Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Superintendent Luna Provides Update on Implementation of Students Come First Laws

On Tuesday, January 31, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna presented an update on Students Come First and the work of the Technology Task Force to the Joint House and Senate Education Committees. The following are Superintendent Luna’s prepared remarks for his update on the implementation of Students Come First laws.

Thank you Chairman Goedde, Chairman Nonini and members of both committees for inviting me here today.

Last year, we passed the most comprehensive education reform in the country to improve Idaho’s public education system for every student – no matter where they live.

The fact is, in 2011, we were at a crossroads in public education in Idaho – both financially and academically. 

Financially, we were facing a new normal in our economy.  Public schools could no longer rely on tens of millions of new dollars each year just to maintain the status quo.

We had to find a way to spend the money we currently had differently.

Academically, we had a good education system, but it was not keeping up with the fast-paced world around us.

Just look at some of the statistics.

We know our students perform well compared to students in other states.

We know we have one of the highest graduation rates in the country. 

For every 100 students who attend public schools in Idaho, 92% graduate from high school.

This is good news.  But that’s not the question we face today. The question is, in today’s world, is good good enough?

You see: While our students perform well compared to students in other states and while we have one of the highest graduation rates in the country, we still have one of the lowest rates of the number of students who go on to postsecondary education.

Only 46% of students who graduate go on to college or professional-technical schools after high school.

Once there, 40% of them need remediation.  As a result, 38% do not go back for their 2nd year.

Because of this, only 34% of Idahoans have a postsecondary degree or certificate.

We can’t just look at how Idaho students perform compared to other students across the United States, but how do Idaho students compare with students in other countries? 

This is who our children will compete with after high school. 

Let’s look at the PISA, an international assessment that looks at multiple subject areas. 

On the PISA, the U.S. ranks 49th in the world. 

But we don’t want to know just how our country ranks.  We want to know how Idaho students rank. 

So we took this model and treated all 50 states as if they were their own country and folded them into this model to see how Idaho would compare to the rest of the world.

If Massachusetts was a country in and of itself, it would rank 17th in the world. Not bad…Minnesota would rank 20th. Pretty good.

Idaho… 71st.  71st….

Knowing this, what do we do?  We have a few options.

Denial is one… It seems to be a popular choice and easy choice for many. 

Another option is we could do nothing.  It’s not an option I recommend, but it is an option.

We could celebrate the fact that with a 92% graduation rate we have one of the highest graduation rates in the country and ignore the fact that only 46% go on to postsecondary education and nearly half of them need remediation once they get there.

We could be satisfied that our students do well in reading and math when compared to other states across America and ignore the fact that we ranked 71st in an international comparison.  

Or we could choose to do something about these results. We could act instead of being acted upon.  This is what we chose to do last year.

We chose to set high academic standards.  We chose to set high, achievable goals.

We chose to build a new education system that gives all our teachers the tools and all of our students the opportunities and access they need to meet those goals and expectations.

We had to have a new education system: a system that could educate more students at a higher level with limited resources.

Based on these realities, the Governor and I presented – and with your leadership and courage – passed Students Come First.

With your help, we now are implementing this comprehensive education reform in Idaho. 

This means that for the first time in Idaho history, we are on a clear path to accomplishing a uniform public education system.

When it comes to education reform, Idaho is not alone.

About 30 states passed some form of education reform last year. 

More states – like Maine, Louisiana, Tennessee, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico – are introducing education reform efforts this year.

Because of your efforts here in Idaho, you are now recognized as leaders in education reform.

There is a renaissance going on all across America in education. People have come to the realization that the status quo cannot continue, must not continue.  Something has to change.

Idaho’s reform efforts were by far the most comprehensive. 

While some states chose to deal with just collective bargaining or school choice or teacher pay or technology, Idaho has addressed them all.

None of the reforms Idaho passed last year stands on its own.

Students Come First is comprehensive because while it is made of many different parts, each part is interconnected. 

Here is how it all works together.

First, high standards are the foundation of a 21st Century Classroom. The state raised high school graduation requirements and adopted the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Second, we must have great teachers and leaders. 

We can accomplish this through focused, relevant, individualized professional development; rigorous performance evaluations tied to student achievement; rewarding great teachers; and fair personnel practices.

Third, we must give Idaho teachers 21st Century tools for the 21st Century classroom. 

That’s why Idaho is making unprecedented investments in classroom technology.

Fourth, we have to give all Idaho students advanced opportunities, like the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program.

Finally, every classroom teacher, educator and policymaker needs access to current, accurate data. 

The foundation for this new data system is our statewide longitudinal data system, known as ISEE. 

Thanks to a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, we are implementing Phase II of ISEE, which is an Instructional Management System – known as Schoolnet – in every classroom in the state. 

We are also working toward the next generation of assessments to gather data on student achievement.

All of these components work together to make Students Come First.

Now that we have this comprehensive new education system in place, we must measure its success.

As with anything we do in education, government, or private industry, it is critical that we measure progress along the way and make changes when necessary.

How will we know if these reforms are accomplishing our goals?

We will measure student achievement against the goals we have set, goals that were created by the Education Alliance of Idaho and are now found in Students Come First.

At a 60,000 foot level, our goal is to educate more students at a higher level with limited resources.

At a 30,000 foot level, our goal is for every student to graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without needing remediation.

From there, we have to look at and monitor key student achievement measures. Here are a few:
·    ISAT scores
·    SAT scores
·    Graduation rates
·    Number of students going on to postsecondary education

This is the process my staff and I will go through every year to make sure these reform efforts are working.

As of today, these laws have been in place for about 9 months.

Since these laws passed, my staff and I have worked diligently with local school districts, and the organizations that represent, them to implement these laws successfully statewide.

In addition, a 38-member Technology Task Force met for 7 months to develop more specific recommendations for the state and local school districts on how to implement the technology components of Students Come First.

So today, let me provide you with an update on our work to implement the Students Come First laws and the work of the Technology Task Force.

Mr. Chair, with your permission, I will first provide an update on the Students Come First laws overall, and then provide an update on the Technology Task Force. 

We have the chairs of each of the subcommittees for the Technology Task Force here to assist in that report.

Through these reforms, we are expanding local control, creating equal access and opportunities to all students no matter where they live, and giving parents and patrons more access to transparent information than they have ever had before.

First, we have expanded local control.

Under these laws, we returned authority and flexibility to local education leaders in every community.

Throughout the summer, I heard from trustees, superintendents and teachers across Idaho that this was the smoothest negotiating process they had ever experienced.

Teachers’ union leaders in local school districts have said they did not feel hamstrung or restricted by these new laws. 

Instead, people on both sides of the negotiating table told me discussions were more civil in open, public meetings.

Master agreements were signed on time and in place before the school year began.

The fact is many of the same policies remain in place at the local level, but these policies are now a part of local board policy or the employee handbook where they can be changed if necessary, rather than found in the master agreement.

We also expanded local control by implementing a statewide pay-for-performance plan that gives local school districts the ability to create their own plans for rewarding performance at the local level. 

Before this pay-for-performance plan was in place, teachers could primarily earn money one way: based on the number of years they taught and the amount of education they have.

This is what many of us refer to as the “salary grid” or “steps and lanes.”

What this means is if I am the greatest teacher in my district and I’ve taught 8 years and have a master’s degree, I get paid the exact same amount as the least effective teacher in my district that has taught 8 years and has a master’s degree.

That’s not fair to the students in that district, and it’s definitely not fair to teachers.

Under the new plan in place in Idaho, every teacher has the opportunity to earn up to $8,000 in bonuses – above and beyond their salary.

This finally gives the State of Idaho and local districts the ability to not only recognize but financially reward those teachers who work hard work each and every day for Idaho students.

There are three ways teachers can earn bonuses under pay-for-performance:
·    Working in schools that show academic growth or overall achievement
·    Working in a hard-to-fill position, as determined by the local district
·    Taking on a leadership duty, as determined by the local district

In the upcoming fiscal year, teachers will first receive bonuses based on student achievement, primarily focusing on academic growth. 

The bonuses will be tied to student achievement goals developed at the state and local levels.

Next year, districts will work with teachers to develop local plans for rewarding hard-to-fill positions and leadership duties.

In 2011, we worked with school districts across Idaho as they developed local plans to award groups of teachers for working together to reach student achievement goals.

These plans contain goals aligned with each district’s mission and vision. 

District plans include multiple measures such as:
·    Idaho Reading Indicator
·    End of Course assessments
·    Parent involvement
·    SAT scores
·    Graduation rates

I could go on, but by just these few examples, you can see how local districts now have the control to reward their hard-working teachers for meeting their own local goals based on their students’ needs.

This is another example of how we have expanded local control across Idaho through Students Come First.

As I stated in my remarks to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee last week, I want to reiterate that under my proposal, we will not have to reduce state funding for salaries in order to pay for this next year.

Under my budget proposal, the state will fully fund the salary grid and fund pay-for-performance and other Students Come First laws in addition to salaries.

In fact, these pay-for-performance bonuses next year will represent approximately a 5 percent increase in state funding for teacher compensation.

A 5 percent increase.  No other state employee will receive that type of increase in compensation in the next fiscal year.

And this plan is not just for a few.  In fact, under this plan, we estimate at least 85% of teachers will earn a bonus.

This is great news for the State of Idaho, Idaho’s teachers and for Idaho’s students.

Not only are we moving toward paying our teachers more this year, but we are paying them differently and we are paying them better.

This moves us away from the one-size fits all approach to paying teachers.

Previously, we had an education system that made it almost impossible to financially reward great teachers and very difficult to address ineffective teaching.

If we want an education system that truly puts students first, we had to remove the barriers to both.

We have accomplished that.

Second, in addition to expanding local control, we are now on a clear path to creating a uniform system of public education across the State of Idaho.

What this means is that no matter where a student lives – whether their community is urban, suburban, rural or remote– they will have equal access to the same high-quality educational opportunities as every other student in the state.

This has never been possible before in the State of Idaho, but we now are on our way to accomplishing this.

The next step is creating a 21st Century Classroom in every school in every corner of our state.

The foundation of the 21st Century Classroom is higher academic standards for every student.

Last year, the Legislature approved the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts.  These standards are fewer, higher, clearer and comparable with any other country in the world.

They will be first taught in classrooms in the Fall of 2013.

Through these standards, we can now make sure every student graduates from high school prepared to succeed in postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.

Our colleges and universities and the business community have told us students who meet these standards are ready for postsecondary education and the workforce.

Right now, we are working to transition to these higher standards through workshops and trainings.

Every 21st Century Classroom also must give our highly effective teachers the 21st Century tools they need to engage students, individualize instruction and raise academic achievement for every student.

Just as it is in every other part of our lives, we recognize that technology is no longer a “nice-to-have” tool in the classroom.  It is an essential tool.

Now, through Students Come First, we are making sure every classroom in Idaho – no matter where it is located – has the advanced technology it needs to raise student achievement.

The state is now distributing $9 million a year in funding for advanced classroom technology statewide. 

This is separate from the one-to-one laptop initiative in high schools and is available to all grades. 

We distributed nearly half of this money – about $4 million – in September and will distribute the remaining funds this spring.

Every district has worked to develop a plan that shows how the advanced technology they purchase for the classroom will help teachers individualize instruction for students, raise student achievement, and provide equal access for all children in the school.

We received great plans from all across the state.

·    The West Bonner School District will invest in digital cameras in all grades to incorporate photography into schoolwork. Students in elementary school will use iPods to improve language and math skills.

·    In Meridian, the district found that not every classroom had equal access to digital content or interactive learning technologies. So they are using this funding to remedy that. The district will purchase projectors and document cameras for every classroom to ensure equal access.

·    In Caldwell, the district reviewed instructional data to determine the level of student engagement and how technology is being used in every classroom. They found a common theme: Those classrooms with interactive technology had higher levels of student engagement, which we know leads to higher student achievement. Classrooms with little or no interactive technology had lower student engagement.  Knowing this, the district is working to install interactive technology in every classroom.

·    In Clark County, the district has recognized that technology can help increase the time teachers spend with students and reduce the time teachers spend on paperwork.  The district will use this funding at the elementary level to buy tablets to assist teachers in classroom organization, grading, and lesson planning.  They will also use it to analyze student achievement data.
These are just some of the great and innovative plans that will begin to create 21st Century Classrooms in every school in every corner of the state. 

The next step is implementing a one-to-one ratio of mobile computing devices to students and teachers in every public high school in Idaho.

This is a critical step in making sure every student has equal access to the best education opportunities.

This device has endless possibilities in the classroom.  It becomes the textbook in every classroom, the calculator in math, the research tool in science, the word processor in English, and it’s the portal to a world of information and knowledge.

Teachers can use these devices to integrate technology into every part of the curriculum, to bring lessons to life, help students find relevance in any subject area, or to individualize instruction for a student who is struggling or may be more advanced than others in the classroom.

Let me just show you one example of how this device can be used in the classroom:

[Video on how digital textbooks work in the classroom]

We will have examples of these digital textbooks and more classroom technology at the Department’s open house tomorrow afternoon.

The state will begin phasing in the one-to-one devices to Idaho high school teachers, principals, media specialists, and technology coordinators in September. 

They will receive one year of intense professional development before students beginning receiving access to devices in the Fall of 2013.

As you know, the Technology Task Force created by this legislation met for 7 months to develop recommendations for the rollout of mobile computing devices.

They made many recommendations, which I will report on in more detail next week.

Let me discuss just two of their recommendations briefly as they pertain to the rollout of these one-to-one devices. 

First, the Task Force determined this device should be a type of laptop.

The device will include the necessary hardware, software, maintenance, security and support to go along with it.

Second, the Technology Task Force also determined that in Fall 2013, devices should be deployed to one-third of students statewide by school, rather than by grade.

The Task Force learned from other states and school districts that already have a 1:1 that it is not prudent to deploy devices in a school when only some students have the device and not others.

If this happens, a teacher may have some students in a classroom with devices and others without. 

Experience shows that in this case, the teacher will likely just say “everyone close the devices” and go on with the lesson.

To avoid this situation and ensure successful implementation, the Task Force recommended deploying devices to Idaho high schools in the first year, representing one-third of the students statewide, or about 27,000 students.

In Fall 2014, we will deploy devices to the second one-third of schools. In Fall 2015, we will deploy to the final one-third of schools.

To determine the first one-third of schools to receive devices, we asked local school districts and charter schools to submit letters of interest, signed by the superintendent or the school board chair, if they are interested in being in the first round.

We have been overwhelmed by the response we have received so far.

As of today, we have 81letters of interest representing 152 schools and more than 61,000 students statewide. 

This represents 75% of high school students across Idaho – far more than the one-third of students we planned to deploy to in the first round.

As you may remember this was one of the most hotly contested pieces of Students Come First last year, but it is clear now that the demand for this classroom technology is out there and an overwhelming majority of schools want these devices.

In Idaho Falls, for example, they said there would be “a high probability of parental discord” if deployment was delayed to all the high schools in their district.

In Twin Falls, the superintendent wrote to say: “Based on a staff survey …, we are enthusiastically requesting to participate in the first third of the state’s high schools regarding deployment of the one-to-one mobile computing devices at all three of our high schools.”

It is clear that teachers, principals, parents and students are not hesitant but are excited about the laptops and want to participate now, not later.

In fact, every one of you has schools in your legislative districts that have requested to be part of the first one-third. 

I encourage school districts to continue to submit their letters of interest until February 17 if they are interested in participating.

Technology is a great tool, and we know it will help, but it is just a tool.

As I have said all along, the teacher is the most important factor in a student’s academic success.

So as we transition to the 21st Century Classroom, we must give our highly effective teachers – not some but all – the 21st Century Classroom tools they need as well as the professional development on how to integrate these tools in the classroom.

It’s all about implementing technology effectively.

Look at the study known as Project RED. If you put any technology in the classroom, it will have an impact.

But if you implement it effectively, it will have a significant impact on student achievement.

So let’s discuss our plan for professional development. 

Under Students Come First, there is nearly $4 million a year built into the public schools budget for professional development for classroom teachers and building administrators.

This is historic amounts of ongoing funding for professional development. Why? Because we recognize professional development is a critical, ongoing need.

The professional development will not focus on how to turn on the device, but how to use this device in the classroom, to integrate it into everything that happens in the classroom and how teachers can engage every student every day.

A subcommittee of the Technology Task Force was charged with developing a plan for implementing professional development statewide, and they made several recommendations in December.

Stefani Cook is here to discuss those recommendations in further detail.  I want to mention just one, which was for the Department to build a comprehensive professional development plan statewide.

We have begun to do this.

In this plan, the state will use a blended model that combines both face-to-face and online methods of professional development for teachers, administrators and technology coordinators.

First, we will establish regional training teams of administrators, teachers and technology coordinators to provide professional development and support to schools in implementing classroom technology at all grade levels.

Stipends will be made available for these team members.

Next, the state will identify a lead teacher and technology coordinator at every high school who will not only learn how to integrate one-to-one devices and other classroom technology effectively, but will become in-house experts and take the lead in providing training to other teachers in their building.

Stipends will also be made available for these in-house experts.

The state will also provide support and guidance for the formation of tech integration teams comprised of students in each high school, which offers a unique leadership opportunity for those with the skills and desire.

However, not all learning opportunities will be provided face-to-face.

School personnel, parents and students will all have access to a variety of tools that will be available to them online at any time they need assistance.

This is all possible because of the ongoing funding for professional development.

Because of this historic investment in professional development by the state, other organizations have been inspired to provide additional support for teachers, principals and administrators.

Boise State University, for example, recently received a $4 million grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to create the Idaho Leads Project.

This is a new statewide effort to provide intensive professional development to local educators as they work to innovate our schools and help students achieve at even higher levels.

By creating 21st Century Classrooms in every classroom across Idaho, we are able to provide Idaho students and teachers with equal access to the best educational opportunities. 

No longer are they restricted by the walls of their classroom or the remoteness of their community. 

Now, they can access any book they need, reach out to world-renowned experts on any topic or take field trips to faraway places.

The Idaho Education Network has created the foundation for this.

Through the IEN, every Idaho high school is now connected to high-speed broadband internet access and has at least one classroom set up for virtual education.

Some districts have increased their bandwidth by 1,000%.

With this, students in Murtaugh have taken a field trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

A science class at St. Maries watched a medical professor from St. Louis dissect a human brain and answer their questions about how the brain works.

They would never get that experience without this access to digital learning.

Afterward, Dr. Ray Vollmer of St. Louis University School of Medicine said he was embarrassed that the state of Missouri hadn’t stepped up and implemented this type of technology in its schools.

He said, “They say, it’s too far to go to St. Louis, we will look at it in a textbook. I’m a little bit embarrassed that we haven’t moved forward like you guys are. That’s a huge step. For you students, I just hope you appreciate what you got and take advantage of it.”

When I first took office, I said Idaho could become a leader in education.  Under the leadership of this Legislature and Governor Otter, we now are a leader.

That is why this Legislature approved the new requirement for all students to take 2 online credits before they graduate from high school in the year 2016. 

In order to implement this requirement effectively across the state, we are addressing necessary tweaks to make sure districts can implement more digital learning effectively.

The Senate has approved Senate Bill 1237 which allows a teacher in the same building to create and then teach an online course. 

This gives local school districts more flexibility to create local content for digital learning.

The State Department of Education also plans to propose legislation that creates a fee structure for online course reviews and to develop an online clearinghouse so parents, students and educators know all online courses meet our standards.

As part of this clearinghouse, there will also be a rating system similar to Ebay or Amazon.com where independent feedback can be posted.

Digital learning is critical in so students have access to opportunities they might not otherwise have.

But digital learning – or learning in an online environment – also is an essential skill that our students growing up in the 21st Century must have before they leave high school.

To make sure every student has the opportunity to prepare for postsecondary education, for the first time, an estimated 18,000 high school juniors will take the SAT, paid for by the state.

This graduation requirement was set by the Legislature back in 2007. 

By passing the Students Come First laws and spending what we currently have differently, we were able to providing funding for these college entrance exams. 

Under Students Come First, students also can now get a jumpstart on their postsecondary education without leaving high school.

For the first time ever, high school juniors and seniors are able to complete their state graduation requirements early and enroll in up to 36 dual credits – paid for by the state.

I am convinced this will help solve the “senior slump” and other problems we face in trying to motivate students in that last year or last few months of high school.

It also will help those who may not see themselves as “college material” or prepared to go on to postsecondary education to know that they do have the skills and knowledge to go on after high school.

Surprisingly, many students and parents are just now learning about this opportunity.

I talk about this program everywhere I go, and parents and students are excited when they hear about it. 

Over time, we know more and more students will participate in this program as they strive to meet their state graduation requirements earlier and take advantage of this great opportunity.

After implementing this program for a year and hearing back from school districts, I do believe there are some common-sense tweaks we can make to the program. 

I will be bringing legislation forward to do that.

For example, we currently have a graduation requirement that says students must take at least 2 of their math credits in their last year of high school.  This does not work for students have completed all their state graduation requirements by their junior year.

Therefore, I will bring legislation forward to clarify that.  For the purposes of the Dual Credit Program, students can consider their junior year the “last year of high school.”

The next change we heard is that because of certain electives, it is difficult for students to complete graduation requirements by the end of their junior year.

It is more likely these motivated students will complete by the end of the first semester of their senior year.

Therefore, we will bring forward legislation to change the Program to include students who finish state graduation requirements by the end of the first semester of their senior year.

Third, under the Students Come First laws, we now are giving Idaho parents, taxpayers and other patrons more choice and transparency than ever before at all levels of education.

Parents now have more choices than ever. 

They can choose to enroll their students in an online course, if they need an advanced course or another option.

To ensure accountability, we will put forward legislation regarding those students who choose to dual enroll in some online classes. 

Under this legislation, a student can take up to 50% of classes outside of those offered by the local school district if they choose.

In another step toward transparency, all negotiations are now held in open, public meetings. These meetings must be in line with Idaho’s Open Meeting Law to ensure the public receives timely notification.

The state is also publishing a user-friendly Fiscal Report Card for every local school district and public charter school.

The Report Card will contain information such as:
·    Enrollment
·    Average Daily Attendance
·    Teacher and Administrator Pay
·    Revenues and Expenditures

Users will be able to go on and see how their district compares with similar districts in the state as well as state averages for each category. 

Parents now will play a role in teacher and principal performance evaluations. 

Next year, for the first time, every local school district must tie at least 50% of a teacher and administrator’s performance evaluation to student achievement measures and then also include some form of parent input.

The student achievement measures will be determined by the local school district. 

Local school districts also will determine how to gather parent input and how much weight to give it in the evaluation process.

Either way, parents can now be assured that their voices will be heard.

This year, we have put forward legislation to clarify the effective date for when districts must include parent input.  It was not clear to many administrators in the current law.

I want to thank you for quickly passing Senate Bill 1224. The Governor plans to sign in into law shortly.

As you can see, because of these laws, we are seeing many benefits in how our education system is changing across Idaho.

Local school boards now have more flexibility, authority, and local control than they have had in decades.

We are now on a clear path to creating a uniform system of public education.

Parents and patrons will now have access to important decision-making processes and information that used to be difficult to get.

In addition to all of this, because of Students Come First, Idaho is now poised to get out from under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

Why?  Because we are now eligible to apply for a waiver from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. 

First, let me give you a brief background on where we stand with No Child Left Behind.

This federal law was passed in 2001 to bring more accountability to the federal funding states receive for public education.

At the time, the law received bi-partisan support.  Since its implementation, we have learned many ways in which it could be improved.

I have always said No Child Left Behind is like the old Clint Eastwood movie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly because there is a little bit of all of that in there.

The Good: It created a standards-based education system where schools are now accountable for every child.

The Bad: It is a one-size-fits-all model that is difficult to implement in rural states like Idaho.

The Ugly: The federal government has set goals and then also prescribed the programs states must use to meet those goals. If those programs don’t work, states are held accountable for it. 

While the law has accomplished its goals of providing accountability and improving student achievement, it has now become a stumbling block to further progress.

And it is 5 years overdue for reauthorization.

Since Congress and the Administration haven’t acted, states – including Idaho – have taken the lead.

By passing Students Come First, Idaho moved toward a new education system based on academic growth and better preparing students for the world that awaits them after high school.

We now have a statewide pay-for-performance plan based on academic growth.

Teacher and administrator performance evaluations are based on objective measures of student growth.

So we should have an accountability system that measures academic growth, too.

In June, I sent a letter to Secretary Duncan telling him Idaho was going to move to its own accountability plan based on academic growth, not just proficiency. 

In September, the Administration announced it was giving states the opportunity to apply for a waiver so they could build their own accountability plans.

We went to work right away.

We met with members of the State Board of Education, the Legislature, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs and other groups to begin creating a new system of increased accountability for Idaho schools.

Under this new accountability plan, instead of reporting AYP – whether a school passes or doesn’t pass based on ISAT proficiency – we have now developed a Five-Star Scale to measure school performance.

The Five-Star scale uses multiple measures every year to determine a school’s performance.

With this, we will now have an accountability plan that is aligned with the goals and objectives that we have set for our students.

Dr. Carissa Miller presented to the Senate Education Committee yesterday and will present to the House Education Committee as well.

A draft of this new accountability plan posted on our website, and is up for public comment until February 1. 

I encourage you to review it and give us your feedback, if you have not already.

These are examples of how the Students Come First laws are being implemented in school districts across Idaho, and we are now starting to see the benefits.

As you can see, we have just begun the implementation process. 

The real benefits of these reform efforts will be realized in the next few years when we see higher student achievement because we have created equal access and opportunities for students no matter where they live in Idaho.

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