Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Eight Idaho schools have been selected to participate in the initial phase of the Idaho Lives Project, a partnership between the Idaho State Department of Education and the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho (SPAN Idaho) to reduce the prevalence of suicide among youth ages 10-24 in Idaho.

Today, Idaho ranks among the top ten states for teen suicides and overall suicides. Because of Idaho’s rural geography, many students and families have faced barriers in accessing prevention and mental health services.

“The tragedy of suicide is beyond measure, and unfortunately, Idaho is not immune to this tragedy. With the right training, knowledge and support, suicide is preventable. I appreciate these eight schools participating in this project, and I look forward to working with them to find the best ways we as a state and as local communities can prevent youth suicide today and in the future,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said.

A total of 18 schools applied to implement the program; eight were selected after a blind review process based on their need and readiness to benefit.  The selected schools are:
  • Priest River Lamanna High School, Priest River
  • Lapwai Middle School- High School, Lapwai
  • Parma High School, Parma
  • Parma Middle School, Parma   
  • Nampa High School, Nampa
  • Silver Creek Alternative High School, Hailey
  • Salmon Middle School- High School, Salmon
  • Teton High School, Driggs
These eight schools will receive extensive support, training services and $3,000 in funding to implement Sources of Strength, an evidence-based suicide prevention program that utilizes the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture to ultimately prevent suicide, bullying and substance abuse.

In addition, the Idaho Lives Project will work directly with the communities surrounding these schools to focus on training mental health providers and other stakeholders to prevent and respond to suicide crises.

“We very much look forward to formal training and programs to help us emphasize to students the power of positive relationships with adults and peers,” said Sharma Thornton, counselor at Silver Creek Alternative High School, one of the selected schools. “We are also excited to gain better experience and training our students on how to maximize their strengths, better use existing school resources, and to maximize community resources.  The entire staff and student body at Silver Creek will benefit from this program.”

The Idaho Lives Project is made possible by the State and Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Grant awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support states and tribes in developing and implementing suicide prevention strategies.

The state was awarded $1.29 million over three years to implement the Idaho Lives Project. This is just the first phase. In the 2014-2015 school year, the Idaho Lives Project will select an additional 10-14 schools to begin implementing Sources of Strength.

For more information about the Idaho Lives Project, please contact Matt McCarter at the Idaho State Department of Education at mamccarter@sde.idaho.gov or (208) 332-6961, or contact Jeni Griffin at SPAN Idaho at jgriffin@spanidaho.org or (208) 860-1703.

Friday, December 13, 2013


A high school teacher in Spirit Lake was awarded the prestigious 2013 Milken Educator Award for Idaho in a surprise assembly Friday morning.

Katie Graupman, an English teacher at Timberlake High School in Spirit Lake, showed up at work Friday just like any other day. At 9 a.m., she went to the gym with her students to participate in a schoolwide assembly to celebrate her school’s excellent academic track record. Or so she thought…

During the assembly, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Dr. Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation unexpectedly announced that Graupman had been named Idaho’s 2013 Milken Educator – and was being awarded $25,000 as part of this prestigious award.

Known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Award was conceived by Lowell Milken to attract, retain and motivate outstanding talent to the teaching profession. Since 1987, the Milken Family Foundation has devoted more than $136 million in funding to the Milken Educator Awards, including over $64 million in individual Awards to nearly 2,600 recipients plus powerful professional development opportunities and networking with leading education stakeholders.

Graupman is now one of 15 educators in Idaho who have received the prestigious Milken Educator Award since Idaho joined the Milken program in 2003.

“I am proud that Katie Graupman will recognize Idaho as our 2013 Milken Educator. She is praised by her colleagues as an outstanding educator with a strong work ethic who sets high standards to make sure every student masters the knowledge they need before graduating from high school,” Superintendent Luna said. “I also want to thank the Milken Family Foundation for its continued support of Idaho’s educators and educators throughout the country.”

Graupman was selected for this award for her innovation, leadership and ability to raise academic achievement. She has taught for 10 years. At Timberlake High, her students have made great strides academically, increasing their scores on the ISAT and writing assessments each year.

Students gave Graupman a standing ovation as she worked her way to the podium to accept the award Friday morning.

“Thank you for the job I get to do every day,” she told her students. “Thank you for being the reason I get up and come to work every day.”

Superintendent Luna was joined by Idaho State Senator John Goedde, Lakeland Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Ranells and other dignitaries at the schoolwide assembly today to help recognize and reward Katie Graupman.

About Katie Graupman
Katie Graupman is the English language arts and journalism teacher at Timberlake High School in Spirit Lake. She is a proud graduate of the University of Idaho, and has been teaching for 10 years.

One thing is clear: Mrs. Graupman is beloved by her colleagues. Here are just some of the ways her colleagues described her in nominating her for this award: innovative, a leader, a mentor, courageous. According to her friends and colleagues, if you need something done, you simply ask Mrs. Graupman. She has a great work ethic and her vision is to work until you get the results you are looking for. And she gets results! Last year, 98% of Mrs. Graupman’s students were proficient on the ISAT, up from just 90% last year. Here students also made great progress in writing: 76% of students scored proficient on writing assessments last year and now 92% of students are scoring proficient.

Mrs. Graupman sets very high standards to make sure every student has the knowledge they need to walk across the stage at graduation and be successful.

“If something is good for kids, she is unafraid to change the system, even if the change affects her,” said Dr. Mary Ann Ranells, the Lakeland School District Superintendent.

About the Milken Family Foundation
The Milken Family Foundation was established in 1982 to discover and advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. The Foundation advances this mission primarily through its work in education and medical research. For more information about the Milken Family Foundation, please visit www.mff.org.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today that Taylor Raney, a Caldwell principal, has been named the new Director of Certification and Professional Standards at the Idaho State Department of Education.

In this role, Raney will oversee all educator licensure and certification in the State of Idaho as well as the Professional Standards Commission.

“We are proud to have Taylor Raney join the Department and help us in our efforts to recognize and reward highly effective teaching across Idaho so we can ensure all students graduate from high school prepared for the world that awaits them,” Superintendent Luna said. “Taylor Raney has a proven track record of leadership in the Caldwell School District. As a member of the Professional Standards Commission, he also understands the importance of professional conduct in the teaching profession and the critical work the Commission does every day to help improve the craft of teaching. He will be a great addition to our team at the State Department of Education.”

Christina Linder previously served as the Department’s Director of Certification and Professional Standards. She left the Department earlier this week after she was named associate dean of Idaho State University’s College of Education.

“I am happy for Christina and the opportunity she will have to put into practice the policies she has helped enact at the Department, including enhanced teacher preparation programs,” Superintendent Luna said. “Idaho’s teachers and students have benefited because of Christina Linder’s efforts to improve teacher quality. Luckily, Idaho’s up-and-coming teachers will still enjoy her influence at Idaho State University.”

Raney has served as the principal at Wilson Elementary School in Caldwell since 2008. During this time, he also has served on the Professional Standards Commission, representing elementary school principals.

While in Caldwell, Raney took on roles as the District Testing Coordinator and gained experience as part of the Caldwell Academy of Leadership and a leader in professional development efforts across the district. Prior to joining the Caldwell School District, Raney worked as a teacher in the Boise School District.

Raney earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho, and master’s degrees in educational leadership and curriculum and instruction from Northwest Nazarene University. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in educational administration.

“I am excited about this opportunity to work for all students and teachers in Idaho,” Raney said. “In my new role at the State Department of Education, I will work to build on the progress the state has already made by striving for high standards for certification and professional practice for educators in our state.” 

Raney has been married for more than ten years to Meghan and is the proud father of two daughters. He will begin his new position as Director of Certification and Professional Standards at the State Department of Education on December 23. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


Schools can now apply for up to $20,000 in grant funding to help promote healthy school environments.

Idaho received a federal Team Nutrition Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012 and 2013. With this funding, the state will award 20 schools up to $1,000 each to use in developing and implementing an active and effective school wellness policy.

Research shows healthy students are better prepared to learn while in school. One effective way for schools to promote a healthy school environment is by establishing a wellness policy, which is a comprehensive plan to help improve the overall health and nutrition of students.

The wellness policy addresses health, nutrition and physical activity both in school and through partnering with the community.

Local school districts, public charter schools and private schools that participate in the USDA’s National School Lunch Program are eligible to apply for the School Wellness Mini-Grant. Priority will be given to schools with an active school wellness committee or school health advisory council.

Visit our website to learn more about the mini-grants or to download a copy of the grant application. If you have questions, please contact Dianne Esplin, Child Nutrition Coordinator, at (208) 332-6827.

The deadline to mail or e-mail applications to the Idaho State Department of Education is 5 p.m. MST on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Meridian Student Wins Holiday Card Contest

A fourth-grade student at Eliza Hart Spalding STEM Academy in Meridian has won the 2013 Holiday Card Contest, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today.

In her submission, Rachel Acuna colorfully depicted Santa Claus leaving presents under the Christmas tree.
Rachel Acuna, a 4th grader in Meridian, won the Holiday Card Contest.
Her artwork will be featured on the State Department of Education’s holiday greeting card this year, which is sent to schools, districts and others across the state. She also will receive a certificate and copies of the greeting card to share with her friends and family members.

“We at the State Department of Education look forward to the Holiday Card Contest each year because it highlights the talents of Idaho’s students while also celebrating the importance of arts in education,” Superintendent Luna said. “We received many great entries from across the state, but ultimately, Rachel’s artwork was selected as the grand prize winner, which we now will share across the state. Congratulations Rachel! You have shown an incredible talent at such a young age. Keep up the great work!”

Superintendent Luna also awarded the following grade-level winners across the state: 

  • Kindergarten: Scarlett Stone, Pioneer School of the Arts, Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian)
  • 1st Grade: Kate McDougall, Whitman Elementary School, Lewiston School District
  • 2nd Grade: Jessy Wilson, Fruitland Elementary School, Fruitland School District
  • 3rd Grade: Lila Hess, Hagerman Elementary School, Hagerman School District
  • 4th Grade (and Grand Prize Winner): Rachel Acuna, Eliza Hart Spalding STEM Academy, Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian)
  • 5th Grade: Matthew Mallory, Silver Sage Elementary School, Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian)
  • 6th Grade: Reid Uptmar, Prairie Elementary School, Cottonwood Joint School District
Congratulations to all the winners!  Each student will receive a certificate of recognition.

Check out all the 2013 Holiday Card Contest winning entries on our website.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Superintendent Luna Releases Statement on Tragic School Bus Accident

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna released the following statement today after the tragic news that an Idaho student died as a result of a school bus accident in Canyon County:

“Today is a sad day for Idaho. Our children are our most cherished treasure. As a father and grandfather, my heart and prayers go out to this child’s family, loved ones, the Kuna School District and the entire Kuna community.”

Kuna School District Superintendent Wendy Johnson sent a letter home to parents and families today.

“All of our schools have implemented a plan for responding to this sad event and have focused on helping our students maintain regular learning and every day activities,” she wrote. “Teachers were provided resources for how to talk about this situation with their students, and we have included the information in this letter. All of our busses will have student services personnel riding along with students today so that if students are worried or have questions, they will have an adult they can talk to on their ride home.”

If children or family in the Kuna School District need assistance, they are encouraged to contact their school directly.

If you are interested in helping, Melanie DeLashmutt is coordinating volunteer efforts and can be reached at mdelashmutt@kunaschools.org.

For more information and updates, please visit the Kuna School District website.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Recent PISA Results Show Need for Idaho Core Standards

Results from a recent international assessment of 15-year-olds across the globe shows that there has been no measurable change in how U.S. students are performing in math, science or reading literacy.

However, according to the same report, the United States is expected to become more competitive soon as more states fully implement the higher, more rigorous Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts.

PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, is administered every three years to a random sample of students in the United States and more than 30 other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries throughout the world. PISA just released its results from the 2012 assessment.

This assessment not only measures students’ content knowledge in reading, science and mathematics, but the test also measures other cross-curricular skills, such as problem solving.

In 2012, more than 6,000 randomly selected 15-year-old students chosen from 161 randomly selected schools in the United States took the PISA. No Idaho schools were selected to participate.

According to the 2012 results, students in the United States performed below average in mathematics among the 34 countries tested. U.S. students scored close to the average in reading and science.

Across all subject areas, American students’ performance has remained stagnant, not showing a change in performance over time.

Still, student from the United States excelled in some areas. In mathematics, for example, students demonstrated they could read data directly from a table or diagram or use a formula to calculate answers well.

However, they struggled in applying mathematics in a real-world situation.

But the report highlights how students in the United States will likely make progress in the coming years. The new Common Core State Standards are expected to address the weaknesses the PISA found.

The PISA report states, “It may be that U.S. students seldom work on well-crafted tasks that situate algebra, proportional relationships and rational numbers within authentic contexts. More generally, perhaps the application problems that most students encounter today are the worst of all worlds: fake applications that strive to make the mathematics curriculum more palatable, yet do no justice either to modeling or to the pure mathematics involved. Providing students with the necessary ‘opportunity to learn’ will therefore be necessary in order to develop the skills in students that allow them to make frequent and productive use of mathematics in their work and life.”

The new Common Core State Standards, known as Idaho Core Standards in Idaho, emphasize critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as well as teaching students how to apply the lessons they learn in real-world situations. Therefore, through these standards, students in many states across the United States are expected to become more competitive with students in other countries in the near future.

Here are some other highlights from the PISA report:
  • PISA was able to break out scores from some states with larger groups of students tested. In the United States, Massachusetts continued to rank as a top performer with its average scores ranking above the OECD average in all three subject areas. 
  • PISA reported that while the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this has not translated into better academic performance. For example, students in the Slovak Republic perform at the same level as students in the United States, even though that country spends about half of what the United States spends on average per student.
Read the full report of how students in the United States performed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It’s the Final Week of the Idaho Math Cup!

It’s down to the wire. Just one week is left of the Idaho Math Cup!

The Idaho Math Cup is an annual tradition in Idaho where students from across the state spend the month of November competing to work on the most complex math problems through Think Through Math.

The winning class is awarded the coveted Idaho Math Cup. Other classroom and individual prizes also are up for grabs to recognize the hard work of all Idaho students.

Think Through Math is part of the Idaho Math Initiative, which began in 2008. The state has contracted with Think Through Math, a web-based, interactive tutoring program, to provide supplemental mathematics to students in grades 3-12 both in the classroom and outside the school day. Think Through Math has an incentive program built in so as students solve more math problems, they earn points and can win prizes or turn their points into donations for charity.

Even though students are out of school on a holiday break during this final week, we always see lots of activity! Whether at home or at school, Idaho students are serious about completing their math lessons.

Many classes across Idaho are still in the running. Here are the Top 10 as of today:
  • The Math Lab 7 class of Rocky Mountain Middle School, Bonneville Joint School District  
  • Mrs. Werner’s class, Joplin Elementary, Meridian School District
  • Mr. Walker’s class of River Valley Elementary, Meridian School District
  • The Homeroom class of Twin Lakes Elementary, Lakeland Joint School District
  • The Gothard’s Multiplication Class of Ustick Elementary, Meridian School District
  • The 6B class of White Pine Elementary, Boise School District
  • The C. Brenner class of Prospect Elementary, Meridian School District
  • The Mrs. Troy class of Highlands Elementary, Boise School District
  • Mr. Lavin’s class of Pepper Ridge Elementary, Meridian School District
  • The Homeroom 2 class of Twin Lakes Elementary, Lakeland Joint School District
But remember, anyone still has a chance to win!

Here are the other prizes available for classrooms and students:
  • Idaho Math Cup Runner Up Winners: Second and third place will be based on the highest average of lessons completed plus lessons passed per enrolled student.
  • Gurus of Giving: Be the class that donates the most THINK points per enrolled student to any TTM featured charity during the contest time frame.
  • Evening and Weekend Warriors: Be the class that completes and passes the most lessons per enrolled student during after school hour and weekend hours.
  • Holiday Heroes: Be the class that completes and passes the most lessons per enrolled student over the Thanksgiving break (November 28 through December 1).
Keep up the great work in this final week!

Friday, November 8, 2013


Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today a Coeur d’Alene high school teacher has been honored as the 2014 Idaho Teacher of the Year.

Jamie Esler, a science teacher at Lake City High School, was named the 2014 Idaho Teacher of the Year in a surprise announcement at his school Friday morning. When his name was announced, students at Lake City High erupted in “We love Esler!” chants.

“I am honored Jamie Esler will be representing the State of Idaho as our state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year,” Superintendent Luna said. “Even though he is young in his career, Esler has been recognized as an outstanding teacher because he strives every day to make sure his students are not only learning about science but learning to how to apply those concepts in the real world.”

This is the third consecutive year a teacher from Coeur d’Alene has won this prestigious award, selected by a statewide committee of representatives.

As Idaho Teacher of the Year, Esler will receive $1,000 from the Idaho State Department of Education, an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and go on to represent Idaho as a nominee for the National Teacher of the Year.

In accepting the award Friday morning, Esler thanked his fellow teachers and colleagues at Lake City High who he said support him every day. He also addressed the students at Lake City High: “We can teach until we’re blue in the face. We can give things back to you on time. We can give you the best lessons we have got, but ultimately, your success is up to you. Keep that in mind.”

The Idaho Teacher of the Year program began in 1959 and has become one of the most prestigious honors in the state for teachers. The program focuses public attention on excellence in teaching that has a real impact on the students of Idaho. Every year, school districts and charter schools across Idaho have the opportunity to nominate one teacher for the Idaho Teacher of the Year. A state selection committee representing teachers, education leaders, parents and legislators from across the state select the Idaho Teacher of the Year from among the nominations.

To learn more about the Idaho Teacher of the Year program, visit http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/teacher_of_year/.

About Idaho’s 2014 Teacher of the Year: Jamie Esler

Jamie Esler is a science teacher at Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene. He has been a science teacher for five years. Though early in his career, he has clearly demonstrated his passion for education. He strives every day to make sure the students in his classroom are not only learning about science but that they are engaged and that they know how these science concepts apply in the real world.

Esler has been recognized by his local school district for his talents. He was named a Rookie of the Year teacher when he first began. Last May, he was named Coeur d’Alene’s Teacher of the Year. But according to his colleagues, his skills as an effective educator are apparent as soon as you walk into his classroom.

One person said anyone would be “absolutely blow away” by his skill and ability to captivate and engage students. Why? At the heart of it, is the fact that Mr. Esler uses real-world examples in reinforce the lessons he is teaching in his classroom. He takes his students outside so they can see science in action.

On one project, Mr. Esler’s students collected water quality data and uploaded it onto a public database. They used the Idaho Education Network to communicate with other schools in this region about their results. Students also put their writing skills to work in science class, blogging about what they found.

Mr. Esler also finds ways to extend the school year for his students. For example, when he travels during the summer, he keeps a blog and posts videos so his students can track his travels and take “virtual field trips” with him. This continues to bring learning to life for every child in his classroom throughout the summer months.

Mr. Esler also embraces technology in his classroom. He recognizes that students in the 21st Century know technology and use it every day. But as a teacher, he emphasizes that students must learn to use technology responsibly. He shows students how technology can be used to address many environmental and scientific challenges we are facing in the world today, such as access to clean drinking water or the development of renewable energy sources.

As Idaho’s Teacher of the Year, and our state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year, Mr. Esler says he will work to inspire students and teachers to make better use of technology in the classroom and outside of the classroom as they learn about science and the natural world.  It is clear he has already accomplished this within his own classroom. I know I am excited to learn from what Mr. Esler has learned and share his best practices with the rest of the state. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The following are Superintendent Luna’s prepared remarks to the Idaho School Boards Association at its annual conference on November 7, 2013.

Thank you for inviting me to be here today. You play a vital leadership role in your school districts and your communities. Your leadership is evident now more than ever.

Your Executive Director Karen Echeverria has gained the respect and trust of legislators and policy makers. Last legislative session, Karen’s efforts, and the leadership of your executive committee, played the key role in passing critical legislation securing for elected school boards the tools they need to manage the affairs of their local schools. You are well served and well represented by Karen and her staff.

Your participation in the Task Force for Improving Education was also critical. Two months ago, a statewide Task Force of education stakeholders published 20 recommendations for how Idaho can improve its public education system to ensure every child graduates from high school prepared to pursue their dreams. I support and strongly endorse all 20 recommendations, from restoring operational funds to increasing dual credit and AP opportunities for all high students, and from phasing in a career ladder to upgrades in technology for all students. All of these recommendations are vital, and together, they create a comprehensive plan for improving our schools.

I could talk passionately about each one, but today I will focus my remarks on just one the 20 recommendations. That is the Task Force’s endorsement of the Idaho Core Standards.

In 2011, Idaho voluntarily adopted these higher academic standards in math and English language arts to raise the bar for Idaho students. This year, $20 million is being spent to provide the professional development and assistance in implementing the standards. Professional development must be ongoing and increase next year and forward.

Now, why adopt higher standards? Right, we have a higher graduation rate at about 90%. We also see that more than 90% of our students are proficient in reading, and more than 80% are proficient in math while they are in grades K-12. Yet, just three months later, of those students who go on to education after high school, nearly half of them have to take remedial courses once they get there.

If more than 90% are proficient in reading and more than 80% are proficient in math before they graduate, then it is obvious our standards are too low. We have to raise our standards.

In today’s world, we know the vast majority of students must have a degree or certificate in order to
reach their goals and pursue their dreams. Because of this, we have to prepare our students to go on to postsecondary education, whether that is community college, a four-year college, or vo-tech.

Our goal cannot just be that we want our students to be successful in school. We must do all we can to make sure that they are successful outside of school, when they graduate and go on to the real world where they will live and work. By raising our standards, we can better prepare students while they are IN school, rather than trying to remediate students after they graduate. By then, more often than not, it is too late.

So why did we choose to adopt common standards with other states? Before most states decided to adopt common standards in math and English language arts, we had 50 states with 50 different standards. Some set high math standards and reported that 70% of their students were on grade level. Others set low standards and reported that 85% of their students were on grade level. The perception is that the state with the low standards is doing better, but that is not necessarily the case. Having common standards will give us reliable data and the ability to learn from each other and make sure our children are truly being prepared for the competitive world they will live in as adults.

This began as a state-led effort, and it remains a state led effort today. State participation is voluntary and remains voluntary today. Idaho did not receive any federal funds to participate, and we will not lose any federal dollars if we walk away from the Common Core Standards tomorrow. Idaho is collecting the same amount of data we were collecting before we adopted these standards, and if we walk away from these standards tomorrow, we will still collect the same amount of data. Idaho has had core standards in math and English language arts for over 10 years, and just as those standards did not require or force districts to use a specific curriculum or textbook or lesson plans, the same is true off these new higher standards.

I have visited several schools across the state in recent weeks, from Sugar-Salem to Cottonwood, from Deary to Coeur d’Alene, from St. Maries to West Side and more. Every school is now implementing these higher standards. What I have seen has been nothing short of amazing: students are engaged in problem solving. They are using critical thinking skills to solve real-world problems, problems we know they will face when they get to the workforce. These standards will have a real effect on how well-prepared our students are for life after high school.

Idaho is three years into what will be a five-year transition to these standards. I can already see the positive impacts in our classrooms. These standards will be more difficult for Idaho's students; there's no doubt about it. But they will be better for our students, and for the future of our state.

The Common Core also has been a unifying event in education in Idaho. The Standards are supported by teachers and administrators, from K-12 to higher education. The business community has united in their very outward and vocal support. Local chambers of commerce and many local school boards have expressed their support.

Tomorrow, you will have the opportunity to add your collective voice in support of these new, higher, clearer standards. I encourage you to do so. Your strong support will be critical and key go forward.

Thank you again for being here today, and thank you for being involved. Thank you for your leadership. It’s your leadership and your voice at the local level that is critical as we embark on implementation of the Task Force recommendations and moving our education system forward.


The most recent results of the Nation’s Report Card provide a good indicator of how Idaho students will perform in 2015 when they are first measured against the higher and more rigorous Idaho Core Standards. 

Currently, the Nation’s Report Card is the only assessment that compares student achievement from state to state. It measures a sample size of students in reading and mathematics in grades 4 and 8 every two years and compares this data among states. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna serves on the National Assessment Governing Board that oversees this assessment.

Because 45 states worked together to develop and then voluntarily adopt common academic standards in mathematics and English language arts, states soon will be able to better compare student achievement results in the future at not only a state but also a district and even a school level. 

“In education, we use data to make the best possible decisions for Idaho students and their future. The Nation’s Report is no different. This data provides a good indicator for us to show parents, students, teachers, and the public how Idaho students might perform when first measured against the higher, more rigorous Idaho Core Standards in 2015,” Superintendent Luna said. 

The results show that approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of Idaho students will be performing on grade level in reading and mathematics against the higher academic standards. 

These are similar to results other states, such as Kentucky and New York, saw the first time they measured students against higher standards. Kentucky now has tested students for two years and has already seen positive results from implementing higher standards. In 2010, only 34 percent of Kentucky students graduated prepared for college or career. Now, 54 percent are graduating prepared, a significant increase in the number of students who now do not need to take remedial courses once they go on to postsecondary. 

Superintendent Luna has said as Idaho raises its academic standards, we should anticipate fewer students will reach grade-level proficiency in the first few years. This trend will not be new. The state saw similar results when it first administered the ISAT in 2003. 

“It is not because our students woke up one day and were not as smart as they were the day before. It is because our students are working to meet a higher bar, learning at a higher level, and that is a good thing for every child and for their future,” Superintendent Luna said. 

Idaho voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards as Idaho’s Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts and literacy in 2011 to ensure every Idaho student graduates from high school ready to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation. 

The Idaho Core Standards are higher than Idaho’s previous academic standards in these subject areas and comparable with any other state or any other country in the world to make sure every student graduates from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce. 

The standards now are being taught across grades K-12 in Idaho’s public schools. All students will first be tested against these higher standards in Spring 2015. 

Until the first test is administered, the 2013 results of the Nation’s Report Card can serve as a good indicator of how Idaho’s students might perform against the higher standards because the Nation’s Report Card has worked to measure academic achievement among all state standards through different question types, including open-ended and constructed response. 

The Nation’s Report Card reports different levels of student achievement results. The “Basic” level of student achievement is equivalent to what Idaho reports as grade level, or “proficient,” on our statewide assessment, the ISAT. 

Because Idaho raised its academic standards, NAEP’s “Proficient” level is more telling. This score more accurately reflect how Idaho students will likely perform when the state first administers the new test aligned to Idaho Core Standards. 

Here are the results for Idaho students scoring Proficient or above on the 2013 Nation’s Report Card: 
  • In fourth grade mathematics, 40 percent of Idaho students scored at or above Proficient. Nationwide, 42 percent of students scored at or above Proficient. 
  • In fourth grade reading, 33 percent of Idaho students scored at or above Proficient. These results are similar to those reported in 2011. Nationwide, 35 percent of students scored at or above Proficient. 
  • In eighth grade mathematics, 36 percent of Idaho students scored at or above Proficient. These results are similar to those reported in 2011. Nationwide, 35 percent of students scored at or above Proficient. 
  • In eight grade reading, 38 percent of Idaho students scored at or above Proficient. Nationwide, 36 percent of students scored at or above Proficient. 

“I applaud Idaho’s eighth grade students for continuing to outpace their peers across the nation in reading and mathematics,” Superintendent Luna said. “It is clear our investments in the Idaho Reading and Math Initiatives and the hard work of Idaho’s teachers are paying dividends to help in better preparing Idaho students for higher levels of reading and mathematics, especially when compared to their peers across the country.” 

Eighth grade students scored an average 286 in mathematics, higher than the national average of 284. In reading, eighth graders scored an average 270, higher than the national average of 266. In addition, Idaho increased the percent of students scoring Proficient or above in reading on the Nation’s Report Card from 34 percent in 2011 to 38 percent in 2013. 

Idaho’s new assessment in Spring 2015 will replace the ISAT and provide a new baseline of data for Idaho students and teachers going forward. Once we know where Idaho students stand against the new, higher standards, Idaho’s teachers can help students rise to meet this new challenge. 

“We know Idaho students and teachers are ready to meet this challenge. It will not happen overnight, but we will reach the goal of every child graduating from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce,” Superintendent Luna said. “We have had standards in place since 2002. Each time we raise academic standards, Idaho teachers make sure students meet the goals we have set for them, and we know we will see the same success as we implement the new Idaho Core Standards.” 

For more information on the results of the 2013 Nation’s Report Card, please visit http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/naep/IdahoResults.htm or http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Districts Work to Expand Advanced Opportunities for Students

Yesterday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna visited the small, rural West Side School District, not far from the Utah border. With fewer than 700 students, West Side faces the same challenges any rural district might face: recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers or accessing advanced opportunities for students, to name some.

But years ago, the district found a solution. Under the leadership of former district superintendent Melvin Beutler, West Side tapped into the Utah Education Network and began piping in dual credit (or concurrent credit) courses to its students. Soon, kids in the town of Dayton were graduating high school with college credits under their belt. Some even graduated with an associate’s degree.

Today, their success continues under the district’s current leadership, and it fueled progress across the state.

Based on West Side’s success and growing demand across the state, Idaho implemented the Idaho Education Network, modeled after Utah’s program, to provide high-speed broadband intranet as well as video-teleconferencing equipment to every public high school and public institution of higher education in Idaho.

Through the IEN, students in any school – no matter its location or geographic barriers – can not only learn from the great teachers they have right there on site but also from any other great teacher available across the state of Idaho or at Idaho’s colleges and universities.

And the state now helps them in this effort.

Through the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program, which passed the Idaho Legislature in 2011 and was expanded in 2013, the state will pay for high school students to earn up to 36 college or professional-technical credits.

Superintendent Luna was in the Kimberly School District this morning, nearly 200 miles from the West Side School, but with many of the same challenges.

In Kimberly, they are taking advantage of the pioneering efforts of the West Side School District and the programs the state now offers as a result.

Last year, nearly a dozen students in Kimberly participated in the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program. So far, eight students are taking advantage of the program this year.

Jericho Schroeder is one of those students. Even though she is just a high school student, she will earn her associates degree from the College of Southern Idaho in two weeks.

Jericho Schroeder is a student at Kimberly High and just two weeks shy of earning her associates degree.
After she graduates from high school, she hopes to go on and become a doctor.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

At Beutler Middle, Students Use iPads To Stay Engaged in Every Class

On Thursday, at Beutler Middle School, music students were finding new ways to identify notes. It didn’t require the teacher to stand in the front of the room and point out the notes to them.

Instead, every student had their own iPad. They could open up an app, sing into the device, and it would tell them which notes they were missing. Each student received immediate feedback and worked to self-correct next time they sang. The teacher was on hand to help each student individually along the way.
Students use SmartMusic app to master note identification.
Beutler Middle fully implemented a one-to-one ratio of iPads to students and teachers this year through the Idaho Technology Pilot Program. It was one of 11 schools selected this summer to participate in the pilot program.

Through this program, schools received state funding to pilot innovative technologies that, if successful, might later be duplicated in every school across the state to give Idaho teachers the tools they need to help raise academic achievement.

Beutler Middle received $138,718.74 to implement the iPad technology across all grades, which it believes will help students reach grade-level proficiency on the new Idaho Core Standards, participate in digital coursework, and prepare for dual credit opportunities once they are in high school.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna visited the school in Dayton on Thursday afternoon to talk with teachers, students and school administrators about how the technology pilot is working.

“This school district, the West Side School District, is a unique district in that it really has been a leader for many years in the use of technology to expand opportunities for students,” Superintendent Luna said. “They are a leader in distance learning. They are a leader in virtual education. So it’s not only interesting, but it’s exciting to see how they continue to lead the state in making sure that students living here in their district have opportunities to learn at the highest levels and from great educators.”

Educators at Beutler Middle School have fully embraced the new technology, finding innovative ways to integrate the technology and keeps students engaged in every subject area.

In science class, the teacher used an interactive app to help students better understand mitosis. Rather than just looking at pictures in a textbook, students can see how it actually occurs and watch it over and over again, if necessary.
7th grade student using the mitosis app in science class.
In language arts, students use the iPad to improve their writing skills with daily prompts.

Students use the technology in history class to research current events and then quiz each other about them.

So far, students had nothing but great things to say about the new devices.  “You can do a lot more things on it, like look things up to help on projects. It helps a lot!” one student told Superintendent Luna before he left.

Superintendent Luna Sees Sugar Salem High's Technology Pilot in Action Today

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna visited Sugar Salem High School this morning, spending nearly three hours visiting classrooms and talking with school board members, students and teachers.

Sugar Salem is one of 11 schools that was selected earlier this year to participate in the Idaho Technology Pilot Program, which the Legislature established in 2013.

The goal is for these schools to utilize $3 million in state funding to pilot innovative technologies that, if successful, might later be duplicated in every school across the state to give Idaho teachers the tools they need to help raise academic achievement.

Sugar Salem was awarded $454,783.20 to integrate laptop technology in the high school grades. Through a one-to-one laptop initiative with HP 4440s notebook computers and a wireless network, this pilot project will create a New Generation Learning Environment with learning opportunities both in the classroom and beyond the walls of the classroom.

Sugar Salem High has already made significant progress in a short amount of time.

“What you see at every classroom that we visited today, and I’m sure it is happening in all classrooms, is students that are heavily engaged in learning. They are engaged in problem solving, they are creating work, and the classrooms are very interactive. There is a high level of learning going on here,” Superintendent Luna said.

Students using technology as they study Hamlet.
Mr. Edwards, a senior English teacher, said teaching with the technology is "so much fun, it's not really a job."

When Sugar Salem first launched its pilot project this fall, district superintendent Alan Dunn invited all parents to a meeting about the new technology. About 60 parents showed up, and district staff were on hand to explain the new technology, how it would be integrated, and answer any questions.

After the meeting, a group of parents offered to form a committee to help with implementation throughout the school year. They meet regularly to hear parent concerns, gather suggestions and help communicate with the school administration about the technology pilot program.

"We believe this will be a benefit to us,” Superintendent Alan Dun said. “I don't believe test scores will rise dramatically. The biggest issue for us is that we're preparing students for some things that aren't testable.”

Jared Jenks, High School Principal, said, “The pros outweigh the challenges we have had. Discipline problems? I’ve had zero.”

How are teachers in Sugar Salem using the new technology?

One English teacher utilizes Canvas, a free software, so students can turn in their assignments electronically. The teacher marks the assignments up through Canvas and grades them. Then, he records a video message to the student about the assignment, so the student has immediate feedback from the teacher.

Sugar Salem English teacher demonstrating Canvas software to grade papers and give students immediate feedback.
The new technology also is saving teachers time. Student Matthew Chandler said, “Our teachers don’t have to schedule time for computer labs because we have our own computers.”

These are just a few of the examples Superintendent Luna saw on his brief visit to Sugar Salem High School.

“Here at Sugar Salem, it is a great example of what we hope to see in every high school around the state, sooner rather than later,” Superintendent Luna said after his visit.

Sugar Salem also was one of the first high schools connected to wireless connectivity through the new statewide contract. As of today, 14 schools have hardware installed for wireless infrastructure and four are fully connected.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced today that Idaho is one of seven states selected to participate in a two-year pilot that will focus on transforming educator preparation and entry systems to the profession.

CCSSO created the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) to support states ready to take action in making sure all educators are ready on the first day of their career to prepare every student for college, work and life.

NTEP will focus on three key policy areas, including teacher preparation programs, or what an individual learns at a College of Education or through an alternate route before being certified as a teacher.

NTEP grew out of CCSSO’s Our Responsibility, Our Promise: Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession report, which was published last year. While serving as President of CCSSO, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna chaired the state-led task force that prepared the report.

“The goal of the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation is all about improving the craft of teaching. For those who choose teaching as their life’s work and passion, it is incumbent on us to provide the support and opportunities they need to be prepared as soon as they enter the classroom. This all begins with our teacher preparation programs,” Superintendent Luna said.

Earlier this year, Idaho’s Task Force for Improving Education unanimously endorsed Idaho’s efforts to implement the recommendations from Our Responsibility, Our Promise. NTEP is the first step in that direction.

The states participating in NTEP will include: Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington. States will be joined by seventeen national organizations committed to supporting the states’ efforts to accelerate change in educator preparation and entry into the profession by helping to communicate with their members and serve as thought partners.

“States across the nation have raised expectations for all students and that means that we have a responsibility to ensure that educators are prepared to help all students graduate ready for careers, college and lifelong learning,” said Chris Minnich, CCSSO Executive Director. “These seven states are among those on the leading edge of making substantive changes in the policy and practice of educator preparation. Over the next two years they’ll work with educators, preparation programs, institutions of higher education, non-profit and for-profit education providers, districts and schools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce. These states are taking a comprehensive approach to creating a system where educators are ready when they enter the classroom. By focusing on certification, preparation, program approval, and information on how graduates are doing in the classroom, these states will improve teacher readiness and thereby help students perform at higher levels.”

CCSSO released Our Responsibility, Our Promise –Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession in December 2012. The report was developed collaboratively by state education chiefs and representatives of the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of State Boards of Education to identify key areas they can change to ensure every teacher and principal is ready on day one to help all students meet raised expectations. The report contains ten recommendations that focus on three state policy levers – licensure, program approval, and data collection, analysis and reporting – to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce. 

The states participating in the pilot will use these recommendations as the foundation for their actions and more specifically will do the following:
  •  Licensure: States will strengthen and change educator licensure standards and requirements to ensure teacher and principal candidates recommended for licensure demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the high expectations for all students, and help teachers and principals continuously improve their practice throughout their careers.
  • Program Approval: States will raise the bar on the approval process for all educator preparation providers to ensure they deliver high-quality, rigorous training to potential educators, as demonstrated by performance assessments that show that candidates can apply what they’ve learned in actual school settings and with the range of learners they will likely encounter.
  • Analyzing and Reporting Information to Improve Preparation Programs: States will formalize and refine the process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting educator pre-service and in-service performance data to ensure this information is used as tools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce.
The network will leverage promising practices that other states have used to begin to change policy effecting how teachers and principals are prepared and licensed to practice as well as the variety of new pre-service performance assessments being developed.

Idaho’s work through NTEP is aligned with the Idaho State Department of Education’s work to implement the recommendations from the Task Force for Improving Education, which includes recommendations specific to tiered licensure, enhanced pre-service opportunities, and mentoring.

Learn more about the Task Force for Improving Education recommendations on the Idaho State Board of Education’s website

New Study Looks at How Blended Learning in Idaho is Transforming Rural Education

Today, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), shared its findings of a joint research partnership between the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) and Northwest Nazarene University on how blended learning impacts students in rural parts of Idaho.

The need for effective blended learning environments – the best of face-to-face and online learning, coupled with tools driving continuous assessment of progress and personalization of content – is on the rise throughout the United States. While the growth of blended learning programs is prevalent in urban and suburban centers, the need is no less great in rural areas.

The review highlights three key points:
The positive impact that blended learning has on those teachers who choose to incorporate emerging models of practice into their classroom environments,
A correlation between the opportunity for self-pacing and the quality of a student's work and perseverance, and
The importance of comprehensive teacher training for blended and online learning environments.

Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL, said, "The promise of blended learning to provide a highly personalized experience for each student is not restricted by the geography in which a student lives. The emerging practices and real-world barriers found within this report offer a valuable look at transformation through blended learning in action and show the field both where we are and where we need to move."

For this report, co-authors Eric Werth, Ph.D., Lori Werth, Ph.D. and Eric Kellerer, Ed.D. of Northwest Nazarene University's Doceo Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning surveyed teachers working with students ranging from early childhood to 12th Grade, with a great majority of them (73.3 percent) teaching in Idaho's rural school districts.

Dr. Cheryl Charlton, CEO for Idaho Digital Learning, said, "For more than a decade, IDLA has strived to provide students throughout Idaho with access to high-quality, highly flexible educational options. This research reflects lessons learned in designing effective blended learning models and deepens our commitment to the countless benefits that personalized learning brings students and teachers."

Here are some of the key findings from their report:
65.4% of teachers said students were more motivated to participate in class because of blended learning.
87% of teachers found communication between parents and teachers, between students and students, and between teachers and teachers was the same or better after the use of blended learning.
77.5% of teachers indicated that their ability to monitor student learning was either better or much better with blended learning.

The report states, “Teachers indicated that the use of blended learning improved their ability to be innovative, assisted them in monitoring student learning, and allowed greater opportunity to provide 1-on-1 instruction. Strong correlations were found between allowing student self-paced learning, a teacher’s ability to be innovative, providing resources to those who miss class and/or who struggle, and students’ ability to locate resources on their own and important educational outcomes such as student interest level, perseverance, motivation, time on task, excitement, attendance and a teacher’s overall enjoyment of teaching.

“Those who had utilized blended learning cautioned that those beginning a similar endeavor to expect the project to take time and that there will be initial struggles that need to be persevered through. These individuals suggested that teachers build lesson material as they go and seek formal and informal training whenever possible. A number of respondents indicated that while it may seem time-consuming and difficult at first, the benefits later greatly outweigh the cost.”

You can read the full report online to learn more about what teachers said about blended learning and the barriers they face in implementation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


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

“The annual Holiday Card Contest is an opportunity for Idaho students to showcase their artwork and for the state 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 Web site at www.sde.idaho.gov 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 Department also awards grade-level winners.

Here are the guidelines for the 2013 Holiday Card Contest:
  1. The contest is open to public school students in grades K-6.
  2. Drawings should reflect holiday or 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. Students are encouraged to completely fill the page but keep the design simple. Too many details tend to get lost in the design. 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 Web site at www.sde.idaho.gov.
  9. Submissions must be postmarked by Friday, November 15, 2013. Results will be announced in December. Drawings may be mailed to:
State Department of Education
Attn: Portia Flynn
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0027

If you have questions, please contact Portia Flynn at (208) 332-6812 or pflynn@sde.idaho.gov.

Monday, October 21, 2013


CenturyLink and the Idaho Community Foundation (ICF) are seeking middle/junior high school classrooms and teachers to submit applications for participation in the 2013-2014 CenturyLink Middle School Philanthropy Program.

The Program’s purpose is to increase awareness among middle/junior high school students about the various needs within their communities and engage them in the work of the nonprofits working tirelessly to meet those needs. Up to $24,000 has been allocated to support the program’s second round, and up to eight classrooms will be selected to participate.

Selected classrooms will each be given up to $3,000 to spend as grants to support nonprofit organizations in the local community. Teachers will lead students in the process of researching local organizations, presenting their findings and collectively determining how to distribute the charitable funds. The project culminates with a check presentation to the selected charities in spring 2014.

"CenturyLink is dedicated to enhancing the communities we serve in a meaningful way," said Jim Schmit, vice president and general manager for CenturyLink in Idaho. "This program is a unique opportunity for students to connect with their community in a way that will raise awareness of needs and hopefully instill them with a lifelong interest in giving back."

Eligible participants include Idaho and southeastern Oregon middle/junior high school classes located within communities served by CenturyLink. This includes American Falls, Bancroft, Bellevue, Blackfoot, Bliss, Boise, Bruneau, Burley, Buhl, Caldwell, Castleford, Cottonwood, Craigmont, Culdesac, Declo, Downey, Dayton, Dietrich, Eagle, Eden, Emmett, Franklin, Firth, Gooding, Glenns Ferry, Grace, Grangeville, Grandview, Grasmere, Greenleaf, Hailey, Hagerman, Hammett, Hansen, Hazelton, Heyburn, Idaho City, Idaho Falls, Inkom, Jerome, Kamiah, Kimberly, Ketchum, Kooskia, Kuna, Lapwai, Lava Hot Springs, Lewisville, Leadore, Lewiston, Menan, McCammon, Middleton, Melba, Meridian, Murtaugh, Mountain Home, Montpelier, Murphy, Nampa, New Plymouth, Nez Perce, North Fork, Notus, Picabo, Payette, Placerville, Pocatello, Preston, Richfield, Riddle, Roberts, Rigby, Ririe, Riverside, Rexburg, Salmon, Soda Springs, Shelley, Shoshone, Star, Sugar City, Sun Valley, Thatcher, Twin Falls, Winchester, Weiser and Wendell, Idaho; and Ontario, Nyssa and Vale, Oregon.

Please visit the ICF website for application guidelines and to apply. Deadline for submission is November 30, 2013.

For more information, e-mail ltassos@idcomfdn.org or call (208) 342-3535 or (800) 657-5357.

The Idaho Community Foundation is a statewide public nonprofit organization whose goal is to have a permanent endowment of charitable dollars that will serve Idaho forever. ICF is a public nonprofit organization that manages more than charitable funds on behalf of organizations, families, individuals and businesses. Each named fund has a designated purpose and distributes grants or scholarships to support a charity or cause. A gift of any size to an ICF fund helps increase the size and number of grants and scholarships awarded to local nonprofits and students. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


The Idaho State Department of Education has been awarded a $1.29 million grant over the next three years to begin the Idaho Lives Project, a collaboration among the state, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN-Idaho) and other partner organizations to reduce the prevalence of suicide among youth ages 10-24 in Idaho.

Today, Idaho ranks among the top five states for teen suicides and in the top ten states for overall suicides. Because of Idaho’s rural geography, many students and families have faced barriers in accessing prevention and mental health services.

“This is a unique opportunity for our state and local communities. The tragedy of suicide is beyond measure, and unfortunately, Idaho is not immune to this tragedy. With the right knowledge and support, suicide is the most preventable form of death,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Through this grant, the State Department of Education as well as state and local partners will work together to equip our schools and communities with the training and resources necessary to prevent teen suicide now and in the future.”

Over the next three years, the Idaho Lives Project will reach an estimated 31,000 individuals in schools and communities across Idaho, including students in elementary and middle grades, entire school communities and all sub-groups of the population.  An advisory board will select a total of 30-42 school communities to participate in this project based upon need, interest and readiness to benefit.

Specifically, the project will focus on training school staff and community adults in effectively responding to at-risk youth, equipping students to reach out to trusted adults when peers exhibit suicidal tendencies, and fostering local resources to connect at-risk youth with mental health providers.

“Implementing the Idaho Lives Project with the curriculum ‘Sources of Strength’ is going to be a significant boost to the suicide prevention efforts for the youth in Idaho,” said Jeni Griffin, Executive Director of SPAN-Idaho. “With this grant, Idaho can address youth suicide with a program proven to reduce suicide in our youth as well as giving them key tools as protective factors for them as adults. SPAN Idaho is pleased to be a part of this collaborative project.”

The Idaho Lives Project will evaluate and document strategies used so effective practices can be shared across the state.

The Project is federally funded by the State and Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Grant awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support states and tribes in developing and implementing suicide prevention strategies.

For more information about the Idaho Lives Project, please contact Matt McCarter at the Idaho State Department of Education at mamccarter@sde.idaho or (208) 332-6961, or contact Jeni Griffin at SPAN-Idaho at jgriffin@spanidaho.org or (208) 860-1703.

Friday, October 11, 2013


The State Department of Education will award $1.5 million in grants to fund afterschool programs across the state for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. Now is the time for school districts and other organizations to apply. 

The funding is available through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, which is designed to provide academic enrichment opportunities, art, music, recreation, sports, drug and violence prevention and youth development activities to students during non-school hours.  The State Department of Education currently funds 93 afterschool centers throughout Idaho, which serve a total of 6,128 Idaho youth daily.

“Afterschool programs funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program in Idaho have a long history of supporting the academic success of students outside of the school day,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “These programs are ideal settings to help better prepare students for the new, more rigorous Idaho Core Standards and give them the support and guidance they need to graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.”

School districts, municipalities, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and private corporations are eligible for these grants. Successful applicants will receive funding for up to five years.

Those considering applying for funding are strongly encouraged to attend a Bidder’s Workshop. The following workshops are open to any interested party: 
  • Monday, November 4: Moscow, Best Western Plus, 1516 Pullman Road
  • Thursday, November 14: Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge High School, 300 N College Road, Room 301 
  • Friday, November 15: Idaho Falls, Compass Academy Facility, 955 Garfield Street
  • Tuesday, November 19: New Plymouth High School Library, 207 S Plymouth Avenue 
  • Wednesday, November 20: Boise, Dennis Technical Education Center, 8201 W Victory Road
All workshops will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break. All workshops are free. Visit our website to register for the workshops or to download the grant application. Participants are expected to download and review the application prior to the workshop. Grant applications are due January 31, 2014.

If you need more information please contact Camille McCashland, Program Specialist, at (208) 332-6960.