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.