Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Superintendent Luna Helps Answer Questions on Consolidation

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna presented to the Senate Education Committee last week on the feasibility of consolidating school districts within Idaho.

Consolidation has been a hot topic across the state for years; now more than ever. As budgets grow tighter and state revenues decline, many people believe it will save the state millions of dollars if school districts consolidated.

However, consolidation remains a controversial topic, especially in small, rural communities.

“They fear consolidation, and rightfully so, because they believe it will mean their local school board will be dissolved, their school will close, and their children will be bussed over the mountain to the next district,” Superintendent Luna said. “Obviously, we cannot allow this to happen.

“Let me be clear about my position on consolidation: I am not a proponent of forced consolidation,” Superintendent Luna said. “As a former school board trustee and now as State Superintendent, I believe in local control. As a state, we must give districts the tools they need – and the incentives – to consolidate if it will find efficiencies and be beneficial to the students within those districts.”

Currently, local school boards have the authority to consolidate with another district if both districts agree to it. In fact, the Legislature has put certain measures in place to encourage districts to consolidate, or at least look at consolidation.

Idaho Code 33-1003 allows districts to keep the full cost savings of consolidation for seven years. After seven years, districts can keep half of the costs savings. Previous to this law, those savings would have all reverted to the state. Idaho Code 33-310 allows districts to be reimbursed up to $10,000 for the cost of studying the feasibility of consolidation.

Still, many Idahoans have asked why the state doesn’t step in and require districts to consolidate. To help answer these questions, Superintendent Luna presented to the Senate Education Committee on the history of district consolidation in Idaho, his position on consolidation, how Idaho compares to other states, and what it actually might save the state.

[The full PowerPoint presentation is available online.]

District consolidation is not a new concept in the State of Idaho. 

According to an Idaho Historical Society report, the state had approximately 1,082 school districts in 1940 when C.E. Roberts became State Superintendent. Roberts recommended reorganizing districts, but his recommendations were largely ignored. But Roberts did not give up. He went on to lead an organization called the Idaho Education Council in 1944, which continued to push the issue of consolidation. In 1947, the Legislature took action, requiring the State Department of Education to consolidate districts.

The Department faced a difficult task. Asher B. Wilson, chairman of the State Board of Education, took it upon himself to reorganize districts. It took until 1961. By the end of 1947, 11 districts had been reorganized. By September 1950, the 1,082 districts had been reduced to 301. After 12 years, the program was finally considered complete, and the 1,082 school districts had been consolidated into 116.

[The full Idaho Historical Society report is available online.]

Today, the state has 115 school districts in operation.

So, how much does the state currently spend on administrative costs among its districts?

Idaho’s per-pupil spending on general administration costs is higher than other western states, according to data from the U.S. Census. This measure does not include the cost of school administration. General administration can be thought of as the cost of district administration.

Six of the 10 western states spend less than Idaho. We rank as having the fourth-highest expenditures per pupil, just behind Nevada, at $145 per pupil.

However, if you consider the per-pupil cost of administration at the school administrative level, then Idaho ranks considerably better in comparison to other western states. Only two states – Arizona and Utah, spend less.

The State Department of Education ran estimates on what the state would save if local school districts consolidated, based on Idaho’s 44 county lines. The savings would equal about $15 million.

Superintendent Luna reiterated he does not support forced consolidation. Instead, he supports the Legislature continuing to encourage districts to work together to consolidate services, such as payroll departments, special education services, human resources, technology and other services.

For more information, please see the full presentation available online.

~ Melissa M.

Oregon School Using Social Media to Engage Students

Here's an interesting article from the Oregon Education Association about how one school is using social media to keep students engaged -- and teach them about technology. 

George Middle School in Portland utilizes blogs, texting, videos and other technologies to help students master social media techniques, according to Elizabeth Delmatoff. Six teachers are currently using classroom pages and social media groups for assignments.

Here's the best part:

"Most amazing of all, we created an online, no credit, no grade, extra work group. Kids log on and do school work," Delmatoff wrote in an article posted on the Oregon Education Association's web site. "School work for absolutely no reason, other than the love of learning. They now have what we wanted for them all along – all because we were willing to think differently."
Check out the full story online. 

~ Melissa M. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Delaware, Tennessee Awarded Race to the Top Funds in First Round

Delaware, Tennessee were the only two states to receive Race to the Top funding in the first round of awards, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today.

Delaware was awarded about $100 million, and Tennessee was awarded about $500 million.  The states will be able to spend the funding to implement reforms and innovations over the next four years. 

“Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students,” Duncan said in a news release.

That leaves an estimated $3.4 billion left for the U.S. Department of Education to dole out in the second round of Race to the Top competition. Idaho plans to apply again in the second phase.

In total, 40 states -- including Idaho -- and Washington, D.C. applied for funding in the first round.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Delaware and Tennessee received the highest marks from peer reviewers in the first round for their overall commitment to reform from key stakeholders, including elected officials, teacher's union leaders, and business leaders. In both states, all school districts committed to implementing Race to the Top reforms. Delaware and Tennessee also have aggressive plans to improve teacher and principal evaluation, use data to inform instructional decisions, and turn around their lowest-performing schools. In addition, both states have put in place strong laws and policies to support their reform efforts.

Idaho will be reviewing the peer reviewers’ comments on its initial application and work with educational stakeholders to make any necessary revisions before applying in the second round. Applications are due June 1.

The Department has made one change for applying in the second round to limit states in the amount for which they can apply.

See the Department’s full news release for more information.

~ Melissa M.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

White Pine Elementary Students Win Statewide Math Contest

Students of Mr. John Keiser’s White Pine Elementary School 6th grade math class won the first annual Idaho Math Cup.

The Idaho Math Cup is a math contest sponsored by Apangea Learning, a web-based supplemental math instruction program that is part of the Idaho Math Initiative.  As part of the statewide Math Initiative, Apangea provides additional assistance to students who struggle in math as well as advanced opportunities to those students who excel.

During the four-week Idaho Math Cup contest, students across Idaho spent more than 22,000 hours solving math problems.

Students in Mr. Keiser’s class worked on Apangea Math in class and at home, solving more than 23,000 math problems to win the Idaho Math Cup. The students were so excited about the competition, they began showing up as early as 7 a.m. to work on Apangea before school started at 8:45 a.m.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, First Lady Lori Otter and dignitaries from the Boise School District and Apangea Learning participated in a school assembly at White Pine Elementary on Thursday to celebrate the students’ success.

“I am proud of the students at White Pine Elementary and all the students across Idaho who participated in the Idaho Math Cup,” Superintendent Luna said. “We are seeing great results from the Idaho Math Initiative and Apangea Math.  Idaho students are not only improving their academic achievement in math significantly, but they are also learning a love for math because they understand its relevance.”

“What was so fun is to see the community that was being built within the classroom.  To see students get so excited. It was getting them motivated. You could tell that they were really feeling successful,” said Ms. Sandy Hadden, White Pine Elementary Principal.

Here are the highlights of White Pine Elementary School’s victory:
·    Students spent more than 700 hours on the program.
·    They averaged 8,300 points per student.
·    The top two students were in heated competition to win a Nintendo Wii. Even so, they would stop their own work to help each other out when they got stuck on a problem.
·    The entire class came together as a team and built a great sense of community as they worked together to win this competition.

Mr. Keiser and each student in his class will receive a Family Prize Pack, which includes gift cards for dinner and a movie. Arthur Ferguson, a student in Mr. Keiser’s class, accumulated more than 30,000 points in his class earning him the title of Class MVP as well as the grand prize of a Nintendo Wii gaming system. Fifteen additional students throughout Idaho will also be awarded prizes such as iPod Touch’s and Wal-Mart gift cards for their achievement and success on Apangea Math.

Apangea Math is just one piece of the statewide Idaho Math Initiative, which aims to raise student achievement in mathematics across all grades by providing intervention tools for students and additional training for Idaho teachers.

Since Apangea Math was made available two years ago, more than 35,000 students have received additional assistance or advanced opportunities. In the first year alone, students across the state spent 40,000 hours doing math on Apangea both in school and at home. Now in its second year, that number has doubled to nearly 80,000 hours. About 35 percent of those hours are spent at home in the evenings and on the weekends.
In addition, in just its first two years, the Math Initiative has provided additional training to 4,000 teachers.

As a result, our students are making progress. Teachers across Idaho have seen improved math scores on the ISAT, including the Boise School District. 

At White Pine Elementary School, which is now home to the Idaho Math Cup awardees, students who used Apangea Math showed significant improvement on the ISAT last year. The same is true for students at Liberty Elementary, another Boise school using Apangea. Typically, the 6th grade teachers have seen ISAT growth in math of about seven points from spring to spring among their students. Since the student started using Apangea, the teachers saw an average gain of 19 points from spring to spring.

Learn more about the Idaho Math Initiative or Apangea Math.

~ Melissa M.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Idaho Students Still Outpacing the Nation in Reading

Idaho students are outperforming students across the nation in reading, on average, according to the most recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released Wednesday.

NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do. Its major goals are to measure student achievement and to report change in performance over time. NAEP provides results for the nation and for the states, but does not provide scores for Idaho school districts, schools, classrooms, or individual students.

In 2009, 69 percent of Idaho's fourth grade students and 77 percent of eighth grade students performed at or above grade level in reading, greater than the national average at both grade levels.

"While we celebrate these successes and are pleased to see Idaho students performing so well, we recognize there is still more work that needs to be done," Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said.

The full NAEP 2009 Reading results are available online.

~ Melissa M.

Superintendent Luna responds to Attorney General's Lawsuit Against Land Board

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna released the following statement Wednesday in response to the Attorney General’s lawsuit filed against the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners. 

“I question why the Attorney General is spending precious taxpayer dollars on this lawsuit rather than bringing forward a motion he thinks is constitutional for the Land Board to consider,” Superintendent Luna said.

The Idaho Land Board voted 3-2 earlier in March to increase cottage site lease rents by 54 percent over the next five years.

The motion was proposed by Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and approved by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.  Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Controller Donna Jones opposed the motion.  No other motions were offered.

“I voted for a 54 percent increase in cottage site lease rents, which will ultimately maximize the financial return for the beneficiaries, Idaho students,” Superintendent Luna said after the vote on March 16. “A no vote would have been a vote for the status quo, resulting in no additional revenues for schools.”

The Land Board owns 521 cottage site properties on Payette and Priest Lakes and controls the rate on the leases. In February, the Land Board voted to give the Department of Lands one year to come up with a plan for disposing of cottage site properties in order to maximize revenues for the endowment beneficiaries, Idaho’s public schools.

Superintendent Luna supported this measure in February. Instead of continuing to debate whether the endowment should be getting a 2.5%, 4% or 6% rate of return on these assets, Superintendent Luna supports selling the cottage site properties and using the money to invest in assets that yield higher returns. The endowments would yield a return of at least 8% if these high-value properties were sold and the proceeds used to purchase commercial or other high-return properties.

~ Melissa M.

Department Experts to Take Your Questions on Childhood Health, Nutrition

Experts from the State Department of Education Coordinated School Health and Child Nutrition Programs will be taking your questions on childhood health and nutrition today live on a special web chat, sponsored by PacificSource Health Plans and Idaho’s NewsChannel 7.

The web chat will begin at 12:15 p.m. MST today (March 24).

Pat Stewart, Director of the Coordinated School Health Team, and Dr. Colleen Fillmore, Director of Child Nutrition Programs, will be part of the panel of experts taking your questions about health, nutrition, eating habits and physical activity.

To learn more, visit KTVB’s web site.

You can also submit a question in advance by e-mailing info@ktvb.com.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

School Gardens Bring Academics, Nutrition to Life for Students

When you think about public education, you usually don’t think about gardening. But gardens are actually cropping up in schools across Idaho as a way to bring classroom lessons to life and help improve the overall health, nutrition and academic achievement among Idaho students.

Heidi Martin, Child Nutrition Coordinator at the State Department of Education, presented to the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee today on how several Idaho schools have successfully used gardens.

In 2008, the State Department of Education awarded $30,000 in federal school gardening grants to 11 Idaho schools. Each school received between $1,500 and $3,000 to build a garden that would promote nutrition, science and agricultural education.

Here are a few examples of how Idaho schools have successfully built school gardens:

Students at Bruneau Elementary School in the Bruneau-Grandview School District turned a large weed patch behind the school into a large garden. Every student in every grade takes part in making this garden successful, and what a success it is. Every year, the school hosts a back-to-school night for families. This past year, the school served a dinner on back-to-school night made from foods grown in the garden. The result? The school had its highest turnout yet for back-to-school night.

Athol Elementary in the Lakeland School District has used the produce from its school garden in its school meals. In the fall, the school held taste tests with the students for several weeks so they could try all the different vegetables they had grown and chart their likes, dislikes and taste profiles. The school has also used the garden to reinforce math and science lessons.

The Hansen School District is home to the state’s largest school garden. The school district has actually been able to use the garden as a fundraiser by selling the produce at a roadside stand. They made several thousand dollars on the produce and plan to use the proceeds to expand the garden in future years. This is a great example of a healthy fundraiser schools can implement. In addition to growing produce, the school incorporated its zoology class into the garden by setting up bee boxes.

School gardens are just one part of the Farm to School effort that the State Department of Education has been working on in partnership with the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s Idaho Preferred Program and the Ag in the Classroom organization.

The Department also provides technical assistance to schools and districts that are interested in buying local foods for school cafeterias.

Learn more about Farm to School programs or Ag in the Classroom.

~ Melissa M.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Higher Education Stabilization Fund Signed Into Law

Lieutenant Governor Brad Little signed the Higher Education Stabilization Fund bill into law today.  The bill redirects interest on revenue from tuition and fees at Idaho’s State colleges and universities into an interest account and allows the Legislature to appropriate money directly into the fund.  The fund could then be used similar to the Public Education Stabilization Fund to make disbursements to the institutions in times of economic need.

The legislation was sponsored by Governor Otter, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner.  Lieutenant Governor Brad Little signed the bill into law in lieu of Governor Otter, who is in Utah at a Republican Governors Association meeting.

To learn more about the Higher Education Stabilization Fund, visit www.legislature.idaho.gov or read the Governor’s full news release.

-Camille W.

Superintendent Luna Opposes Pay Increases for Constitutional Officers

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna testified today before the House State Affairs Committee in opposition to legislation that would increase salaries for Idaho’s constitutional officers.

In his testimony, Superintendent Luna asked the Legislature to give all constitutional officers, including himself, the ability to reject pay increases, a provision not in the current legislation.

“I would ask that you consider giving constitutional officers the same ability you have, which is to reject increases to your compensation when they come before this body,” Superintendent Luna told legislators this morning.

Under House Bill 692, the salaries for constitutional officers will be reduced by 4 percent next year and then restored to current funding levels in 2012. For 2013 and 2014, all constitutional officers’ pay will then increased and set based on a percentage of the Governor’s salary. While Superintendent Luna supports the reductions in pay next year, he remains concerned about the pay increases in future years and the exclusion of any provision that would give constitutional officers the right to reject future pay increases, especially in tough economic times.

For two years in a row, Superintendent Luna has stood before the Legislature and asked them to address this issue.

“Constitutional officers continue to receive pay increases even in this tough economic time, and it is not right. This must change,” Superintendent Luna told members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in January. “My employees and other state employees are taking furlough days, while the state is forcing its constitutional officers to take pay raises. We should not be taking this additional money from taxpayers at a time when Idahoans are losing their jobs and taking pay cuts.”

Under the current system, the Superintendent’s annual salary is set by the Legislature and according to an Attorney General’s opinion published last year, it is illegal for any constitutional officer to refuse an increase in pay. The opinion states that even in tight budget years – while all other programs and salaries are being cut – no constitutional officer can refuse a raise or take a decrease in pay.

Superintendent Luna has donated the increases in his salary to charitable organizations for the past two years but said that still is not fair to Idaho taxpayers. “We are still taking money from taxpayers to fund increases and then turn around and donate that money to a charity of our choice. I would rather that money remain with the taxpayer,” he said.

House Bill 692 was sent to the amending order in the full House.

~ Melissa M.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Free IDLA Webinar Series for Parents and Educators

Beginning April 1st, the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) will be hosting a free webinar series for parents and educators on protecting teens from dangers such as drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, and Internet predators.

The webinars are Thursday nights April 1st through May 6th (with the exception of April 15th) from 7:00-8:00 pm MST.

For more details or to register, please visit www.IdahoDigitalLearning.org or call 208-342-0207.

-Camille W.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Several seats still open for MTI summer courses

A few seats are still open for the Mathematical Thinking for Instruction (MTI) in Summer 2010. Registration opened Monday, March 15, and nearly all classes filled within a few hours.

The MTI course is a three-credit course that gives Idaho teachers and administrators the best practices and teaching strategies they need to help all students succeed in math. The course focuses on students’ learning. It has five main ideas that are woven throughout the instruction: take students’ ideas seriously, encourage multiple strategies, press students conceptually, address misconceptions, and focus on the structure of the mathematics.

The State Department of Education is offering 55 courses this summer and serving more than 1,700 educators statewide. Currently, 20 instructors are trained to teach the MTI course. The Department is working to train more highly qualified instructors to expand course offerings in the future.

If you are still interested in registering for a summer course, please visit http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/math/mti.htm.

If you are unable to take the MTI course this summer, we will be offering more courses in the fall. The fall course schedule will be posted on April 1, 2010 and registration will open April 15 at 8 a.m. MST.

For more information, please visit http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/math/mti.htm.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Land Board Approves Increase in Cottage Site Lease Rates

The Idaho Land Board voted 3-2 today to increase cottage site lease rents by 54 percent over the next five years.

The motion was proposed by Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and approved by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.  Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Controller Donna Jones opposed the motion.

No other motions were offered.

“I voted for a 54 percent increase in cottage site lease rents, which will ultimately maximize the financial return for the beneficiaries, Idaho students,” Superintendent Luna said. “A no vote would have been a vote for the status quo, resulting in no additional revenues for schools.”

The Land Board owns 521 cottage site properties on Payette and Priest Lakes and controls the rate on the leases. In February, the Land Board voted to give the Department of Lands one year to come up with a plan for disposing of cottage site properties in order to maximize revenues for the endowment beneficiaries, Idaho’s public schools.

Superintendent Luna supported this measure in February. Instead of continuing to debate whether the endowment should be getting a 2.5%, 4% or 6% rate of return on these assets, Superintendent Luna supports selling the cottage site properties and using the money to invest in assets that yield higher returns. The endowments would yield a return of at least 8% if these high-value properties were sold and the proceeds used to purchase commercial or other high-return properties.

~ Melissa M.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nonprofit Group Shows Legislators a Unique Way to Bring Math, Science to the Classroom

The North Idaho Discovery Association (NIDA), a non-profit organization that provides hands-on science and technology experiences to students, was at the Idaho Legislature today, presenting to House and Senate Education Committee members.

The committee heard from NIDA founder Dr. Lorna Finman as well as students from Post Falls High School and vocational technical teacher Sal Lorenzen. (Lorenzen won the Governor’s Industry Award for Notable Teaching in Science -- GIANTS -- award in 2009.)

NIDA offers free science and technology programs to Idaho schools to engage more students in the fields of math, science and engineering.  One of its most popular programs is FIRST Robotics.  Through this program, students learn to build and program robots and then compete against other students across the state, region and nation.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna helped expand this program last year with funding from the State Department of Education. Currently, between 500-600 middle school students participate in these robotics programs.

Students demonstrated their robotics skills at the House and Senate Education Committee hearings today, operating the LEGO mind storm robot as it passed out glowing star necklaces and light sabers to the legislators. They went on to testify that the robotics program makes math and science applicable, motivates students to learn, and compels students to go on to post-secondary education.

Right now, NIDA is also in the process of building a new Science, Technology, and Research Center in Rathdrum with hands-on exhibits and education/research facilities for students to use. 

Visit the North Idaho Discovery Association's web site for more information about its programs.

~ Melissa M.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Superintendent Luna Argues for Right to Reject Salary Increase

It looks like this session will be the session the Idaho Legislature finally addresses a critical issue Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has brought up for two years in a row: the right for Constitutional officers to refuse pay increases.

At issue is the fact that under Idaho Code, the Legislature currently has the ability to reject their own pay raises, but Constitutional officers do not.  For two years, Superintendent Luna has asked for the same authority. This session, it will likely be resolved.

Superintendent Luna has asked the Idaho Legislature to take action each time he has stood before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC).

“Constitutional officers continue to receive pay increases even in this tough economic time, and it is not right. This must change,” Superintendent Luna said during his presentation to JFAC on January 28. “My employees and other state employees are taking furlough days, while the state is forcing its Constitutional Officers to take pay raises. We should not be taking this additional money from taxpayers at a time when Idahoans are losing their jobs and taking pay cuts.”

Under the current system, the Superintendent’s annual salary is set by the Legislature, and according to an Attorney General’s opinion published last year, it’s illegal for any constitutional officer to refuse an increase in pay. The opinion states that even in tight budget years – while all other programs and salaries are being cut – no Constitutional officer can refuse a raise or take a decrease in pay. Instead, they can donate the money, which Superintendent Luna did last year.  But he still does not believe this is fair.

That is why he is currently working with legislative leadership and other constitutional officers to pass legislation that will finally give constitutional officers the right to reject pay increases.

We’ll keep you posted on the legislation’s progress.

For more information, check out a recent Times-News article on the issue.

~ Melissa M.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Department Welcomes Comments on Draft Common Core State Standards

The first official draft of the K-12 Common Core State Standards was released today for public comment.

Idaho is one of the 51 states, territories and District of Columbia that has signed on to this state-led initiative to develop common, internationally benchmarked standards in math and English language arts.

The State Department of Education is inviting educators, parents and citizens from across Idaho to submit their comments and feedback on these draft standards by April 2.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative builds directly on recent efforts of leading organizations and states that have focused on developing college- and career-ready standards and ensure that these standards can be internationally benchmarked to top-performing countries around the world.

After this public comment period, NGA and CCSSO will release the final Common Core State Standards this Spring. At that point, Idaho will begin the rulemaking process for these standards by taking these to the State Board of Education for initial approval, opening them up to public comment period statewide, returning to the State Board for final approval and then taking the standards to the Legislature for final approval in the 2011 Legislature.

Adopting the common core standards is voluntary.  Idaho may also choose to include additional standards beyond the common core as long as the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in math and English language arts. The second phase of this initiative is to ultimately develop common assessments aligned to the core standards developed through the process.

To view the draft standards and submit your comments, visit www.corestandards.org.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Superintendent Luna, Attorney General Unveil New ProtecTeens DVD

Facebook. MySpace. Texting. These are the ways kids communicate these days, but at times, they can also be risks for Idaho children across the state.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna joined Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa today in releasing the new ProtecTeens Version 3.0, a completely updated Internet safety program to inform and assist parents regarding the dangers children face from sexual predators and other risks on the Internet.

“We know this is an issue our students face today. According to a recent survey of high school students statewide, 17.7 percent said they had been electronically bullied, whether through e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging or some other form,” Superintendent Luna said. “Until a student is free from intimidation and fear, they will never be completely free to learn. ProtecTeens is an important component in our efforts to encourage healthy behaviors in cyber space.”

ProtecTeens consists of a 25-minute video presentation, the Attorney General’s Internet Safety Manual, A Parents’ Guide to Social Networking Websites, The Internet Lingo Dictionary, The Family Contract for Internet Safety, and information about parental control software.

The new ProtecTeens video includes sections covering:
·    general Internet risks and safe practices;
·    social networking websites;
·    online chat and instant messaging;
·    cell phones and “sexting”;
·    online gaming and virtual worlds; and
·    cyberbullying.

“We tend to take our electronic technology for granted these days, but if you think about the devices you use today, and the way you use them, the technology has changed considerably since we produced the original ProtecTeens program in 2005,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. “This new video addresses many of those changes in technology and includes subjects that were not even on the radar screen five years ago. We have also completely revised and updated the supporting publications. All of the ProtecTeens components are packaged on a single DVD that includes the video and printed materials in English and in Spanish.”

“We think we’ve created a program that every parent with teenage children should watch,” Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said. “It has a good discussion of the benefits and risks kids face online, and it can really help parents minimize those risks.”

You can order a free copy of the ProtecTeens video or free copies of supporting publications through the Attorney General’s website.

In addition to Attorney General, Superintendent Luna and Secretary of State, the ProtecTeens partnership includes: Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, First Lady Lori Otter, the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Idaho Sheriffs Association, the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association, the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho PTA and the Idaho Medical Association.

~ Melissa M.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Moscow Charter School Student Wins Inland Northwest Spelling Bee

The Lewiston Tribune reported yesterday that Ian Wendt, a sixth-grade student at Moscow Charter School in Moscow, Idaho won the Inland Northwest Spelling Bee.  Wendt defeated the defending champion of the pasty three years by correctly spelling the word “rejoneador,” a horse-mounted bullfighter.

Competitors spelled complex words such as “jamacar,” “euphemism,” “exacerbate,” “fete,” and “schnecke.”

The article quotes Wendt as saying, “The main reason I was so excited about winning is I get to fly on a plane for the first time.  I always wanted to be on one.”  The plane ride Wendt is referring to is a trip to Washington, D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in June.

The full article can be found online by clicking here

-Camille W.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Idaho Students Honored for 'Women Making Policy' Essays

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter recognized three Idaho high school students today for their award-winning essays in the “Idaho Young Women Making Policy” essay contest.

The contest, which celebrates National Women’s History Month in March, asked young women to write an essay on how they would use State public policy to create change or promote an idea.

Winners of the essay contest included:
  • First Place- Stephanie Turner of Boise, a student at Borah High School, who will receive a $1,000 scholarship funded by State Farm Insurance.  Stephanie’s essay focused on the importance of passing stricter laws related to cell phone use while driving.
  • Second Place- Natalie Eguez of Boise, a student at Borah High School, who will receive a $400 State Farm Insurance scholarship.
  • Third Place- Hailey Eggleston of Meridian, a student at Mountain View High School.
Governor Otter recognized the contest winners at a ceremony in his office today.  The winners will also spend the afternoon with female members of the Governor’s Cabinet and participate in a “Women Making Herstory” dinner.

-Camille W.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Limited English Proficient and Migrant Program Awards

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna today recognized the work of four educators and two schools that have made great strides in working with Limited English Proficient (LEP) and migrant students.

Through the federally funded LEP program, the State Department of Education created the Idaho LEP Educator of the Year and Program of Excellence awards to recognize those making strides in achievement among LEP students and to share their best practices with other schools across Idaho. The Department also awarded the 2010 Migrant Family Liaison of the Year Award.

The LEP Educator of the Year recipients will receive $1,000 each; the LEP Programs of Excellence will receive $2,500 each. The Migrant Family Liaison of the Year will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the National Migrant Education Conference.

“These educators and programs serve as great examples of the excellent work I see as I visit schools across Idaho,” Superintendent Luna said. “Through these awards, we are able to recognize the great work of these educators and communities and share their success stories with others.”

The following is a list of recipients and a brief description of why they won the awards.

Recipients of the 2010 Idaho LEP Educator of the Year Award:
·    Administrator Award Recipient: Tim Rosandick, Superintendent of Homedale School District.
Rosandick’s leadership, expertise, and active involvement in the evaluation and development of the Homedale School District’s LEP program have been instrumental in its success. Under his leadership, the district has significantly increased the number of LEP students making AYP in reading and math, exceeding the state average among LEP students and also earning a State Board of Education Exceptional Growth Award.
“Tim’s leadership skills, his ability to listen intently, and his passion for providing the best education for Homedale’s students are qualities that are not pre-packaged, ready to pull off the shelf, but have been formed from the years of experience and knowledge that he brings to the job of Superintendent.” –Luci Asumendi-Mereness, Homedale Middle School Principal
·    Teacher Award Recipient: Olivia Lynn Tate, ESL teacher, Mountain View High School, Meridian School District.
As the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Mountain View High, Tate works effectively and collaboratively with her fellow teachers to ensure her students have every opportunity to access and succeed in the general content areas. Tate has had the joy of helping her LEP students become involved in school, reach graduation, and go on to postsecondary education. Tate shares her expertise through presentations and in-service trainings focusing on culture, instructional practices, language acquisition, modification strategies for LEP students, and much more.
“I cannot say enough good about her.  In my opinion, she goes far above and beyond the requirements of her teaching contract.  She has always been readily available by phone, email, or home visit to answer our questions and help guide us in decisions we needed to make regarding our son.  She knows each ELL student individually.  She not only knows their academic capabilities, but is well aware of their unique struggles and emotional strengths and weaknesses.” –Luann Gray, Mountain View High School Parent
·    Paraprofessional Award Recipient: Dulfia Vasquez, Bilingual Paraprofessional, Dietrich School, Dietrich School District
Vasquez has more than 18 years of experience teaching in Idaho and Mexico. She is known for her professionalism and ongoing desire to stay current with educational research and best practices. Her greatest strength is her constant advocacy for Migrant and LEP students and their families, which are seen in the form of interpreting/translating, cultural mediation, parent education, and staff education. However, Vasquez’s greatest reward comes in seeing her LEP and Migrant students graduate from high school and enroll in postsecondary education with many of them earning scholarships.
“I had never been out of Mexico when I came to Dietrich School last year.  I did not speak any English.  I met Mrs. Vasquez my first day of school and she made me feel comfortable right away.  She was very kind by explaining to me the differences in culture and encouraging me to keep trying.  My classmates have told me how well I speak English and I owe this to Mrs. Vasquez.  Though I have graduated from needing Mrs. Vasquez’s help, I still stop by and say Hi because I miss seeing her everyday.” –Reina Venegas, Eighth Grade Student at Dietrich School

Recipients of the 2010 Idaho LEP Program of Excellence Award:
·    Elementary Program Award: Wendell Elementary School, Wendell School District
Wendell Elementary School’s English as a New Language (ENL) philosophy begins and ends with the word “collaboration.” They firmly believe that English Language Learner (ELL) students can best be served if every staff member, every teacher, and every administrator becomes an enthusiastic stakeholder in the lives of each ENL student and family. Wendell Elementary understands that the ELL students’ academic needs are crucial, and must be accompanied by wise and compassionate attention to physical, psychological, cultural, and linguistic needs.
“Wendell Elementary School’s LEP program provides excellent Tier 1 and 2 interventions that really make a difference to our students.  Our LEP staff work closely with regular classroom teachers to review the necessary Tier 1 accommodations.  In addition, an outstanding LEP program must involve the parents in the education of their students.  Wendell Elementary has an LEP staff dedicated to these parents and their students.” –Greg M. Lowe, Superintendent of Wendell School District
·    Secondary Program Award: Mountain View High School, Meridian School District
The philosophy of Mountain View High School’s LEP program is based on the belief that LEP students are best served by addressing the unique academic needs of each student, collaborating and communicating with LEP families, and by supporting content area teachers within the building. At Mountain View High, students are supported through the creation of individualized, appropriate education plans designed to enhance students’ language and academic learning, as well as provide for their social and cultural growth. The school helps foster successful and productive students by creating collaborative communities with authentic parent involvement and communication, meaningful staff development and instructional support, and a belief that serving LEP students does not stop at the door of the LEP classroom.
“The ELL program saved my education.  It was my beacon in the fog.  When I began my education in the United States, I was more lost than being in a desert.  I did not know anything, from not knowing the language to not knowing the culture.  The ELL program directly affected my ability to be successful in my education.  This program promotes an interest in taking on new challenges head on instead of dropping out.  I can truly say that this program is responsible for me attending the university.  If it had not been for the ELL program, I would not be where I am now- pursuing my dream of one day graduating from the university.” –Maria Cruz Vanegas Rodriguez, former Mountain View High School LEP Student

Recipient of the 2010 Migrant Family Liaison of the Year Award:

·    Mary Lou Olivas, Twin Falls School District

Olivas was recognized as the 2010 Migrant Family Liaison of the Year. Olivas has been a migrant family liaison for 34 years in the Twin Falls School District. She serves approximately 70 migrant students and their families during the regular school year and 100+ during summer school. One of her greatest accomplishments is her ability to establish and maintain a high level of trust and confidence with the migrant community. She is seen as the “godmother” to the migrant families. She spends time with families in the evening assisting with finances, bill paying, shopping, medical needs and many other things. She has gone above and beyond on behalf of the migrant community countless times over her 34 years of service.

-Camille W.

First Lady Recognizes Idaho School at National Conference

The Gooding School District in Gooding, Idaho has received national attention this week – from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The First Lady was the keynote at the School Nutrition Association Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 1st.  In her remarks, she highlighted some of the great work the Gooding School District and community has done to improve health and nutrition for its students.

Here’s the excerpt from the First Lady’s remarks:

“Anji Baumann, the Child Nutrition Director for Gooding, Idaho, she has local farmers grow fresh fruits and vegetables specifically for her school district.  And I hear her staff makes many foods from scratch –- including spaghetti and baked goods.  In fact, they even came up with a recipe that uses pureed beans as a substitute for some of the oil in chocolate cake –- and it was so tasty that none of the students even noticed.”

The Gooding School District is no stranger to the national spotlight.  Last year, Gooding Elementary School became the first school in the nation to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s prestigious Gold of Distinction Award for improving student health, nutrition and physical fitness.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton traveled to Gooding for the award announcement.

The Gold of Distinction Award is the highest achievement in the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge program, recognizing schools that have demonstrated excellence in promoting nutrition and physical activity.

The HealthierUS School Challenge has four levels of awards: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold of Distinction. In 2006, Gooding Elementary became the first school in the western United States to achieve the Gold-level Award.  Now, it is the first school in the nation to receive the Gold of Distinction.

To earn this award, Gooding Elementary had to meet rigorous standards for nutrition and physical activity. The school had to serve nutritious meals every day that included a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and low-fat and fat-free milk. Foods sold outside the cafeteria in vending machines, school stores and school fundraisers also had to meet strict health standards.

The school ensures students get at least 90 minutes of physical education each week and provides daily unstructured activities to provide additional opportunities for physical activity. To reinforce these standards, Gooding Elementary provides nutrition education to all students.

“We are honored the First Lady has recognized Gooding nationally for our great achievements,” said Dr. Heather Williams, superintendent of the Gooding School District. “We could not have done it without the support of our staff, the staff at the State Department of Education and the agricultural community here in Gooding and across Idaho. As a fourth-generation Idaho farm kid who is now raising and educating the next generation of Idaho kids, I believe it is critical to promote health and nutrition in school by working with community partners. That is why the Gooding School District has been so successful – our dedicated staff, community partnerships, and above all our amazing kids!”

Read the full text of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech.

If your school is interested in applying for the HealthierUS Challenge, please contact the State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Programs office. We are here to offer one-on-one technical assistance to any Idaho school interested in meeting the requirements.

~ Melissa M.

16 States Named Finalists for Race to the Top

The U.S. Department of Education just notified all states of the first-round finalists for the federal Race to the Top grant. Unfortunately, Idaho has not been named as a finalist in this first round.

The following states were named as finalists today: Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

“I am disappointed Idaho has not been awarded in the first round, but from the beginning, I made it clear that I thought Idaho had a 50-50 chance.  Still, I thought it was worth the effort to apply,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said today. “This is a highly competitive grant, with 41 states applying in the first round, and I believe Idaho still has an opportunity in the second round. Once we receive the peer reviewers’ feedback on Idaho’s initial application, we will work to improve the grant before we reapply in the second round in June.”

“Everyone that applied for Race to the Top is charting a path for education reform in America,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a news release. “I salute all of the applicants for their hard work. And I encourage non-finalists to reapply for phase 2.”

The finalists will travel to Washington, D.C. to make a presentation. Recipients will be announced in April 2010.  States that are not awarded in the first round are able to submit applications in the second round in June 2010.

Read the U.S. Department of Education’s full press release online.

~ Melissa M.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

JFAC Approves Public Schools Budget Agreed Upon by Superintendent Luna, Stakeholders

The Legislature’s budget-setting committee today approved a 7.5 percent reduction to the public schools budget for fiscal year 2011.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and educational stakeholder groups representing teachers, administrators and school board trustees had worked with legislators on crafting the budget for the upcoming school year and agreed to the proposal before it was approved Monday.

“While no one is happy with this budget to cut public education, I am pleased we were able to come to consensus and craft a budget that will preserve student-teacher contact hours and those programs that get into the classroom and have the most immediate, positive impact on student achievement,” Superintendent Luna said. 

The budget approved by Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) today includes the $27.5 million in additional revenues Superintendent Luna secured from the State Board of Land Commissioners and other sources within the State Department of Education.

After adding in the funding for estimated growth in student enrollment next year, Idaho public schools budget will be reduced by $128.5 million, or 7.5 percent, next school year. Previously, the shortfall for public schools for FY2011 had been estimated to be between $135 million to $160 million.

Here are the major changes that JFAC has approved to the public schools budget for FY2011, which begins July 1:

  • Funding for teacher and classified staff salaries was reduced by 4 percent. The funding for administrator salaries was reduced by 6.5 percent. The experience and education movement on the grids for all certificated staff are frozen for FY2011.
  • Funding for technology, teacher incentive award, programs for expectant or delivered mothers, gifted and talented, classroom supplies, textbooks, and Safe and Drug-Free Schools programs was moved from line items within the public schools budget into discretionary funding to give districts more flexibility in how they fund these programs next year.
  • Funding for the Idaho Reading Initiative, Idaho Math Initiative and ISAT Remediation funding was combined into one line item and reduced by $2.4 million, or 20 percent.
  • Funding for Limited English Proficient (LEP) was reduced by $2 million, or 33 percent. The $2 million was moved to discretionary funding.
  • Funding for transportation was reduced by 10 percent in addition to eliminating funding for field trips.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Senate Education Committee Hears Charter Schools Bill

The Senate Education Committee voted today to send a bill raising Idaho’s charter school cap to the full Senate. The bill, introduced by Senator John Goedde (R-Coeur d’Alene), would allow for additional charter petitions to be accepted should those charters serve traditionally underserved populations.

Senator Goedde introduced Senate Bill 1364 in relation to Idaho’s application for the competitive federal Race to the Top grant program. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that states have caps on the growth of charter schools would be at a competitive disadvantage of being awarded a grant from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund. Idaho currently has a cap limiting the number of new public charter schools that can open in a year to six.

Superintendent Luna, a proponent of choice within public education, testified in favor of the bill. “If we pass this law, it will not hurt our ability to compete,” Luna told the committee. “It may help us get the extra few points we need if we are unsuccessful in being award in the first round and apply again in the future.”

The committee voted to send the bill to the amending order. The full text of Senate Bill 1364 can be found online here.

-Camille W.

Superintendent Luna Takes Part in Read Across America

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna read to students at Koelsch Elementary School in Boise this morning as part of Read Across America day.

Read Across America is the National Education Association’s annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

At Koelsch Elementary, Superintendent Luna donned a Dr. Seuss hat and spent time reading with first-grade students. He read the children’s book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. After the reading, Superintendent Luna encouraged the students to read every day and continue to be successful in school.

Superintendent Luna will also be at Mountain View Elementary School in Boise this evening to take part in a family reading night. 

~ Melissa M.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Professional Development Grants Now Available for Teachers

The Idaho Professional Standards Commission is offering Professional Development Grants for educators. In this tough economy, this is a great way for teachers and other educators to still gain professional development opportunities.

Grants for up to $500 will be made available for activities that include conference registration costs, travel, cost for substitutes, etc. Grant monies cannot be used to obtain credit.

Grant proposals will be evaluated based on the following:
• Professional development activity potential for demonstrated impact on classroom teaching
• Clarity of statement regarding the project’s potential for enhancing teaching practice
• Number of people (teachers, students, parents, stakeholders, etc.) impacted
• Appropriate budget

Click here to download a grant application or learn more about the grant. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2010.

~ Melissa M.

Race to the Top Finalists Could Be Announced This Week

The states that are finalists for the first round of the federal Race to the Top grant application could be announced as early as this week, according to buzz from the U.S. Department of Education and national education blogs. 

Race to the Top is a highly competitive federal grant that will award $4.35 billion to a handful of states to implement reforms and innovations in K-12 education. The grants will be awarded in two rounds. The first round will be officially announced in April 2010. First round finalists will be invited to Washington, D.C. for interviews as early as this week. If states are not awarded in the first round, they can re-apply in June 2010.

Idaho applied for $120 million to implement reforms and innovations in several areas, including pay-for-performance, evaluations for teachers and administrators, statewide data collection systems, dual credit for high school students, and school improvement efforts.

More than half of Idaho’s school districts and public charter schools signed on to participate if Idaho is awarded the grant application. Read Idaho’s Race to the Top grant application online.

~ Melissa M.

JFAC Postpones Vote on Public Schools Budget

The Legislature's budget-setting committee postponed a vote on the fiscal year 2011 public schools budget until later this week. 

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) was originally scheduled to vote on the public schools budget this morning, but has now rescheduled that vote until Wednesday, March 3.

As has been reported in the media, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has been working with legislators and members of educational stakeholder groups to craft a public schools budget that will maintain his two priorities: preserve student-teacher contact hours and those programs that get into the classroom and have the most positive, immediate impact on student achievement.

We will keep you posted on the blog and via Facebook and Twitter.

~ Melissa M.