Wednesday, June 5, 2013


At the last meeting of the Task Force for Improving Education, task force members discussed the Idaho Core Standards, and the conversation quickly turned to professional development.

Specifically, what resources and funding are available to districts, schools and teachers in the coming year?

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna detailed how nearly $22 million will be available for professional development in the coming year, funded out of new and existing resources from both the state and other partners.

Most people had heard about a line item of nearly $4 million specifically dedicated to Idaho Core Standards professional development because this funding was new funding, but they were unaware of the other resources that would be made available to schools and districts.

Here is a breakdown of all the funding related to Idaho Core Standards that will be provided from state funding and other resources in the coming year: 
  • Idaho Core Standards Professional Development Funding: $3.755 million in new funding was appropriated in the FY2014 Public Schools Budget for the Idaho State Department of Education to deliver professional development to schools and districts. The state is organizing focus groups with teachers and school administrators to ensure this funding is spent in a meaningful and effective way. Total: $3.75 million
  • Excellence in Teaching Awards Funding: $21 million was appropriated in the FY2014 Public Schools Budget to be distributed directly to local school districts and public charter schools to use for differential pay and professional development. Of the total $21 million appropriated, districts/charter schools can spend up to 40% (or $8.4 million) on professional development, including buying time. Total: $8.4 million
  • House Bill 65: House Bill 65 dealt with funding in the FY2013 Public Schools Appropriation that remained after the repeal of the Students Come First laws in November 2012. Through HB 65, an estimated $5.4 million in state funding was shifted from other programs to be distributed directly to local school districts and public charter schools to be used specifically for professional development activities related to the implementation of Idaho Core Standards, the transition to the new assessment, and the integration of digital content in the classroom. This funding will be distributed to school districts in two disbursements: a $15,000 base allocation in the current FY2013 to each district or charter school to develop a three-year Professional Development Plan and a secondary allocation in FY2014 based on the number of instructional staff in a local school district or public charter school. Total: $5.4 million
  • JKAF Matching Funds in Public Schools Budget: $4.5 million was appropriated in the FY2014 Public Schools Budget to be used on the implementation of the statewide instructional management system, known as Schoolnet. An estimated $1.5 million of the $4.5 million appropriated will be used to continue a statewide contract with Discovery Education and the development of examples of curricular materials and assessments available in Schoolnet. These resources assist teachers with implementation of Idaho Core Standards at the local level as they work to adopt and develop curriculum and curricular materials that best meet their students’ needs. Total: $1.5 million
  • Idaho Leads Project: The Idaho Leads Project has received nearly $3 million in funding from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to continue its efforts over the next year in working with specific school districts and public charter schools. Over the next year, Idaho Leads will focus on the implementation of Idaho Core Standards in these participating school districts. Total: $2.85 million
When combined, the funding from these programs and resources totals an estimated $21.9 million in new and existing funding that is now available to help provide professional development to Idaho teachers and school administrators on the Idaho Core Standards over the next year. Of this total, $13.8 million will flow directly to school districts and public charter schools to be used at their discretion.


To be a student in Lindsey Hoffman-Truxel’s class at Barbara Morgan Elementary School in McCall is truly an adventure. Every year, Truxel strives to turn her classroom – and her school – into a leader in math and science education by incorporating hands-on, innovative projects that bring classroom lessons to life for every child.

She partners with government agencies and community organizations so her students can connect with experts in the fields of engineering, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and other areas to see how the lessons they learn in the classroom apply in real-world situations. Her students have sent data to NASA, studying fish and plants, and using microscopes and telescopes. She also brought Camp Invention to her school and has been able to share the funding, monitoring, and supervision opportunity with other teachers.

Right now, she is working with four government agencies on a special innovative project that teaches her students about invasive species of weeds and the nitrogen cycle. The Knapweed Project has allowed students to learn about botany, soil characteristics, and land stewardship.

For these reasons, Truxel is one of eleven teachers who won 2013 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The award is given to educators who demonstrate exceptional work as leaders in environmental education, integrating environmental education into their lessons, and connecting students with their communities and the natural world.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director for Region 10 Jim Wentz was in McCall today to recognize Truxel for her work and innovation. Scott Smith, Idaho’s STEM Coordinator, traveled to McCall to participate in today’s events.

Congratulations to Lindsey Truxel and her great work!

Schools across the McCall-Donnelly School District focus on energy efficiency and incorporating these efforts into their lesson plans. Take a look at the innovative work we saw happening during our visit to McCall schools back in 2010.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Congratulations to a few great educators right here in Idaho for taking home a coveted 2013 DENny Award from Discovery Education. Each year, Discovery Education hands out the DENny Awards to educators who stand out as bright shining stars in the Discovery Education Network, or DEN.

This year, three Idaho educators received a 2013 DENny Awards for Most Creative/Best DEN Event for hosting DENapalooza Boise on May 11.

The winners are:
  • Marita Diffenbaugh, teacher at Star Elementary School in Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian)
  • Kim Miller, teacher at Star Elementary School in Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian)
  • Carol Scholz, Digital Content Coordinator at Idaho State Department of Education

DEN was founded in 2005 with the mission to connect educators to their most valuable resource: each other. Idaho joined DEN last year when the Idaho State Department of Education signed a statewide contract to provide Discovery Education to every teacher in Idaho's public schools.

On May 11, Marita, Kim and Carol helped make the third DENapalooza in Boise a huge success. Even though it was held on a Saturday, they reached about 80 educators statewide. DENapalooza is a fun-filled, free live virtual event that Discovery Education hosts to highlight best practices in digital learning.

Learn more about the 2013 DENny Awards or hear the accolades they received during the virtual DENny Awards ceremony. 

Monday, June 3, 2013


The Idaho State Department of Education has released a Request for Proposals for a managed service to provide uninterrupted, high-speed wireless internet access in public high schools in Idaho.

Through Senate Bill 1200, the Idaho Legislature provided $2.25 million to connect every public high school with wireless connectivity in the upcoming school year. Most public high schools are already connected to high-speed broadband intranet access through the Idaho Education Network. 

“In this 21st Century, we have to make sure every public high school is equipped with the advanced technology necessary to provide every student and teacher with equal access to the best educational opportunities, no matter where they live,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Wireless internet access is a critical component of the 21st Century Classroom so teachers can integrate the technology they need in the classroom, whether it is videos, one-to-one devices, or other mobile technology that improves learning and engages students in the digital world they live in today.” 

The goal of the state’s Request for Proposals is to award a contract that meets the needs of all Idaho public high schools. Through the statewide contract, the state will deliver a managed service that provides wireless connectivity as well as the necessary security, content filtering and project management. The network within the statewide contract will be able to support all modern wireless technologies, such as laptops and tablets.

The state’s wireless network will work alongside the Idaho Education Network and any existing network a school or district might already have in place. High schools will not be required to participate; schools that already have high-speed wireless may choose not to participate in the statewide contract.

Proposals will be accepted until Friday, June 28, 2013. The Department anticipates awarding a bid before the beginning of the school year. All public high schools that opt in for the state’s managed wireless service are estimated to be connected by March 2014.

Download the Request for Proposals to learn more.


According to Dana DeHaan, the curriculum director for the Cassia County School District, local schools have probably gained more local control than ever under the new Idaho Core Standards.

In 2011, Idaho adopted the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics as Idaho’s new Core Standards.

DeHaan joined Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna on the radio this morning to discuss the new academic standards and how her district is working to implement them at the local level. (Superintendent Luna filled in as the guest host on the Austin Hill show this morning on Newsradio KINF 99.1 FM.)

“We feel like we have probably gained a lot more control over it,” DeHaan said. “We are digging in and writing our own (curriculum).”

DeHaan has worked in public education for 20 years – all in Idaho. Before becoming curriculum director, she taught at every grade level except second grade, bringing years of classroom experience to her current position.

She was working as a teacher when Idaho first transitioned to a standards-based education system in the 1990s and remembers being eager to move to standards.

“For teachers, it helped guide us. It helped make us critical consumers of curriculum,” she said. “They freed us up from the textbooks.”

Now, teachers in Cassia County are excited about the new Idaho Core Standards because they will be “a real bump up in the expectations for all of our kids.”

“One of the biggest concerns teachers had with the previous standards were they were minimum proficiency standards. They were preparing kids for multiple choice tests,” DeHaan said. The new standards are preparing kids for problem solving, critical thinking, and “a deeper level of thinking,” she described.

While on the radio, DeHaan helped answer a few other frequently asked questions we hear about the new academic standards.

Are these new standards “dumbed down?”
DeHaan: No, not at all. The only thing I can think of why they would be considered lower is that much of the content is moved to lower grades than it has in the past. For example, I was working with kindergarten teachers, and we dug into these standards. These standards do not tell you how to teach. We make it clear what is developmentally appropriate. There is time for fun and play, but here is the content. ... They (students) have to fluently subtract up to a certain level. This substantially increases.

Do you see any evidence that communism or socialism will be taught?
DeHaan: No. I have dug through these. The content is still driven by our own Idaho standards, our content of social studies. … I don’t see any evidence of that, neither do any of my social studies or language arts teachers. Cassia County is a very conservative community. I am sure if it was there, my teachers would say something. … They are teaching kids how to think, and I don't think that is a communist agenda.

Are you required to adopt any specific curriculum?
DeHaan: No. Our board makes those decisions. Any new curriculum we buy, our board has to approve.

Will these standards de-emphasize literature or historical texts?
DeHaan: No. In fact, they (students) have to look at original historical documents and look at differing accounts in original documents and form an opinion based on those original accounts. Literature is still emphasized in English class.

What can parents expect to see differently in Cassia County classrooms next year?
DeHaan: They can expect to see a lot more writing come home. … The writing is going to be very driven by the reading and not separate from the reading. Math will focus on problem solving. We will still focus on the algorithms, but we will also ask them to apply those to real-life problems.