5 things to know about Common Core for this school year

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho students have already been exposed to the state's latest education measures, but this school year they will be asked to take a standardized test aligned with the Idaho Common Core for which the results will be collected and made public.

Students, parents and educators got a taste of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium examination last year when the state rolled out practice tests. Those results weren't released, though, because officials wanted to give everyone enough time to work out the kinks of the new system.

Here are five things you should know about the new test and the standards.

What is Common Core?

State lawmakers adopted the Idaho Core Standards in 2011, but there has been growing opposition calling for reconsideration, even repeal, during the past three years.

There's been concern that the standards had to be approved and regulated by the federal government, but state officials have repeatedly said the new measures have never been subjected to a federal review. Instead, it's up to the local school districts to adopt curriculum to meet the Idaho standards in math and English language arts.

What's different this year?

Idaho school districts began teaching the new standards last school year. At the same time, students took a field-test version of the Idaho Common Core-aligned examination. Called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), the practice tests were given to provide educators, parents and students experience with the assessment.

In spring of 2015, students will be given tests in which the results count.

What is SBAC?

SBAC is an adaptive test, meaning the questions will differ between students. Those who answer initial questions correctly will be given tougher questions, while students who do a poor job of answering the initial questions will be given easier questions. The test is supposed to be given online, but paper tests will be made available for the first three years for schools without Internet or enough computers. Finally, there is no time limit on the test for students, but schools have a month to finish administrating the assessment.

The SBAC replaces the Idaho Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). If all this sounds like alphabet soup, it gets slightly more complicated. State officials are now referring to the SBAC as the ISAT 2.0.

Will my child take the test?

Probably. If your child is in grades 3 through 10 and enrolled in a public school, then she or he will most likely be given the test.

There is a possibility that whoever wins the state superintendent seat in the November election could attempt to delay the implementation of the test. But so far, none of the candidates have explicitly said they would do so.

Does this even matter? Aren't the Idaho Common Core standards going to be repealed?

So far, efforts to repeal Idaho's standards have failed. In the May GOP primary election, tea-party favorite candidates who supported repealing the standards didn't win the key statewide offices that would allow them to revoke the new measures. As Idaho gets closer to the November general election, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for state superintendent have said they will work to improve implementing the standards, but they have not said the standards must be repealed.

Idaho's Republican Party attempted to include a plank in its platform condemning the standards and calling for their repeal. However, at this year's chaotic Idaho's GOP convention, political infighting caused the event to end in chaos and the plank was never considered.

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