result, students will be better prepared to read, analyze and write about all types of texts at a higher level when they graduate from high school.

Second, your child will be asked to use evidence from the text when writing papers or making oral presentations.  In all classes students should be required to not only read the text but dig into to it to support their arguments or research.  As a result, students will be better prepared to support their arguments and decisions with evidence, not just opinion, whether they are in college or the workforce.

Third you will see an increased focus on vocabulary across all the grade levels.  As a result, students will continue to learn new vocabulary words as they progress through schools as well as the correct context in which to use them.  This is more important than ever in the 21st Century where students live and work in the digital age and encounter new words and terms constantly.

Here is a brief look at how the standards will change in Mathematics:

First, students will work more deeply in fewer topics.  In each grade level, your child's teacher will cover fewer concepts than in the past but go into much more depth on each concept.  This makes sure students will gain a full understanding before moving onto the next concept.

Second, your child will understand why math works and be asked to talk about and prove their understanding.  Students will no longer just memorize formulas, but will learn critical foundational concepts and problem solving skills in the early grades so they are prepared for higher levels of math, such as Algebra once they enter middle school.

Third, your child will be asked to use math in real world situations.  Students will learn strategies for solving problems they could encounter in real life. Students will gain critical thinking and problem solving skills while in school that they can apply in the future.

These are just some of the changes you will see as a result of the implementation of the new standards.  We know that the transition will not happen over night and we have a long process ahead of us, but it is one that we believe is best for the education of our students.  We have worked at the local level to expand learning opportunities for our students.  We have made strategic investments in our children:  expanding technology in the classroom, recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers and paraprofessionals and offering programs that are critical to learning.  We believe that these higher state standards are achievable and necessary for our students to be successful in the future.

What can you do as a parent?

  • Talk to your child's teacher about what you can do to support your student at home.
  • Stop by district office and pick up copies of the Idaho Standards (both ELA and Math are available at no cost).
  • Support your child as they face this more rigorous content in the next school year and beyond.  
If you have any questions we are here to help.  Please feel free to contact your child's teacher or myself at 208-285-1161 or wmoore@sd282.org


Wendy Moore