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

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 or