Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Registration is now open for Idaho’s SAT® School Day, a free, in-school college entrance exam scheduled for Wednesday, April 17.

Funded by the state of Idaho, SAT School Day is an example of how states can utilize the nation’s oldest and most thoroughly researched college entrance exam to help promote a culture that encourages more students to pursue education after high school. Last year, more than 16,000 juniors across the state participated in Idaho SAT School Day. More Idahoans than ever before entered their senior year of high school with a key college admission credential.

“Idaho SAT School Day is a great opportunity for Idaho’s high school juniors to take one step closer to going on to postsecondary education,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I encourage all students to take advantage of this testing day in their school as well as the tools and resources the state offers, such as the free, online preparation course. I am pleased we can provide such unique advantages to our students to ensure more of them graduate from high school prepared to go on to postsecondary education and not need remediation once they get there.”

Ken Edmunds, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said, “Preparing students for success beyond high school is essential to Idaho’s economic growth and prosperity. The statewide SAT day provides students with the opportunity to identify areas of strength and weakness so they can better prepare for postsecondary education.”

In 2007, the Idaho Legislature approved new high school graduation requirements, beginning with the Class of 2013. The new requirements included three years of math, three years of science, and a requirement for all high school juniors to take a college entrance exam. The state now pays for students to take the SAT or ACCUPLACER through a contract with the College Board.

High school juniors can register for Idaho SAT School Day online or through their school’s guidance counselor’s office. Registration ends Wednesday, April 3. All Idaho public schools with 11th-graders have been sent Idaho SAT School Day vouchers with printed numbers to give to the students to register.

Registering is easy. Students only need four things: an email account, a free College Board online account, their EDUID (State ID) number, and their Idaho SAT student voucher, available from their school counselor. Every SAT registration includes up to four free score reports that can be sent to colleges and scholarship services. Registering for the SAT also enables students to participate in the College Board’s Student Search Service®, through which students can let colleges, universities and scholarship programs know they are interested in hearing from them. Students participating in the Student Search Service also have the opportunity to receive educational and financial aid information from colleges, universities and scholarship programs.

Research has shown that taking a rigorous curriculum in high school is the best way to prepare for college, and for the SAT. To help Idaho students familiarize themselves with the SAT and prepare for Idaho SAT School Day, the Idaho State Department of Education and the College Board are providing all public school juniors with free access to the Official SAT Online Course™, available through their school. Additional free and low-cost SAT practice tools and resources, including a free, full-length practice test and The Official SAT Question of the Day™ are available on the College Board’s website

Students can use their SAT scores to research colleges and universities on the College Board’s free comprehensive college planning website, The BigFuture™. This site was created with the Education Conservancy and in consultation with students and educators to help make the college planning process simpler and more accessible. BigFuture walks students through each step of the college planning process, from finding colleges that fit, to writing a college essay, to applying for financial aid. At the site, students can watch videos from real students giving tips on college planning, such as what do to on a campus visit, and students can explore college options with advice from the schools themselves. Students also have access to Skills Insight™, which is a general guide to help students determine their current skill level in reading, writing and math — the areas tested on the SAT.

Created by educators and aligned to Common Core State Standards, the SAT tests the reading, mathematics and writing skills and the knowledge students acquire during high school. The SAT provides a fair, national benchmark for assessing a student’s college and career readiness. Scores for each section of the SAT are reported on a 200- to 800-point scale, with additional subscores reported for the essay (ranging from 2 to 12) and for multiple-choice writing questions (on a 20- to 80-point scale). The SAT provides valuable feedback to students and families, including a detailed breakdown of a student’s score in each section, with insight into academic strengths and areas for improvement.

“Ensuring that as many high school students as possible have the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in college is more important now than at any point in our nation’s history, so we are pleased to see states and districts guiding students to a key college credential by hosting SAT School Day,” said College Board Vice President James Montoya, a former dean of admission. “College is a major family financial investment, and the SAT helps students identify the colleges and universities where they have the highest likelihood of academic success. When used in combination with high school grades, the SAT is the most valid predictor of first-year college performance. ”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Department Launches Next Practices Website

The Idaho State Department of Education launched the Next Practices website today as part of Digital Learning Day.

Idaho joined 46 states in marking Digital Learning Day to highlight innovative teaching taking place in classrooms across our state. The state recognized and rewarded nine teachers for their innovative use of technology in the classroom and is sharing their best practices with others in Idaho through videos and Schoolnet.

In addition to this, the Department worked last fall to visit schools and districts in several communities – large and small – that were working to integrate technology in the classroom in unique ways or using new, innovative strategies to keep students engaged in school and improving their academic achievement.

We documented this – what we are calling “Next Practices” – on our new website, and hope you will take the time to watch these videos, take some notes and maybe try some of these ideas in your classroom, school or community.

Right now, you can visit our Next Practices website and see how Centennial High students are turning the school library into a vibrant place that kids want to be! Or take a trip to Melba where teachers are using iPads and a secure social networking site called Edmodo. A paraprofessional in the Highland School describes how they have used iPads to better educate those students who are struggling academically.You can learn how Justin Hoffman earned more than 20 dual credits while still in high school to get a jumpstart on his college education, or see how schools are using blended learning to ease the workload for teachers and bring lessons to life for students.

We hope this is just the beginning. If you have an idea or something you consider a “Next Practice,” let us know! We hope to add more content to this site in the future so educators can share these next practices with each other.

JKAF Announces $5 Million RFP for new P-TECH Charter Schools

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation invites school operators and other nonprofit organizations to submit proposals to launch innovative early college high schools in Idaho. Idaho’s P-TECH schools will be founded in collaboration with higher education institutions and industry partners with the goal of graduating students with the credentials and skills needed to launch meaningful careers.

Any organization that demonstrates the capacity to launch a P-TECH school is welcome to apply, including those outside the state of Idaho. Potential applicants include:
  • community colleges,
  • public school districts,
  • charter schools/charter management organizations, and
  • other existing school operators.
The initiative was inspired by the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) schools that have been opened in partnership with IBM in New York and Illinois. Those schools serve students from grades 9-14, but JKAF is open to funding projects that serve a different grade range as well.

P-TECH schools partner with both an industry professional to ensure the school’s academic program is aligned to needs and trends in that industry and a higher education institution to guide and inform school curriculum.

JKAF has budgeted $5 million for a successful school startup, including expenses to pay for trips to Idaho to discuss potential proposals. The money will also pay for the school’s establishment, to ensure that students can attend without having to pay tuition.

Key RFP Dates:

Wednesday, February 27
Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to attend an RFP information session at the JKAF offices at 10:00am. RSVP to ptech@jkaf.org by Friday, February 22. JKAF will support reasonable travel and lodging costs associated with attending the workshop.

Thursday, February 28 – Friday, March 1
Prospective charter applicants must attend a two-day Idaho Charter School Office Workshop. JKAF will support reasonable travel and lodging costs associated with attending the workshop.

Friday, March 8
Letters of Intent are due.

Friday, April 5
Full proposals are due.
Learn more and read the RFP here

Questions? Please contact: ptech@jkaf.org


Teachers, parents, and students across Idaho and the country celebrated Digital Learning Day. It was the second-annual Digital Learning Day in Idaho, as proclaimed by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

On Digital Learning Day, the Idaho State Department of Education awarded nine Idaho educators for using technology in innovative ways to improve student learning.

“I am so proud of our talented teachers who work hard every day to find new ways to engage students in their learning and raise academic achievement,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Digital Learning Day is a great way for us to celebrate their success in the classroom and share these best practices with other teachers and educators across the state.”

The goal of Digital Learning Day, a partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, is to highlight innovative teaching taking place in classrooms in Idaho and across the country so teachers can collaborate and share best practices with each other.

Digital learning provides students and families with more choices than ever in public education. The state has expanded digital learning opportunities in the classroom, such as access to digital content, interactive technologies, and the Idaho Education Network. Through digital learning, students not only learn from the great teachers in their school but also now have access to other highly effective teachers in schools across the state.

Four Idaho teachers earned awards through Idaho State Department of Education’s new 21st Century Classroom Recognition Awards program:

  • Best Video: Mrs. Jennifer Duckwall of Mountain Valley Elementary School in the Bonneville School District. The winning video, called The Geometry Rap, is available online at http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/nextPractices/. It was completely produced, directed, written, and edited by her students. Mrs. Duckwall said this type of digital learning helps drive student achievement forward in her classroom. “In my 2nd grade classroom after implementing digital technology such as this, my average math score was of a 5-6th grade competency and 96% of the class being above the 75th percentile in the nation,” she said in her application.
  • Best Lesson Plan: Mrs. Kim Miller of Star Elementary School in Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian). Her winning lesson plan, Flow of Energy in an Ecosystem, is now available to all Idaho teachers through Schoolnet, the statewide instructional management system. It is aligned to state content standards and incorporates digital content.
  • Best Unit Plan: Mrs. Kim Miller and Mrs. Marita Diffenbaugh of Star Elementary School in Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian). A unit plan is four to five lesson plans. Their winning unit plan, Mystery Substances Unit for 5th grade, is now available to all Idaho teachers through Schoolnet, the statewide instructional management system. It is aligned to state content standards and incorporates digital content.
  • Best Practices in Visual Arts: Ms. Amber McVey of Pepper Ridge Elementary School in Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian). Her winning lesson plan, Picasso Art, combines geometry concepts and art concepts to teach students about Picasso’s theory of cubism. It is now available to all Idaho teachers through Schoolnet, the statewide instructional management system.

For winning the grand prize in each category, these teachers will receive a financial award of between $300 and $1,000 to use in their classroom as well as a free virtual field trip for their students on the Idaho Education Network. The State Department of Education also awarded several finalists in each category.

In addition to these awards, five other Idaho educators were recognized with Idaho Education Network (IEN) Talk Awards for using the Idaho Education Network in their school or district to provide greater learning opportunities to students. 

  • College Access Champion: Amanda Hansen, a teacher at West Side High School. She earned the award for using the IEN to promote college preparation through SAT and ACT preparation classes.
  • Rookie of the Year: Luci Asumendi-Mereness, Principal of Homedale High School. She earned the award for championing the use of IEN classes to fill gaps in core curriculum, offer electives and get those hard-to-find classes for students in Homedale.
  • Most Valuable Player: Dale Garrard, a teacher at Centennial High School in Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian). As the Lead Teacher of World Languages at Centennial High, Mr. Garrard, teaches Japanese over the IEN to the entire Meridian School District!
  • IEN Innovation: Idaho Distance Education Academy. This school earned the award for its innovative, distinctive use of the IEN to hold virtual sessions to supplement its curriculum.
  • IEN Achievement Award: Dr. John Miller, Instructional Dean at the College of Southern Idaho. This award honors one exceptional education professional for outstanding promotion or use of the IEN. He earned this award for CSI’s outstanding use of the IEN to offer dual credit courses to high school students. Students have earned 2,200 dual credits from CSI through the Idaho Education Network.

The Idaho State Department of Education also unveiled its new Next Practices website, a place where Idaho educators can see innovative ideas and practices happening in other schools and districts across the state.

The Next Practices website captures some these “next practices” and will continue to update with more in the coming months and years. We encourage you to visit this and see some of the great things that are happening across Idaho today: http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/nextPractices/.

For more information on these opportunities and Digital Learning Day in Idaho, visit http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/digitalLearningDay/.

Guest Post: Engaging students with Edmodo

Today is National Digital Learning Day!  To celebrate we’ve asked educators across the state to share their ideas on different facets of digital learning in the classroom. Marita Diffenbaugh, a 5th grade teacher at Star Elementary in the Meridian School District, submitted the following blog post on how she uses Edmodo, an educational social media platform, to engage students. 

Fifth graders in Mrs. Diffenbaugh's class, at Star Elementary in the Meridian School District, enjoy using Edmodo (www.edmodo.com) as a tool that takes our learning beyond the traditional classroom time. Students store research, ideas, and questions on their class group through Edmodo, and then respond to one another's learning. 

Recently, students figured out how to move their multimedia projects from a mobile device, such as an iPod and iPad to their Edmodo group. This has been helpful for group projects, and for our home/school connections. Students get really excited to share these projects with their families, and Edmodo is a great tool for this. 

Sometimes, Mrs. Diffenbaugh will schedule a time in the evening to get online for a live Edmodo chat, and the students love to jump on and continue a learning discussion that started earlier in the school day.

Guest Post: Bring Universal Design for Learning to Life

Today is National Digital Learning Day!  To celebrate we’ve asked educators across the state to share their ideas on different facets of digital learning in the classroom. Daniel Dyer, from the Idaho Assistive Technology Resource Center, submitted the following blog post on Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—a framework that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn—and UDL technologies.

  • You can substitute inflexible educational material with interactive content in your classroom. 
  • You can provide new and engaging educational experiences for your students that are customizable to their individual learning styles. 
  • You can make your curriculum accessible for students who need reading/writing, auditory, visual, physical, or communication support.
  • Use the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to provide students with various ways to access and interact with educational material.   http://www.udlcenter.org/
  • Use technology from the ground-up to make your curriculum as accessible and engaging as possible.
  • UDL is vital for the success of some students. 
 Software for UDL
The iPad as UDL Hardware
  • The iPad is engaging and can be interacted with through touch, vision, hearing, and speech. 
  • Endless education activities can be adapted for/with the iPad.  
  • The iPad has built in tools (Found under device Settings-General-Accessibility) for students who are blind, have low-vision, hearing impairments, dyslexia, intellectual and mobility disabilities. 
Essential iPad Apps
1.     iBooks – Free
Access books and textbooks in an engaging format with videos, interactive quizzes and electronic study tools.  Reading support can be enabled through enlarging the text, or listening to the material via the iPad’s built in voice reader.
2.    Dropbox – Free
Transfer files wirelessly to and from all of your computers, phones and devices. 

3.    App Writer US - $29.99
Snap a picture of printed text and let App Writer convert it to electronic text through OCR technology (on iPad 3 or 4). 
App Writer will read text aloud and provide word prediction support for struggling writers.  

4.    Notability - $1.99
Take class notes and generate written assignments with Notability.  It allows the inclusion of multimedia content in notes, such as photographs and audio recordings of lectures. 

For more information on UDL, assistive technology, and assistive Apps contact the Idaho Assistive Technology Project.   Access webinars on Assistive Apps at http://idahotc.com/assistive-technology/Trainings.aspx.

Guest Post: Technology is not something to fear!

Today is National Digital Learning Day!  To celebrate we’ve asked educators across the state to share their ideas on different facets of digital learning in the classroom. Dan Massimino, Teacher and Technology Support Coordinator at the Idaho Leads Project, submitted the following blog post on successfully integrating technology into the classroom.

There has been a seemingly endless amount of material, both pro and con, regarding the integration of technology into our classrooms.  Supplying students with access to the vast wealth of information available on the Internet can cause anxiety, trepidation, and create a sense of worry that students aren’t ready for the responsibility required to be a productive digital citizen.  When given proper guidance and trust, something else can emerge from our classrooms: innovation.

Within the world of education we stress the importance of offering our students opportunities to display what they can do, to show their level of understanding.  Providing them with a tool that can help them more effectively and creatively exhibit how amazing they are can create an atmosphere where benchmark levels aren’t just attained, they’re surpassed.

Joe Morelock is the Director of Innovation and Technology in Oregon’s Canby School District.  They have taken remarkable steps towards seamless, ubiquitous technological integration within their district.  In fact, their innovative steps have led not just to one-to-one devices for students, but to one-plus-one device offerings.  They have seen tremendous gains in student achievement, but Morelock attributes this not just to the technology, but also the opportunity provided by the district for students and teachers to interact with the larger world and the engagement in the material presented in a new way that really grabs the student and creates an environment where they can explore, create, succeed, fail, experiment, and interact with their peers, all while moving towards the constantly moving target we call “learning”.

I have traveled all over our great state of Idaho and one universal truth has emerged in the classrooms I have seen that are successfully integrating technology. They all seem to feature teachers and administrators who are willing to try something, even one small thing, and not be afraid to fail; instead these educators learn when things don’t go quite right, and improve processes which lead to increased student achievement.  Math teachers call this the “guess, check, and refine” process.  It directly applies when incorporating any new component to instruction, but is particularly important when integrating hardware or software in the classroom.

Technology is not something to fear; it’s something to embrace as a means for students to access information, create something great, and display their knowledge.  Our kids are already operating in the 21st century--it’s time for our pedagogy to catch up them and then get out of the way. Let’s let them impress us with their amazing abilities.

Monday, February 4, 2013


On February 6, Idaho is joining 46 states across the country to celebrate Digital Learning Day. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has proclaimed it as Digital Learning Day in Idaho!

To celebrate, the Idaho State Department of Education, in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, will highlight innovative teaching taking place in classrooms across our state.

“Digital Learning Day gives us the opportunity to recognize those innovative teachers who are using digital learning in their classrooms to expand access, individualize instruction and ensure every child is engaged in learning every day,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Digital learning is a key part of the 21st Century Classroom, and I am pleased to see so many states and educators work together to share best practices.”

On this day and throughout the year, the state will work with Idaho teachers and parents to explore how digital learning can provide all students with opportunities to build the skills needed to succeed in postsecondary education, a career, and throughout life.

Digital learning also provides students and families with more choices than ever in public education. The state has expanded digital learning opportunities in the classroom, such as access to digital content, interactive technologies, and the Idaho Education Network. Through digital learning, students not only learn from the great teachers in their school but also now have access to other highly effective teachers in schools across the state.

All education stakeholders – districts, schools, teachers, students, librarians, parents, and business and community partners –are encouraged to register to participate in Digital Learning Day activities. More than 18,000 teachers are currently signed up to participate across the country.

By signing up now, participating schools and teachers will have access to targeted toolkits outlining ideas and ways to plan their Digital Learning Day celebration, as well as updates, informational videos, webinars, and other resources. They also can participate in Digital Learning Day’s Digital Town Hall that will simulcast live on Wednesday, February 6, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (MT). The town hall will highlight promising practices in digital learning from across the country and showcase the effective use of technology in the classroom.

In addition, the State Department of Education will be honoring educators from across Idaho through the 21st Century Best Practices Technology Integration Recognition Awards! Teachers will be recognized Wednesday in categories such as Best Lesson and Unit Planning, Best Practices Lesson Plan in Visual Arts, and Video Awards Documenting Best Practices in Technology Integration.

Here are five ways you can celebrate Digital Learning Day in your school or classroom this week:
  1. Register your school for the national event and participate in the town hall.
  2. Follow the local and national conversation throughout the day on February 6 on Twitter– #DLDay and #IdahoDLDay – and on Superintendent Luna's Facebook page.
  3. On February 6, be sure to check out the award-winning videos from Idaho teachers that will be posted on the State Department of Education’s website so you can share their best practices in integrating digital learning in the classroom. 
  4. Explore Schoolnet and familiarize yourself with the many resources it provides.
  5. Try blended learning in your classroom for a day! Visit Idaho’s Digital Learning Day website to get more ideas and resources.