Dr. Lori Sanchez Senate Education 2-12-20

Dr. Lori Sanchez, head of the teacher preparation program at Northwest Nazarene University and president of the Idaho Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, addresses the Idaho Senate Education Committee.

On a unanimous voice vote, the Senate Education Committee has approved all of Idaho's school content standards for math, English language arts and science, and all its teacher preparation and certification standards -- both of which had been rejected earlier in their entirety the House Education Committee. The Senate panel's vote means the House committee's move has no effect. The vote came after four people testified, all in favor of approving the standards; you can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Thursday's edition of the Idaho Press.

"Idaho students deserve professional teachers, verified by meeting professional standards, " said Dr. Lori Sanchez, head of Northwest Nazarene University's teacher preparation program and president of the Idaho Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE), which includes the deans of every college of education in Idaho, public or private. "Standards are part of belonging to a profession," she told the senators.

"IBE has been a long-term supporter of the Idaho content standards," said Rod Gramer, president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education. "They set a higher bar for our students and help them prepare for the rigors of post-secondary education, and that's critical for us to create the workforce that we need in Idaho."

Jay Larsen, head of the Idaho Technology Council, said, "We think that the standards that are in place are fantastic."

Quinn Perry of the Idaho School Boards Association said school boards support reauthorizing academic standards. "Striking them entirely has a very real possibility of causing disruption for our school districts and our students," she said.

“I feel it is very, very important that we have a discussion about our standards,” said Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. “I think it’s very important that we have standards in place and that we work under certain criteria and give a good format and foundation for our teaching community and our students. But as I think, as has been represented by the resolution that was passed in the Senate this morning, we I believe have shown an interest in looking at developing new content standards, from the standpoint of getting all of our education community together and working together in a unified and progressive manner.”

“For that reason, I believe it’s very important that we pass this docket, we pass the standards, as well as keep our education community on a good, solid, foundation until such changes occur, if they occur in the future,” he said.

When Mortimer moved to approve the entire omnibus docket of administrative rules that contain the standards, a chorus of “seconds” rang out from the committee, as four members, including two Republicans and two Democrats, jostled to be the first to second the motion. Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, who was nearest to the chair among the group, was identified as the second for Mortimer’s motion.

“I think it is a fascinating study in human nature that we can have such strong and deeply held disagreements over something like standards,” Den Hartog said. “I support the concept of having a foundation in place as we move forward to examining whether or not we’re going to change or adopt different standards. I think there does need to be stability for not only our students but for our educators and other professionals within our schools. But like the chairman, I think we have to find a way to come together and to move past this.”

Den Hartog said as lawmakers have lost time in disputes over existing standards, “We have potentially lost time and focus on other issues of importance for doing the best we can for our students.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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