Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Part 3

Something that has gotten little attention from the public or the Task Force is the one line

Good Advice.

Good Advice.

recommendation statement that “the committee supports the efforts of Idaho’s high education institutions to increase and enhance clinical field experiences for pre-service teachers.” That’s it!!!!

This good —no, very, very good — idea could have been made much better and addressed a specifically identified problem if the Task Force had not discounted the importance of the Workforce Issues Affecting Public School Teachers Evaluation Report. Continue reading


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part 2

By Victoria M. Young

Many have been blinded by this tale of Ugly, Uglier, and Ugliest that we have come to call Common Core. If you missed the showdown at the O.K. Corral, the Common Core Forum at the statehouse, I’ll hit a few points here but encourage you to watch it because the Idaho Task Force recommendations are based, in very large part, on a blind faith in these standards to do miracles.

"It's not a joke, it's a rope, Tuco. Now I want you to get up there and put your head in that noose."

“It’s not a joke, it’s a rope, Tuco. Now I want you to get up there and put your head in that noose.”

First, the award for ugly goes to the people who glorify the virtues of Common Core for bringing “reading and writing correctly” into the curriculum. Those that were schooled under the standards-focused education model, and the narrowing of the curriculum that it produced under Idaho’s first adoption of “higher standards,” probably don’t know that teaching children to read and write correctly used to be THE standard. That’s an ugly fact; we restricted the amount of writing students did. We did harm. But we don’t NEED the Core to return to what we should have been doing all along. Continue reading

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part 1

By Victoria M. Young

Let’s dive right into the middle of the recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education and pull “the bad” to the surface. Let’s get it over with — again.

This should sound familiar; Bad for children. Bad for teachers. Bad for Idaho. Yes, the Luna Laws—Students Come First. They’re back!

The one based on the false premise that changing contract negotiations improves education has already come to the surface through the collaborative efforts of the Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA) and budget writers last year. Voters said no to Prop 1. We wanted to “preserve a teacher’s freedom to speak up on behalf of Idaho’s students.” ISBA, administration, and lawmakers made other plans. And we swallowed that small bite last year without much fuss as teachers’ bargaining was limited. Continue reading

Guest Column: Time to Opt Out

By Travis Manning

Travis Manning portraitWe have reached a testing crisis in Idaho and Common Core hasn’t helped. As a current high school English teacher, I know. We are over-testing children, including the new 8-hour Common Core test: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

In high school alone we give students the PSAT, SAT, IELA, PLAN, ACT, pre- and post-tests, end-of-semester exams, ASVAB, Science ISAT, AP tests, SBAC, PLATO, benchmarks, Career Information System (CIS) and sometimes the NAEP. Not all students take every test every year, but the testing process disrupts the entire school calendar, regardless. Testing burns weeks of instructional time, clogs up school computer labs, and costs millions. Special education students are given even more tests, often with accommodations to take as much time as they need, soaking up weeks more in a teacher’s curriculum calendar.

I support the Common Core standards generally, but I do not support the high-stakes test, the SBAC. Last year I wrote an op-ed in support of Common Core, but there are some ongoing concerns since then that haven’t been addressed by policymakers: fiscal strain, increased class sizes, cutting necessary programs and courses, teacher and student privacy issues, and tying teacher merit pay to SBAC.

The proposed teacher career ladder is coming down the pike, but details are sketchy. Idaho legislators want to tie as much as 50 percent of SBAC scores to teacher pay. “Our students are the most over-tested in the world,” writes education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch in a January 11, 2014 speech. “No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools.”

We have become a nation infatuated with standardized testing and, in the process, have given private testing companies the onus for unnecessarily labeling schools, children and teachers. Groups like the Albertson Foundation and their Don’t Fail Idaho campaign continue to beat public schools about the head with statistics. Their campaign is meant to inform – but also to demoralize public schools – in order to privatize them, convert them into for-profit charters.

Ravitch notes that U.S. Department of Education website data reveals that recent U.S. test scores were “the highest they had ever been in our history for whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians; that graduation rates for all groups were the highest in our history; and that the dropout rate was the lowest ever in our history.” Unabashedly, privateers like Governor Otter and Superintendent Luna choose to ignore these facts.

New York state gave Common Core tests last spring and only 30 percent of students passed, including less than 20 percent of Hispanic students, 5 percent of students with disabilities, and 3 percent of English language learners. Could New York teachers use Common Core test results for item analysis and re-teaching? Nope. Results were reported in August. SBAC passing marks, called “cut scores,” are aligned with the federal test called NAEP, and the bar is set so high only 40 percent of students, at best, reach proficiency.

In Idaho, we are setting up 60 percent of our children to fail. My young children will not be taking the SBAC, especially in their elementary years, when their love of learning is paramount.

One answer: “opt out.” See Idahoans for Local Education website: For the sake of Idaho’s children and teachers: “opt out.”

Travis Manning is executive director of The Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho and can be reached at

Continue reading


By Victoria M. Young

DSC_0300_ppI say potāto; you say potåto. Some say, “blueprint”; others say, “roadmap.” The way Betsy Russell rightly put it, from her perspective at the statehouse, “everybody overall agrees” — at the statehouse —with the 20 recommendations made by Idaho’s Task Force for Improving Education.

Objection; foul; time out!

We learned from the “resounding rejected” of the Students Come First LAWS that process matters. Right? Those laws passed despite demonstrative objections in hearings, on-line, and in the streets. THEN, they were defeated by voters as referendums. That process squandered people’s time and it put Idaho two years behind others in a true improvement process. Continue reading

Are You In on Opting Out?

Levi B CavenerThe new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has been taking a lot of heat during the legislative session recently.  District superintendents recently met with the State Department of Ed to push back against the test, and even a State Senator has been vocal about his opposition to the assessment.

Idahoans for Local Education recently launched an Opt Out movement for SBAC and ISAT in Idaho.  Stephanie Zimmerman, point person on the project, listed the rationale for taking such an action including: Continue reading

Help Spread the Word for Standardized!

The screening of the film Standardized on Thursday January 30th at 5:30 and 7:30 at Northern Lights Cinema Grill is heating up, and we need your help to spread the word!  A few items that sweeten the deal:

  • The Cost has been lowered to just $5.00!
  • Idaho’s Promise is working to bring a collection of notable community stakeholders to the showing for a panel Q and A session after the film.  Details TBA soon!
  • Various local education advocacy groups will be attending.  What better way to get linked up with folks like us?

If you are interested helping to promote the film feel free to download and print the fliers below.  Hand them out to family, friends, and colleagues that you think are interested.  Better yet, tack it up on a community event board at your church or work!

Standardized Flier (Large)

Standardized Flier (Small)

You can purchase tickets for the showing here.  Feel free to check out the official website and view the trailer.

A Model That Devalues

Does the Value Added Model (VAM) have a place in Idaho’s classrooms?

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerImagine this scenario: Your job requires you to supervise colleagues at work. In addition, your pay and job retention is linked to the productivity and behavior of the individuals that you oversee.

Such a situation seems like a fairly straightforward corporate setup. But here’s the monkeywrench: despite being a supervisor, you have no tools available to reprimand employees for poor productivity and behavior.
Continue reading

Idaho’s Promise Proudly Presents the Film Standardized

Idaho Invitation_w_Age_Info

By Levi B Cavener

Want to be better informed about current education “reform” polices? Better yet, would you like to connect with local education advocacy groups in the area and learn how to make a difference?

Then join us at Northern Lights Cinema Grill in Nampa January 30th for a night of cinematography enlightenment, good food, and great conversation with local advocates like ourselves.

Continue reading

Raising Test Scores Doesn’t Prove Much

By Mary Ollie

MaryThe trouble with research is sometimes the data tells you things you do not want to hear.

 How many times have the terms, “k through career”, “prepare students to compete in a global economy”, and “college and career ready”, been associated with the high stakes test that are tied to the Common Core Standards? I’m trying to think of a time when I have not heard these mentioned together. Continue reading