Local Republican women are working to change state testing requirements for students in K-12 grades. Leading the charge locally is Elaine King, the president of the Madison County Republican Women’s Club.
First, a little background. In 2011 the Idaho State Board of Education and the Idaho legislature adopted Common Core standards which were then implemented in 2013-2014. The state also approved a contract to use Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC testing. This contract, according to IdahoEdNews.com, expires in 2019. In Idaho this test is now called the ISAT. This is a standardized test that starts with third graders. The test can take anywhere from five to nine hours.
“I’ve talked to teachers and they said it’s so stressful especially for third graders,” said Elaine King, the president of the Madison County Republican Women’s Club.
King said that teachers have told her they give their third graders candy to pop in their mouths when they start to get nervous or stressed during the test.
“School districts who wanted to opt out of that testing and use a test that is not as expensive and not as intrusive,” King said. “They found that the state wouldn’t allow it because they found that if they got rid of the SBAC they wouldn’t receive the federal funding for Title I programs, which is needed.”
In 2015 Madison County School District 321’s school board voted to opt out of the test. Superintendent Geoff Thomas, a critic of the SBAC, said it was too time consuming, among other complaints. The state eventually required the district to use the test, but many parents opted their children out of taking it.
On the SBAC website, it calls the test “A better assessment system” and quotes a “Student from Idaho” as saying, “It made me want to try, since I got to explain my reasoning and why I chose what I chose.”
Schools also have to have at least 95 percent of their students take the test or else they will lose the federal Title I funding.
King, a former educator herself, said there are other tests that could take the place of the SBAC. She mentioned several issues with the test. Teachers don’t get the results for their own classes, the typing skills required are too advanced for younger students, and the kids have to know all of the different ways to do a math problem. Those are just a few of the many problems facing educators and students.
“It would be great if the teachers had the ability to take the good things out of it but not be required to teach some of the other things that are really hindering their instruction,” King said.
She added that the advanced students do fine with the testing. But 80 percent of the student body is average. The exact same test is also administered to students who are in special education. King said that is unfair.
“We have teachers in the area that have retired that are now tutoring a lot of students because they are having struggles with this kind of process in those early grades,” King said.
The Madison County Republican Women’s Club decided to do something about the ability to opt out of SBAC testing. They wrote up a resolution to remove the SBAC testing as a requirement for Title I funding since that is what is keeping the state from allowing them to opt out.
The resolution passed easily on a county level. It went to the state republican women and passed overwhelmingly.
The next step is the National Federation of Republican Women. Kelly Packer, the Idaho president of Republican Women, will present the resolution in Virginia on March 28.
“Our little voices here can make a difference,” King said.
Concerned citizens can go to the National Federation of Republican Women’s website. By clicking on your state of residency, anyone can email their states president and ask them to support the resolution.
Or people can visit mcrwidaho.com.
“There are some school districts its working really fine and others it’s not because they live in different circumstances with different students and environments and they need to have the choice,” King explained. “And that’s the bottom line.”