Friday, April 18, 2014

CenturyLink Foundation Awards Idaho Teachers More Than $50,000 in Grants

Representatives from CenturyLink, Inc. surprised 11 teachers across Idaho in recent weeks with awards from the CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation’s Teachers and Technology grant program, administered by the Idaho State Department of Education.

The program, which has been offered in Idaho since 2005, awards grants to schools in CenturyLink’s local service areas on behalf of teachers who have developed specific plans to innovatively implement technology in their classroom. Over the last nine years, approximately $650,000 has been awarded to Idaho schools to purchase technology for their classrooms.

In recent weeks, CenturyLink’s Vice President and General Manager for Idaho, Jim Schmit, has surprised the winning teachers by showing up at their schools with the grant awards. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and representatives from the Department joined him on many of these visits. 

Superintendent Luna and Jim Schmit of CenturyLink award teacher Julie Clark at Lapwai Elementary with a technology grant for her classroom.

“We are very pleased to be a part of providing innovative technology in the classroom that enhances the learning experience for students in these schools,” said Schmit. “It is exciting to see teachers implement creative teaching techniques that assist students in hands-on learning.”

Teachers at schools in Lapwai, Meridian, Middleton, Glenns Ferry, Jerome, Pocatello and Leadore all won grants this year. Twenty-two teachers applied for grants, with 11 winners selected by a review committee comprised of community members and a CenturyLink representative. The winning teachers’ schools each received a grant to be used by the teachers to purchase technology to benefit students in the classroom.

“These teachers know and understand the important role technology can play in the classroom to help individualize instruction and raise academic achievement for every student,” said Superintendent Luna. “I am grateful to the CenturyLink Foundation for its continued commitment to Idaho’s teachers and students every year as they work to bring these innovative ideas to life and create a 21st century classroom in every school.”

Here is a summary of the award winners:
  • Lapwai Elementary School was awarded approximately $4,800 to purchase 15 Chromebooks and protective covers. These will be used in the 4th grade to teach history, language arts, reading, math and science. Lapwai Elementary Success For All Reading Program Coordinator Julie Clark submitted the project.
  • Mountain View High School was awarded $5,000 to purchase 96 student Clickers and the associated application. Teacher Donald R Eberlin, Jr. submitted the project.
  • Prospect Elementary was awarded $4,747 to purchase 11 iPad minis. These iPad minis will give fourth and fifth grade students the opportunity to practice math facts using applications which are timed, requiring them to think and finish quickly. For language arts, applications will be available to students which will reinforce basic word identification and spelling as well as suffix and prefix understanding and application of the words. Teachers Carolyn K. Brenner and Michelle Mayfield submitted the project.
  • Pioneer School of the Arts won two grant awards. Teacher Molly Stump was awarded $4,995 to purchase nine Lenovo Thinkpad Laptops. These laptops will be used by the fourth grade class on a daily basis for technology-based learning experiences in the classroom. This will help increase student engagement, productivity, and achievement. Teacher Kimberly Brown was also awarded $2,550 to purchase five iPads, accessories and an Apple TV. Students will have the opportunity to create digital stories, conduct animal research and present their animal reports to peers and parents. They will also be used in the reading and math instructional centers.
  • Middleton Heights Elementary was awarded $5,000 to purchase 10 iPad minis, a MacBook Pro and a charging cart for a mobile learning lab. This mobile learning lab will transform and redefine current writing instruction, addressing the needs and learning styles of 21st Century students. Teacher Jayna Eichelberger submitted the project.
  • Glenns Ferry Elementary School won two grant awards. Teacher Stacie Polland was awarded $4,978 to purchase 14 laptops and a mobile charging station. The laptops will be used by teachers to move towards text-based writing and expand their texts to include audio, video, and pictorial or graphic texts.  Teacher Lynnette Jennings was also awarded $5,000 to purchase 13 iPad Minis, an iPad Air and an Apple TV. First graders will now be able to use Doodle Buddy instead of a lapboard and markers. They will also have the opportunity to use different math apps such as Motion Math and Splash Math and will analyze, create and publish writing using digital tools like Quick Office and Explain Everything. The Apple TV will allow for the students to share their screens instantly with other students.
  • Jerome Middle School was awarded $4,872 to purchase 13 laptops and a charging cart.  The laptops will enable each student access to a computer to conduct research and publish an innovative project of their choice. Teacher Miriam Brown submitted the project.
  • Pocatello Community Charter School was awarded $4,900 to purchase 12 Chrome books, two scanners and a storage cart. Seventh and eighth grade students will have the opportunity to increase their computer literacy and then share their new knowledge by mentoring younger students. Students will generate electronic portfolios showing their best work utilizing Prezi and Google Docs. Teacher Cara Sonnemann submitted the project.
  • Leadore School was awarded $4,949 to purchase equipment and materials with which students will have the opportunity to build 3D models. Students will gain a basic understanding of engineering principles while applying science and math skills learned in their other classes. Teacher Kevin Ramsey submitted the project.
Congratulations to all the teachers who won this year! More information on the grant and the Department’s continued partnership with CenturyLink is available online our website.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IDAHO SCHOOLS CAN APPLY FOR $3 MILLION IN TECHNOLOGY PILOT PROJECT GRANTS

For the second year, schools across Idaho will have the opportunity to submit their ideas for what the next-generation classroom looks like and put them into action. It’s all part of the Idaho Technology Pilot Program, which received a second year of funding from the Idaho Legislature.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today that Idaho’s public schools can begin submitting their ideas for funding today. Applications are due Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

“The demand for advanced technology in the classroom has become organic and only continues to grow. Everywhere I go, every school I visit, students, teachers, and parents are demanding more technology to help keep students engaged in the classroom and to increase academic achievement,” Superintendent Luna said. “I encourage Idaho’s schools to apply for the Technology Pilot Program to help the state identify the most effective classroom technologies that can be fully integrated at any grade level and scalable and sustainable in schools across Idaho.” 

Superintendent Luna added, “While I celebrate the continued funding for the Technology Pilot Program this year, I hope that we all recognize our efforts to expand technology in Idaho’s public schools cannot end with pilots. Our efforts will never be enough if we end up with a situation where a parent has to hope that their child is lucky enough to attend a school that was fortunate enough to receive a grant. We must find a solution where every child has access to advanced technology in the classroom, no matter where they live or go to school.”

The Idaho Legislature appropriated $3 million in funding for the Idaho Technology Pilot Program in K-12 public schools this year. The goal is for schools to pilot ways that the effective use of technology in elementary and secondary schools can help improve student achievement. Eleven schools were awarded Technology Pilot Project grants last year, and these schools have two years to utilize the funding. 

To be eligible this year, a pilot project must use innovative technologies designed to improve student academic growth and financial efficiencies throughout an entire school. The project must be scalable to other schools in Idaho and sustainable statewide after the technology pilot period ends. The grant funding for the pilot projects will be for one fiscal year. Local school districts can plan to implement the pilot projects over a one-year or two-year period.

Each application must include a research component that shows how the school will evaluate student achievement and other measures. At the end of the technology pilot period, the state will evaluate the pilot projects and identify best practices for how the state can improve education for every child by providing the necessary instructional technology in every classroom in the state.

Only one application per school is permitted. The state will accept multiple applications from a district. The eleven schools awarded last year are not eligible to apply again.

Grant proposals must be submitted via e-mail to the Idaho State Department of Education before midnight (MST) on June 11, 2014. Awardees will be announced the first week in July, when funding becomes available.

If you are interested in applying, please visit our website to download the grant application or to register for an upcoming informational webinar.

To learn about the current Technology Pilot Project grants, check out our blog posts on Sugar Salem High School and Beutler Middle School or read the Idaho Education News series about all the grants.

Monday, April 7, 2014

SUPERINTENDENT LUNA VISITS SCHOOLS, TALKS WITH STUDENTS ABOUT NEW TEST


On March 25, schools across Idaho began administering the new Smarter Balanced Field Test to students in grades 3-8 and 11. To date, we have heard overwhelmingly positive comments from schools across the state. (Learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment or why Idaho is conducting a field test this spring.)

As of Friday, 66,634 tests had been started in Idaho.

The reports the State Department of Education has received have been overwhelmingly positive. A fifth-grade student in Blaine County walked out of the testing room last week and said, “That test was fun!”

Jerry Hutchins, the district’s testing director, said, “I never heard a student say anything like that after taking an ISAT.”

He’s not alone.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has been traveling across Idaho since April 2, visiting schools large and small.

During his visits, he met with students and teachers about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment and heard similar positive comments.

Some schools have faced a few technical difficulties. At Oakley Elementary, for example, the voice that was supposed to read a few of the questions out loud was giving an error message before it would then read the question. On some of the questions, students also said they thought the instructions could have been a bit clearer.

These are all things the state-appointed Smarter Balanced Advisory Committee will take into account as it evaluates how to improve the new test before it becomes fully implemented next year. The Committee developed questionnaires for students, teachers, test proctors and school administrators.

Despite these few challenges, Superintendent Luna heard largely positive feedback about the new test – no matter where he traveled.

On Wednesday, he ate lunch with elementary students in Teton County. Students said the test is more challenging than the ISAT, but even with more difficult questions, they liked it more than the multiple-choice-only test because they could show their answers and explain their work.
Supt. Luna ate lunch with students in Teton County and asked them about the new test.
On Thursday, Superintendent Luna visited Rockland School. The students there said they really enjoyed the writing portions of the test and that they could pause the test, which was not possible under the ISAT. When asked if they had more anxiety about taking this new test because it is more difficult, the students said no. They felt the same as they did on the ISAT.
Students in Rockland offered Supt. Luna their feedback on the Smarter Balanced Field Test.
On Friday, Superintendent Luna was in Cassia County where students at Oakley Elementary were taking the mathematics portion of the new test. Students said they enjoyed the different types of questions because they were able to show their work. One student even went as far as to say, “I loved it! I like using the computer to enter the fractions.”

Another student said the test is good because there’s not as much multiple choice and “I have more to say.”
Supt. Luna heard lots of great comments from students at Oakley Elementary about the new test.
Even though the test is more difficult and is estimated to take more time, school administrators said the majority of 3rd and 4th grade students at Oakley Elementary finished the mathematics portion of the test in an hour or less.

Superintendent Luna will continue to visit schools next week and hear direct feedback from students and staff. He will be in Coeur d'Alene on Wednesday and in the Lewiston area on Thursday as part of the Department's 2014 Post-Legislative Tour.

SCHOOLS CAN APPLY NOW FOR FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLE GRANTS

Idaho elementary schools can apply now to implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) for the 2014-2015 school year.

The goals of the program are to increase students’ consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, to expand the variety of fruits and vegetables that children experience, to positively impact their present and future health, and to create healthier school environments by providing healthier choices for students.  FFVP schools are required to provide free fresh fruit and vegetable snacks throughout the school day.

In order to be eligible for the FFVP, schools must meet the following criteria:
  • Be an elementary school (eligible students are pre-K through 6th grade),
  • Operate the National School Lunch Program,
  • Have more than 50 percent of students eligible for free/reduced priced meals, and
  • Submit a complete application.
Elementary schools with the highest free and reduced-price enrollment will be given priority during the selection process. Schools are awarded between $50.00 and $75.00 per student for the school year in order to purchase fresh fruit and vegetable snacks.

For more information on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program requirements or for a copy of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant Application, please visit our Child Nutrition Programs website, or contact the Department’s Child Nutrition Programs at (208) 332-6820.

FFVP applications must be mailed or e-mailed by Wednesday, April 30, 2014

STATE BOARD APPOINTS COMMITTEES TO CONTINUE WORK ON TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS

The recommendations of the 2013 Governor's Task Force for Improving Education have received broad support from stakeholder groups across the state, and the 2014 Legislature enacted laws to some of the specific recommendations.

However, many of the recommendations require further study and development of plans for implementation.

This year, the Governor asked the State Board of Education to create special committees to continue this work. Two committees have been established to develop proposals, including implementation strategies, timelines and required funding. In addition, a third working group is being established to address reading proficiency and literacy.

The first meeting of the two committees will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, April 7, 2014 at Boise State University.

The committees will meet jointly for organizational purposes and will then break and meet separately to begin their work.

The meetings of the committees will be open to the public. 

For more information on the Education Improvement Committees and the Task Force recommendations, visit the State Board’s website.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HELP IDAHO NAME THE NEW ADVANCED OPPORTUNITIES PROGRAM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

Beginning next school year, Idaho high school students attending will get financial help as they work to earn college credit or professional-technical certifications while still in high school.

We need your help in naming this new, exciting program!

“This new program builds on the progress we have already made to ensure all Idaho students not only graduate from high school but go on to pursue their education and do not need remediation once they get there,”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Today, we have a menu of options to help students as they prepare for education after high school and to help reduce the cost of earning their postsecondary degree or certificate. Whether they want to earn college credit while they are still in high school or graduate early, we are making these opportunities available to every student in Idaho’s public schools – no matter where they live.”

Under this new program, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support as part of Senate Bill 1233, each high school junior will now have access to up to $200 a year and each high school senior will now have access to up to $400 a year to help cover the costs to take:
  • Dual credit courses,
  • College-bearing exams (such as Advanced Placement), or
  • Professional-technical exams to earn a certification or license.
To learn more about this program, students can visit our website or talk to their high school counselor.

Right now, the Idaho State Department of Education needs your help to name this new program! We have heard several ideas already, such as Jump Start or the Pathways Program. But we want to hear directly from Idaho’s creative students and parents. What should this new program to expand advanced opportunities to all high school juniors and seniors be called?

Send your ideas to mrmcgrath@sde.idaho.gov with subject line “Naming Contest” by April 25, 2014.

This new program will work in parallel with other programs the state continues to offer students, such as the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program, 8-in-6 Program and Mastery Advancement Program.

Learn more about all of these opportunities on our Advanced Opportunities website.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fact Sheet: What is the Smarter Balanced Field Test?

Idaho is committed to making sure every student is prepared to succeed in college and the workplace. That’s why public schools are implementing the Idaho Core Standards, which are consistent guidelines for what every child should know and be able to do at each grade level. New assessments aligned with the Idaho Core Standards will measure real world skills like critical thinking and problem solving.

Administered online, these assessments will adapt to each student’s ability, providing parents and teachers with more accurate and meaningful information about what students are learning. While the previous ISAT was a stagnant, multiple-choice-only test, the new Smarter Balanced Assessment will use different types of questions to measure a student’s true ability in each subject area.

To date, more than 100 Idaho teachers have been involved in developing the new Smarter Balanced Assessment for Idaho.

Quick Questions

Q: What will happen to the current ISAT?
A: A Field Test is a “dress rehearsal” of the test to make sure it is valid, reliable, and fair for all students and to give schools the opportunity to test their technology and logistics.

Q: What is the timeline for phasing in the new test?
A: Idaho is phasing in the new test over three years. In Spring 2013, 124 Idaho schools piloted the test. This year, all public schools will participate in the Field Test. Next year, the new Smarter Balanced Assessment will be fully implemented and scores will be given.

Q: What is a Field Test?
A: The Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the ISAT in mathematics and English language arts. Idaho will still use the ISAT to measure students’ performance in science.

Smarter Balanced Is a Better Test

The Smarter Balanced Assessment will be different from Idaho’s previous ISAT in several ways:
  1. The questions will challenge students. Because this test is aligned to the new Idaho Core Standards, students now are learning at a higher level in mathematics and English language arts, such as critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Students will be measured against these higher expectations on the year-end test.
  2. The new test will have different types of questions. Instead of a multiple-choice-only test, students now will be asked to explain their answers, write essays, and more.
  3. The new test is more than a year-end test. The state also will provide assessment tools for Idaho’s teachers to use in the classroom throughout the school year to monitor each student’s progress and make sure every child is on track to reach academic goals.
Tips for Parents
  • Visit www.smarterbalanced.org and take a practice test with your child.
  • Because the new standards emphasize critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, you should ask your child more open-ended or “why” questions. Encourage your child to think critically in everyday life. Let them know it is okay if they don’t answer right away. Problem-solving takes time.
  • Encourage your child to take the Field Test seriously. While this is essentially a practice round, we want every child to try their best. Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast, gets a lot of rest and comes to school prepared and comfortable to take this test.