Monday, September 27, 2010

2nd Annual Idaho Math Cup Kicks Off Today

The second annual Idaho Math Cup kicks off today in schools across the state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced.

As part of the Idaho Math Initiative, Apangea Math hosts the annual Idaho Math Cup, which challenges students to build their math skills by solving more complex math problems.

“The Idaho Math Cup has been a great success in motivating Idaho’s kids even more to build a strong foundation in math and improve on the great progress they have made,” Superintendent Luna said.

The Idaho Math Cup contest runs September 27 through October 24.  During this month, classes of students will compete to solve problems on Apangea Math. The winning class will bring home the Idaho Math Cup along with a class grand prize, which includes a “Family Activity Pack.” The contest also features individual prizes for students, including a Nintendo Wii Bundle, iPod Touches or retail gift cards.

Last year, students in Mr. John Keiser’s 6th grade class at White Pine Elementary School in Boise won the statewide Idaho Math Cup. The students were so excited about the competition, they began showing up at school as early as 7 a.m. to work on Apangea – more than an hour before school started at 8:45 a.m.

For full details, visit the Idaho Math Cup page on Facebook.

Apangea Math, a web-based supplemental math instruction tool, has helped raise student achievement in mathematics by providing extra assistance to students who struggle in math and advanced opportunities to those students who excel.

Take a look at this video to see how Apangea Math has made a real difference in the lives of students at White Pine Elementary School in Boise as well as other schools across Idaho.

~ Melissa M.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Superintendent Luna Announces Holiday Card Contest

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna today called for elementary students across Idaho to participate in the annual Holiday Card Contest.

“The Holiday Card Contest is a great opportunity for elementary students from across the state to showcase their artistic abilities and for us all to recognize the importance of arts in education,” Superintendent Luna said.

The contest is open to all public school students in grades K-6. One drawing will be selected to be published on the State Department of Education’s website and used as the Department’s holiday greeting card. The child who submits the selected artwork will receive cards for his or her own use. 

The following is a list of instructions for the 2010 Holiday Card Contest:
  1. The contest is open to public school students in grades K-6.
  2. Drawings should reflect winter scenes in Idaho appropriate for seasonal correspondence, and should not include copyrighted images such as Garfield the Cat, Bugs Bunny, Digimon characters, etc.
  3. Drawings should be on 8.5” by 11” paper in a landscape format.
  4. Drawings must be properly labeled. Write the name of the student, the student’s grade, district, school, and the teacher's name on the back of the artwork. Please make sure this information is legible. (If you submit multiple grade levels, please keep the entries for each grade level separate.)
  5. Students may use as many colors as they wish in their drawings and may use watercolors, colored paper, magic markers, crayons, or some combination. Bold colors work best for the printing process. Please note: Fabric designs and pencil drawings are not suitable to our printing process and will not be selected.
  6. Students must be advised that entry into this contest constitutes (1) a waiver of all copyrights students have in their entries, and (2) permission to republish entries without compensation.
  7. Drawings will not be returned.
  8. The winning entries from each grade level will be published on the Idaho State Department of Education website
  9. Submissions must be postmarked by Friday, November 5, 2010. Results will be announced in December.
  10. Drawings may be mailed to: State Department of Education, ATTN: Melissa McGrath, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0027
If you have questions, please contact Melissa McGrath.

~ Melissa M.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Applications for Idaho Science & Aerospace Scholars Program Now Available

Idaho’s high school juniors can apply now to take part in the exciting second year of the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program.

Through this competitive program, students from across Idaho take an engaging online course in space exploration and learn a broad range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills aligned with Idaho’s content standards. Based on their performance in this course, students are then selected to participate in a weeklong, all-expenses-paid, residential Summer Academy at Boise State University and NASA Ames Research Center in California.

“The Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program and Summer Academy give Idaho students the unprecedented opportunity to work directly with experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at NASA and throughout Idaho,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I am excited we have been able to secure a grant from NASA and expand this program to even more students statewide this year.”

Last year, more than 70 high school juniors participated in the inaugural Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program. Based on this success, the State Department of Education received a $1.2 million grant from NASA to expand the program over the next two years. The state plans to serve 180 students this year.

Superintendent Luna worked with astronaut and Boise State Distinguished Educator-in-Residence Barbara Morgan in 2009 to create this competitive program in Idaho. The State Department of Education funded the initial pilot year with help and support from partners, such as Boise State University, Idaho Digital Learning Academy, Discovery Center of Idaho, Micron Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Air National Guard, University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

Students can learn more about the experience of the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Summer Academy by checking out our live blog of this summer’s events or downloading ISAS Alumni Presentation.

If you know of any high school juniors who have a passion for STEM subjects, please urge them to apply for this outstanding program. The application deadline is November 15, 2010.

Apply now!

If you have questions during the application process, please contact Dr. Val Schorzman at (208) 332-6920 or

~ Melissa M.

Idaho Secures Grant to Improve School Safety

Idaho has been awarded a $125,000 federal grant to continue its work in ensuring every student across our state attends school in a safe and secure environment, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced this week.

“The safety and security of Idaho’s kids is of the highest importance. Our students will never truly be free to learn until they are free from fear,” Superintendent Luna said.

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week Idaho is one of 28 states to receive a Building State Capacity for Preventing Youth Substance Use and Violence program competitive grant. States use this grant funding to support local school districts and public charter schools in their efforts to create and sustain safe and drug-free school environments.

The Idaho State Department of Education will specifically use the $125,000 it receives to maintain its structure of support and technical assistance for Idaho’s public schools and communities across Idaho. The Department will provide hands-on training and create guidance for students, school staff and community stakeholders on how they can work together to mitigate and prevent underage drinking, suicide, bullying and truancy to improve student achievement.

Since taking office in 2007, Superintendent Luna has worked to improve the safety and security of Idaho’s schools.  He spearheaded the Safe and Secure Schools Assessment in 2007, which provided baseline data on school safety and security and brought about meaningful recommendations on ways in which Idaho schools could improve.

Superintendent Luna has also awarded $50,000 to Idaho schools to implement the highly successful Rachel’s Challenge program, which prevents bullying and intimidation among schoolchildren.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

IDLA Announces New CEO

After eight years at the helm, Idaho Digital Learning Academy’s CEO Donna Hutchison has accepted a notable position with a national online school. This fall, Hutchison will become Regional Vice President with Connections Academy.

“This job offer is a direct reflection on IDLA’s reputation as a national leader in 21st Century learning,” said Hutchison. “As a founding member of IDLA, I am sad to leave the organization, but I am looking forward to the challenge of advancing online learning by serving students at a regional and national level.”

At Hutchison’s recommendation, the IDLA Board of Directors appointed veteran administrator, Cheryl Charlton to take over the role of Chief Executive Officer. For the past three years, Charlton has been IDLA’s Chief Operating Officer.

“I am excited to elevate my role within this outstanding organization,” said Charlton. “The demand for our online services continues to grow and we will continue to serve the needs of students throughout Idaho.”

In 2002, Idaho Digital Learning was created by the Idaho Legislature and Idaho School Administrator Association. Since its inception, it has served more than 40,000 students in nearly all of Idaho’s school districts!

“We are proud of IDLA’s accomplishments and its service to Idaho students under the direction of Donna Hutchison,” said George Boland, IDLA Board Chairman. “We are not surprised that her talents are being recognized at the national level. We are also delighted that Cheryl Charlton will succeed Donna as the next visionary leader of IDLA.”

 “I will always remain passionate about the importance of IDLA and its role in the future of online learning and opportunities for students,” said Hutchison. “It has been a job of a lifetime!”

Charlton will take over as CEO effective November 1, 2010.

~ Melissa M.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Superintendent Luna Marks Constitution Day with School Visits

BOISE – Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna visited Kellogg High School this morning to celebrate Constitution Day by speaking with students about the importance of the U.S. Constitution.

Constitution Day is September 17, commemorating the day in 1787 when our country’s founders signed the United States Constitution.

“Constitution Day is an important day each year because it gives us the opportunity to celebrate the miracle in Philadelphia and teach students about the U.S. Constitution, which is the foundation of our republic and remains the supreme law of the land to this day,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said.

All public schools in Idaho and across the country are required to teach about the U.S. Constitution on September 17.  Lessons about the U.S. Constitution help Idaho’s students to better understand the role of a citizen in a constitutional republic and the importance of respecting and obeying laws enacted by the Idaho Legislature and Congress of the United States.

On Thursday, September 16, Superintendent Luna spent the morning in the Kootenai School District in Harrison, where he spoke with high school juniors about the history of the U.S. Constitution and the role it still plays in our lives today.  The Superintendent visited all the schools in the Kootenai district, reading to 2nd grade students, seeing an innovative graphic design program first-hand, and listening to the district’s plans to offer more educational opportunities for students through the Idaho Education Network.

~Niccole B.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Idaho Students Outpace Peers Nationally on SAT

BOISE – Idaho students continue to outperform their peers nationally and in neighboring states on the SAT, according to the most recent results.

“I am excited to see Idaho students continue to outpace students nationally and their peers in Washington, Oregon and other surrounding states on the SAT. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure every student is college- and career-ready after high school, but I celebrate the great achievements our students have made so far and look forward to building on this progress,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said.

The SAT is a college readiness exam that students take when applying for undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States. The SAT measures students’ skills in critical reading, mathematics and writing.

On average, Idaho students scored a 1601. That’s well above the national average score of 1509 and above students in most of Idaho’s surrounding states. For example, students in Washington State scored an average 1564, and Oregon students scored an average 1546, according to the 2010 SAT results.

Here is how Idaho students, on average, scored when compared to students around the country in each subject area:

Idaho National average

Critical Reading 543 501

Mathematics 541 516

Writing 517 492

Total 1601 1509

To see the full report on the 2010 SAT scores, visit

Superintendent Luna has played a lead role in the Education Alliance of Idaho, a coalition of leaders in the education and business communities throughout Idaho working to ensure every Idaho student not only graduates from high school but graduates prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.

Learn more about the Education Alliance of Idaho and its plan to improve education statewide at

Great job students!

~Niccole B.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Governor Otter, Superintendent Luna Recognize Idaho Education Network Heroes

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna recognized nine pioneering educators today on the first anniversary of the Idaho Education Network (IEN).

The “Talk” awards highlight innovative uses of Idaho’s new super high-speed, interactive educational network that makes real-time, two-way education possible. Each recipient’s school will receive a $250 prize to use toward further innovation via the IEN.

 “After just one year, approximately 40 percent of Idaho high schools and more than 33,000 students are connected to the Idaho Education Network,” Governor Otter said.  “These awards highlight educators who are leading the way in tapping the full and incredible potential of this new technology.”

To demonstrate the power of the network’s technology, the Governor and Superintendent Luna made the presentations live from the State Department of Education, connecting with high schools statewide.

The IEN equips high school classrooms with giant screens and multiple cameras powered by fiber-optic technology, which allows students and teachers to “visit” virtually anywhere in the world, and to talk and learn from others in real time, face to face.  The technology provides schools with significantly more bandwidth, and in the case of some schools, it’s ten times the capacity prior to the IEN.

A primary purpose of the system is to increase access to educational opportunities in Idaho’s schools, especially in rural communities. 

“Every day we strive to meet the needs of all students, no matter where they live or what they want to be when they grow up. The IEN will help us accomplish this goal,” Superintendent Luna said. “The IEN bridges the digital divide between urban and rural communities in Idaho, providing unprecedented educational opportunities to students regardless of where they live in our great state.  Now, students have access to any high school or college-level course via the IEN.”

Currently, 33,674 students at 80 Idaho high schools (40 percent statewide) have access to the IEN.  By the end of the 2010-2011 school year, another 80 high schools will be connected to the IEN, and by mid-2012, all of Idaho’s 82,000 students at 200 public high schools will be connected.

Want to learn more about the IEN? Check out the IEN's new website and see videos of how Idaho teachers and principals are using it to improve student achievement statewide.      

Here are the recipients of the 2010 “Talk” awards are:

Cindy Albertson, counselor at Sandpoint High School (Lake Pend Oreille School District).  Cindy was introduced to the IEN last year and found that she had four high school students who were willing and ready to take a Calculus II class their senior year.  Last spring and summer, Cindy led the charge to bring in a class from Dave Gural at Eagle High School.  She received interest from Northwestern University and the University of Idaho for an online class, but ultimately selected to receive a class from one of Idaho’s best teachers. Sandpoint students will begin class with Gural over the IEN this fall.

Steve Higgins, principal at Grangeville High School (Mountain View School District).   Grangeville is located in one of Idaho’s most rugged and remote areas of the state, making educational access a challenge.  Steve forged partnerships with Lewis and Clark State College and the neighboring Cottonwood School District to share classes over the IEN.  Because of Steve’s collaborative efforts, students in two high schools now will have increased educational opportunities, and both these districts will benefit from the efficiencies provided by the IEN. 

Dave Davies, principal at Weiser High School (Weiser School District).  Dave has been involved with the IEN since before its inception, cultivating the possibilities for students and communities using distance learning.  Because of Dave, the Weiser community has had workforce training and professional development opportunities provided by Idaho State University and the POST Academy.  Elementary and secondary students in his district have been introduced to the world on “field trips” to NASA and Alaska’s Sea Life Center.  Weiser High School has forged innovative partnerships with the Emmett School District to share a series of classes, and this fall will offer a speech class to the Murtaugh School District.

Dave Gural, Calculus II teacher at Eagle High School (Meridian School District). Dave was at first reluctant to teach over the IEN, but in doing so, he quickly became one of the hottest commodities in education.  Dave has been a champion in leveraging technology to deliver demanding and rigorous curricula.  Dave started out delivering his Eagle High advanced placement course concurrently with students at Emmett High School. This fall, he will include students at Sandpoint High School, more than 450 miles away. 

Michelle Capps, Superintendent of the Murtaugh School District.  Since the beginning, Michelle saw the IEN as a huge opportunity for her school district.  In a very short time, Michelle forged a partnership with Weiser High School to offer a speech class to her students.  To introduce her community to the IEN and showcase its possibilities, Michelle took residents – young and old – on a virtual dive at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  This demonstrated the power of the IEN through an eye-opening experience for many who rarely have the opportunity to leave Idaho.

Ben Allen, principal at Twin Falls High School (Twin Falls School District).  Because of Ben’s leadership, the Twin Falls School District is rapidly becoming the state leader in creating dual credit opportunities for students all over southern and eastern Idaho.  By partnering with the College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls High School is now offering college-level classes intra-district to students at Canyon Ridge High School, and out of district to high school students in the Jerome, Sugar Salem, Gooding, North Gem and Preston School Districts.

Melvin Beutler, Superintendent of the West Side School District. If you want to build a dual credit program where 95 percent of your high school seniors graduate with college credits, you need a champion like Melvin.  Last year, West Side High School juniors and seniors completed more than 800 college credits. West Side’s goal is for every student to graduate from high school with 20 college credits.  Melvin knows that a rigorous high school experience is what best prepares students to succeed in college.  West Side is setting the bar high statewide as Melvin’s vision is that his high school become a de facto community college, where all students graduate from high school with an associate’s degree. 

Jared Jenks, Sugar-Salem High School principal, and Jim Winn, Literature teacher (Sugar Salem School District.  Jared has been an outspoken advocate for the increased opportunities provided by the IEN.  In a very short time, he developed multiple dual credit opportunities for his students, encouraging his teachers to use the IEN as an innovative teaching tool and classroom resource.  He is currently working to offer the community professional-technical education opportunities in the energy field in conjunction with Idaho State University. 

Jim Winn used the IEN to provide real-world relevance to what students were learning in his class. Following readings about the Holocaust, students took a virtual tour of the Holocaust Museum in New York, followed by talking for an hour with a survivor.  Jim also arranged for a master’s degree program in Human Resources from Utah State University to be provided over the IEN. 

The name “Talk” awards reflects the fact that talking and sharing with others is fundamental to learning, and that the IEN offers a “face-to-face” experience that is the next best thing to being there in person.  “Talk” award winners also received $250 in prize money to be used to further use of the IEN (i.e. dual enrollment courses, field trips, professional development classes, etc). 

The IEN "Talk” awards were underwritten as a public service by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Prizes were underwritten by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Home Federal Bank, Intermountain Community Bank, K12 Inc, and Premier Technology, Inc.

~ Melissa M.

Idaho Receives Approval for $51.6 Million in Education Jobs Funding

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Idaho will receive $51.6 million to support education jobs across the state through the federal Education Jobs Fund.

“We will work to make the Education Jobs Funds available to Idaho’s schools and districts as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I continue to encourage our schools to use these funds over the next two years to focus on student achievement and preserve student-teacher contact time by keeping teachers and teaching aides in the classroom and restoring any instructional days that might have been lost.”

The Office of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter submitted Idaho’s application for its portion of the federal Education Jobs Fund on August 20. The application was approved this week.

The federal Education Jobs Fund was appropriated as part of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act that Congress and the President approved in August. Under the Education Jobs Fund, each state receives additional funding to save or create education jobs over the next 27 months. Each Idaho school district and public charter school has confirmed it will use this funding in the coming school years.

Superintendent Luna and Governor Otter have strongly encouraged Idaho’s school districts and public charter schools to use this funding effectively and efficiently to rehire classroom teachers who might have been laid off, to restore classroom time that has been lost, and to budget this funding over the next two years.

“We appreciate how quickly the Education Department processed our application. Superintendent Luna and I will do all we can to ensure the money is used efficiently and for improving classroom instruction, but at the end of the day it will be local school administrators who determine how to put the funding to work in the best interest of our students,” said Governor Otter.

Learn more about the Education Jobs Fund in Idaho.

~ Melissa M.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Governor, Superintendent Luna Address Idaho Students via Idaho Education Network

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna joined Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter this afternoon in delivering a back-to-school message from the Governor’s Ceremonial Office in the Capitol. The Governor and Superintendent interacted with students in three Idaho school districts via the Idaho Education Network.

It was Governor Otter’s first virtual office visit with Nezperce High School, New Plymouth High School and Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.

It was an opportunity for government students and student council members from each of the schools to hear from state leaders and report to them on some of the highlights of their areas of Idaho – all at the same time, and live via the IEN.

Many Idaho students with limited access to Boise and the Capitol were able to get the Governor’s perspectives on issues and share their thoughts on a variety of topics.  The Governor and students discussed such issues as wolves, agriculture, gas prices and their schools’ academic achievements.  Students at each of the high schools were well prepared to present their vision and ideas about their local community. They focused on ideas for economic development and tourism.

“I can see why so many of Idaho’s communities are so proud of their heritage and culture when they are so well represented by such talented young students. It makes me proud to be an Idahoan, and to bring this kind of technology to enhance their educational experience,” Governor Otter said.

The Governor and Superintendent Luna encouraged the students to challenge themselves by taking difficult classes to prepare for college, and whenever possible to take advantage of dual credit opportunities and other courses offered over the IEN that might not otherwise be available in their local schools. Governor Otter emphasized the possibilities for collaborating with their peers in other high schools on research and academic competition over the IEN.  

The Idaho Education Network celebrates its one year anniversary next Tuesday, September 14, at 3:30 p.m. MST from the Barbara Morgan Room on the 2nd floor of the Len B. Jordan Building, across State Street from the Capitol in Boise, by recognizing those administrators and teachers who have most creatively embraced the broadband technology in their classrooms. The Governor and Superintendent Luna will host the IEN “Talk” Awards ceremony to recognize these education pioneers.  

Check out photos from today’s event.

~ Melissa M.

Department to Host Regional Meetings on Common Core State Standards

Officials from the State Department of Education will be hitting the road in September to host a series of regional public meetings on the proposed K-12 Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English language arts.

Idaho has worked with 47 other states, two territories and the District of Columbia over the past year to develop these more rigorous, common standards in math and English language arts that are comparable with any country around the world. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have already adopted the Common Core State Standards.

“The Common Core State Standards are a voluntary, state-led effort to help ensure Idaho has a public education system that prepares all students to be successful in life after high school,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Idaho students are ready for this challenge.”

Idaho initially signed on to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative in June 2009. This Initiative builds directly on previous efforts of leading organizations and states that have focused on developing college- and career-ready standards. After a series of drafts, public comment periods and revisions, the final Common Core State Standards were published on June 2, 2010.

Adopting the Common Core State Standards is voluntary. Idaho is using the same process to adopt the proposed Common Core State Standards as it uses to adopt content standards each year.

The proposed standards were initially approved by the Idaho State Board of Education in August and are now available for public comment. The standards will go back before the State Board for official approval in November. If approved, the standards will go to the Idaho Legislature in January 2011 for final approval.

Content area experts in math and English language arts from the State Department of Education will be traveling across the state in September to explain how the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English compare to Idaho’s current standards and to answer questions and gather feedback.

These meetings are open to the public. Teachers, school administrators, parents, community members, and others are invited to attend.

Here is the schedule for the Common Core State Standards Regional Public Meetings:
  • September 14: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Idaho Falls (Ammon), Hillcrest High School, Library
  • September 15: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Pocatello, Idaho State University, Student Union Building Selway Room
  • September 16: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge High School, Room 301
  • September 22: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Coeur d’Alene, North Idaho College, Student Union Building
  • September 23: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Lewiston, Lewis-Clark State College, Sacajawea Room 112
  • September 29: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Meridian, Mountain View High School, Lecture Hall
If you are unable to attend a regional public meeting, you still have the opportunity to review the standards and comment on the State Department of Education’s website.

~ Melissa M.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tom Luna visits local school

From the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, Idaho.

Tom Luna visits local school
By John Bulger

"POCATELLO — Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna got to see the progress of one of his offspring Wednesday when he visited a local charter school.

No, Luna does not have a relative enrolled at the Academy at Roosevelt Center. Rather, Luna toured the school that bases its curriculum and philosophy on the Liberty Charter School in Nampa, which Luna helped establish during his seven years on the Nampa School Board.

The central credo of the schools is that a safe harbor, coupled with highly challenging content, equates to accelerated learning. Luna’s message was for the kids to take every benefit the school offers.

“There are thousands of students just like you all around the state of Idaho that are on waiting lists to go to a school like you are going to,” he said. “You are very privileged to be one of the students in Idaho that can attend a charter school.”

Luna said that schools such as the Academy are a critical component for the future of education by providing additional choices.

“Magnet schools and professional/technical opportunities, dual enrollment, alternative schools — all of those different choices are necessary if we’re going to make sure every child graduates, and not only graduates, but when they graduate from high school and go onto college or into the workforce ..., they do not need remediation,” he said.

Luna’s visit was to kick off the Academy’s newly established foundation to ensure the school’s future, including the expansion into a building that will accommodate a high school program.

“One of the things we don’t want to have happen is to lose out on human resources or program resources because of budget cuts. When a community rallies around and supports an organization like this, it keeps our doors open,” said Jonathan Braack, the academy’s assistant administrator.

The Academy has looked into purchasing the old Bonneville Elementary School at 320 N. Eighth Ave., but has also expressed interest in moving into the Grace Lutheran School facility if that school’s plans to occupy the vacant Ballard Medical facility can be wrangled. Last week, the City Council denied Grace Lutheran a conditional use permit in order to facilitate the purchase of the site.

“We’re just in a holding pattern,” Braack said, “just seeing what all works out.”

During his tour of the classrooms prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a science class interrupted its studies to give Luna its pledge, complete with accompanying pantomime.

“Those who take responsibility for their actions are the real winners in life,” the student recited. “It’s never too late or too early to begin. Time plays no favorites and will pass by whether you act or not.”

Luna applauded.

“I heard what you said in your pledge and ... I believe every bit of that,” he told the students. “What you’ve talked about is exactly what’s happened in my life.”"

"Idaho’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna fields questions Wednesday from students at the Academy at Roosevelt Center Charter School in Pocatello."

~Niccole B.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Governor, Superintendent Luna urge school leaders to use federal dollars wisely

(BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter submitted Idaho’s application today for its share of federal education funding recently appropriated by Congress, and he joined Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna in urging local school districts to use the money prudently.

The State Department of Education worked closely with school districts and charter schools eligible to share in the money on responding to an August 20th letter from the Governor announcing the State’s decision to apply for an additional $51.6 million in one-time federal funds for Idaho’s public schools. The Governor asked local districts to confirm their acceptance of the funding and encouraged them to devote any money they get to preserving student-teacher contact time.

“We know that budgets have been set and most schools now are under way. But as I wrote last month, it is important that our local school boards and superintendents have a say as well,” Governor Otter said. “Local school districts tell us they want the money, and how these funds are used ultimately rests in the hands of those same local school officials. So I want to make sure that they have plans in place for putting these taxpayer dollars to the best possible use.”

“With funding from the Education Jobs Fund, we will continue to make our students the priority, encouraging local school districts to use these funds effectively and prudently over the next 27 months to preserve student-teacher contact time by rehiring teachers and teaching aides and restoring any instructional days that might have been lost,” Superintendent Luna said.

The money was appropriated as part of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act. Governor Otter is concerned about the cost to taxpayers, but committed to ensuring that Idaho schoolchildren get the benefit of what Congress already has done.

“Funding for public schools remains one of our highest priorities for state government,” the Governor said on August 16th in announcing the decision to accept the federal funding. “The Legislature and I have put the largest percentage of General Fund dollars into K-12 education since 1989. With today’s decision I have directed more than $445 million in additional resources to public schools since 2009 to minimize the impact of State budget cuts. Over this same period, the unprecedented revenue decline has resulted in cutting the rest of State government by 19.5 percent.”

~Niccole B.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Farm to School Kick Off Event at Morley Nelson Elementary

Thursday, September 02, 2010 was an exciting day at Morley Nelson Elementary School. The school was chosen to host the Farm to School Kick Off Event for the Boise School District.

The Farm to School program is a joint effort between the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the child nutrition division of the Idaho Department of Education. It provides schools with locally grown fruits, veggies, and meats to serve at lunch time meals.

The fourth grade class at Morley Nelson got to be first in line to enjoy new lunches featuring locally grown foods. They had fish burgers made with Idaho rainbow trout from Clear Springs Foods in Hagerman. There was also corn, cantaloupe, tomatoes, salads, and lots more!
The anxious kids waited in line to have their turn at tasting the new healthy options available to them.
Jose Catalan said he thought the new foods tasted “extra yummy” and was excited to see what tomorrow’s lunch will have.

Leslie Encinas said, “My dad’s a farmer and I think some of the corn came from our fields!”

Kim Peterson of the Department of Agriculture explained, “This is just the start of a great way to support the local economies and to get kids eating healthier. All Boise schools will participate in September because it is Idaho preferred month since it’s harvest time. During September the local schools will offer a variety of local foods for students at all grade levels. Then for the remaining months of the school year, each school will offer at least one kind of local product each week.”

She went on to say, “This will make it so much easier for kids to make good eating choices and feel connected to their local communities.”

After all the kids had sat down and begun to eat their lunches, they got to hear from Idaho’s First Lady, Lori Otter.

Mrs. Otter started off by telling the kids, “You are what you eat.” To which they all laughed and began saying “I’m a burger” and “I’m a cantaloupe.”

She asked the students if any of them had gardens in their backyards and several raised their hands and shouted “I do!”

She went on to say, “Well farmers grow gardens just like you. They just have bigger backyards. And they want you to all grow up and be big and strong so they are giving you nutritious foods to enjoy at lunch time.”

After her speech, she went through the line and sampled some of the foods provided by the local farmers. After getting her meal, she sat down with the students and talked to them about the importance of working hard at school.
Peggy Bodnar, the supervisor of Food and Nutrition Services for the Boise School District told a funny story. She explained how they had snap peas available for lunch the other day. One student asked her if she had to eat the funny seeds inside it.

“It’s so sad that kids don’t have any idea that peas don’t come from the freezer or the microwave or a can. They actually come from a plant and are quite delicious,” said Bodnar.

*Farm to School is a national program that connects kindergarten through twelfth grade schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.

*More information can be found at

~Niccole B.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Idaho Takes Lead In Developing Next Generation of Assessments Nationwide

Way to go Idaho!!!

BOISE – Idaho is a leader in the 31-state consortium that was awarded a $160 million Race to the Top Assessment grant to build the next generation of assessments.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the grant award at a meeting of state educational leaders in Washington, D.C. today. The U.S. Department of Education awarded two federal Race to the Top Assessment grants: one to the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the other to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

Idaho is a governing state in the 31-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which applied for the grant in June. Idaho’s Deputy Superintendent of Assessment Dr. Carissa Miller has been elected to serve on the consortium’s executive committee that will administer and oversee the four-year grant.

“This is a great day for Idaho. We are becoming a national leader in many of our efforts, including our work to improve the assessment tools available to educators in the classroom,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Our goal is to ensure every student graduates from high school prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation. To accomplish this, we must have high-quality assessment tools in place to measure student progress throughout the school year and provide immediate feedback to parents, teachers and students.”

Idaho and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium states will use the grant money over four years to develop a comprehensive assessment system that measures student achievement in grades 3-8 and 11 and assesses problem solving and complex thinking skills. States will have the option of adding assessments in grades 9 and 10. The assessment system will include end-of-year assessments and assessment tools that teachers can use to measure student progress throughout the school year.

Specifically, the consortium of states will create state-of-the-art adaptive online exams. The online system will provide accurate assessment information to teachers and others on the progress of all students, including those with disabilities, English language learners and low- and high-performing students. It will include:

1. A summative exam, required by No Child Left Behind, offered twice each school year;

2. An optional formative, or benchmark, exams; and

3. A variety of tools, processes and practices for teachers to use in planning and implementing informal, ongoing assessments. This will assist teachers in understanding what students are and are not learning on a daily basis so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

Based on the consortium’s work, students will have the option to take formative exams, which provide guidance to teachers about instructional milestones. These formative tests and multiple opportunities to take what are traditionally year-end summative exams will move the testing process away from the traditional one-size-fits-all state exams. The goal is for students who score well on specific learning standards earlier in the school year not to be tested on those standards later on an end-of-the-year test because they’ve already demonstrated proficiency.

Teachers in Idaho and other participating states will be involved at all stages of item and test development, including the writing, scoring and the design of reporting systems. Educators will also be able to access a reporting system that identifies each student’s strengths, weakness and progress toward college and career readiness.

The assessments will be tied to the Common Core State Standards to ensure students graduate from high school ready for postsecondary education or the workforce. The Common Core State Standards are a voluntary, state-led initiative to raise the bar on standards in mathematics and English language arts. Idaho has played an integral role in developing these standards. The State Board of Education and Idaho Legislature will be deciding in the coming year whether or not to adopt the Common Core State Standards. These standards are now available for public comment at

A seven-person executive committee, led by co-chairs Judy Park of Utah and Tony Alpert of Oregon, will oversee the SMARTER Balanced Assessment consortium grant. Other committee members include Joe Willhoft (Washington), Carissa Miller (Idaho), Joseph Martineau (Michigan), Lynette Russell (Wisconsin) and Dan Hupp (Maine).

“Idaho has been at the forefront in delivering assessments online. This partnership is an opportunity to build an online system that includes assessments that transcend state boundaries and give us the chance to see how Idaho students compare to their peers around the world,” Miller said. “Idaho is excited to be a part of this unique venture.”

Funding for the Race to the Top Assessment grant will begin October 1. Here is a list of states participating in the SMARTER Balanced Consortium:
















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico*

North Carolina*

North Dakota





South Carolina

South Dakota




West Virginia*

*Denotes governing states

Learn more about the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium at

~Melissa M.