It’s the beginning of the school year and it feels like anything is possible. We love the sense of wonder and excitement that comes with each new school year and we share in that feeling with our students. The collective potential of our students, our members, and our public schools is limitless.
This summer members across the state made their voices heard. At the request of the member-led IEA Government Relations committee, hundreds of you wrote to protect the Idaho Content Standards against extremist attempts to gut them. We also began a conversation with the Governor’s K-12 Task Force about what our students need to be successful. The quest to achieve great public schools and quality education for our students is what motivates us
Idaho’s constitution states that “the stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” One component of a uniform public education system is the establishment of academic standards. There’s a lot of exaggerated rumor circulating on this topic right now.
In 2011 the Idaho Legislature adopted the Idaho Content Standards in English, Language Arts and Mathematics. Modeled loosely on the Common Core State Standards, the new standards were developed by Idaho professional educators and elevated student achievement with clear and relevant standards aimed at ensuring students leave high school ready for college or career. The standards greatly increased emphasis on critical thinking, analysis, in-depth reading, inquiry, and evidence-based writing, which transcended content areas. This approach moves us away from outdated techniques such as rote memorization and regurgitation of information without sufficient context or understanding.
Now, less than a decade after their introduction, the Idaho Content Standards are under attack yet again by extremists, the vast majority of whom have no classroom experience. Opponents claim the standards are not increasing student achievement, which we as educators know is false. The extremists ludicrously claim the standards somehow indoctrinate our children to be socialists. Again, professional educators recognize this for what it is—political grandstanding.
Having state standards align with our society’s current needs is one way to ensure equitable opportunity for every student. Removal of standards developed by professional educators not only devalues the work of educators and questions our expertise, but it also strips essential functions from our schools. Our students deserve much better.
We know that our students need us at the capitol as well as in the classroom. When the Idaho Legislature convenes in January, educators can help set the direction our state takes, not only on academic standards but also regarding our schools and our professions. What we must continue working toward is a fully funded “uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” That includes creating and funding a third tier of the Career Ladder, funding all-day kindergarten, providing mental health, counseling, and health services in our schools, and ensuring Idaho school buildings are safe and healthy learning environments.
This fall IEA members will have the opportunity to win the schools our students deserve. Our members will tell their stories and share their first-hand experiences about what students need to reach their full academic and social potential. One voice can speak the truth; while thousands of voices can win a better future for our students, our schools and our professions. We implore you to join us and elevate your voice. We are counting on you to fight for the schools our students deserve.
Go to idahoea.org/advocacy and sign up today.
President, Idaho Education Association
Executive Director, Idaho Education Association