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 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
  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

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 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 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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Idaho’s high school juniors can apply now to take part in Idaho’s Science and Aerospace Scholars Program. This will be the fifth year of this innovative program!

Through this competitive program, students from across Idaho take an engaging online course in space exploration and learn a broad range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills aligned with Idaho’s content standards. Based on their performance in this course, students are then selected to participate in a weeklong, all-expenses-paid, residential Summer Academy at Boise State University and NASA Ames Research Center in California.

“Now in its fifth year, more and more Idaho students are seeing the great benefit of the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Through a blend of digital and face-to-face learning, Idaho’s high school juniors are able to gain a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and hands-on experience working with experts in these fields.”

Each year, nearly 200 students take the rigorous online course, developed by Idaho Digital Learning Academy and NASA Johnson Space Center, and then take part in Capstone Celebrations at different sites across the state. Based on their work in the course, about half of these students go on to be selected to participate in the Summer Academy held at Boise State University and at the NASA Ames Research Center in California.

The Idaho State Department of Education with the support of NASA Aerospace Scholars, along with Idaho business, industry, and education partners, have teamed up to provide this exciting opportunity for Idaho high school juniors over the years.

Superintendent Luna and astronaut and Boise State Distinguished Educator-in-Residence Barbara Morgan originally created the program in 2009 by working together to provide seed money from the State Department of Education and in-kind donations from partner organizations. For the past three years, the program was funded through a $1.2 million grant from NASA. Superintendent Luna has requested $500,000 next year to continue this program.

If you know of any high school juniors who have a passion for STEM subjects, please urge them to apply for this outstanding program. The application deadline is December 9, 2013. To apply, download the application and instructions.

If you have questions during the application process, please contact Peter Kavouras at (208) 332-6975 or


Nearly 20,000 sophomores across Idaho are set to take the first-ever statewide administration of the PSAT on Wednesday, October 16.

The Legislature provided funding this year so sophomores in Idaho’s public schools could voluntarily take the PSAT to help better prepare for college, career and a college entrance exam in their junior year. This builds on the successful Idaho SAT School Day, which provides every junior in Idaho’s public schools the opportunity to take the SAT paid for by the state.

Research has shown that students who take the PSAT perform better on a college entrance exam. Idaho students in the graduating class of 2013 who took the PSAT scored 213 more points on the SAT compared to their peers who did not participate in the PSAT.

By now, PSAT Student Guides have been distributed to all public high schools so every student has the opportunity to read test instructions, try sample problems, and understand basic testing strategies before sitting down to take the test. Educators should consider distributing PSAT Student Guides in English and mathematics classes and encouraging students to complete practice exercises.

By working with the Student Guide, students can become more familiar with the PSAT. It also helps students master testing strategies, such as, Will I get penalized for a wrong answer? The answer is yes, there is a small penalty for wrong answers on the PSAT. Therefore, if students do not know the correct answer, the best strategy is to guess if you can eliminate one or two answer choices. Otherwise, leave the question blank.

Results from the PSAT will be released in December. At that time, teachers and students will receive detailed feedback on each student’s academic content knowledge and critical thinking skills in three subject areas: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing.

Schools can use these results to help place students in courses for the next school year and better prepare them to take the SAT in the spring of their junior year.

The hard copy PSAT Student Guide is provided by the high school and includes a full-length PSAT practice test. Electronic copies of the PSAT Student Guide also are available online if you have not yet received one at school.

Best of luck to all Idaho sophomores next week!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The Idaho State Department of Education is hosting a Charter Start 101 workshop for parents, educators and others interested in learning more about what it takes to start a public charter school in Idaho. The workshop will be held October 24-25, 2013 in Boise.

Public charters schools are free public schools that are open to all students. A public charter school gives parents the choice of sending their children to a school that uses innovative methods to provide a quality education in a smaller, more responsive learning environment.

This two-day Charter Start 101 workshop will provide technical assistance for all new charter developers and any individual or group interested in a public school conversion. The workshop is designed to support public charter school developers at all stages – from vision to implementation. Changes to Idaho’s Charter School law and the impact to the development process will be covered during the workshop.

Workshop attendance is a statutory requirement for all charter developers. This free workshop is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the State Department of Education offices in the Barbara Morgan Conference Room, 650 West State Street, 2nd floor, Boise. Registration starts at 7:45 a.m. All participants will receive charter start resource materials to use when developing their charter.

The deadline to register is Wednesday, October 16, 2013. No late registrants will be accepted. Space is limited so please register now by completing the registration form and returning to Michelle Clement Taylor, . The registration form is available at

If you need more information, please visit


Idaho teachers can apply for up to $50,000 in grants from the CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation to fund innovative technology projects. This is the tenth year the Idaho State Department of Education has partnered with CenturyLink to fund classroom technology projects across the state.

“Every year, Idaho’s teachers develop innovative ways to engage students and raise academic achievement through the use of technology. I am proud the Idaho State Department of Education has been able to partner with CenturyLink to provide more than $650,000 in grants to Idaho teachers over the past decade,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said.

Last year, grants funded classroom technology to create time-lapsed videos in a science class, laptops and robotic sets in an elementary school, and digital cameras and other tools to help students create video textbooks, among other innovative projects.

“With technology now such a normal part of our everyday lives, teachers are constantly finding new and creative ways to use technology in their classrooms,” CenturyLink Idaho Vice President and General Manager Jim Schmit said. “This is a great opportunity for CenturyLink to help by identifying some of those teachers, recognizing them for their innovation, and supporting them with financial assistance to expand their use of technology even further.”

The Idaho State Department of Education began accepting applications today. Teachers have until January 10, 2014 to apply for the grants. Grants will be awarded in April 2014. 

All Pre-K-12 public and private school teachers who teach in a CenturyLink service area are eligible to apply.

If you are a teacher in the following areas, we strongly encourage you to apply: American Falls, Bancroft, Bellevue, Blackfoot, Bliss, Boise, Bruneau, Burley, Buhl, Caldwell, Castleford, Cottonwood, Craigmont, Culdesac, Declo, Dayton, Dietrich, Downey, Eagle, Eden, Emmett, Franklin, Firth, Glenns Ferry, Gooding, Grace, Grandview, Grangeville, Grasmere, Greenleaf, Hagerman, Hailey, Hammett, Hansen, Hazelton, Heyburn, Idaho City, Idaho Falls, Inkom, Jerome, Kamiah, Ketchum, Kimberly, Kooskia, Kuna, Lapwai, Lava Hot Springs, Leadore, Lewiston, Lewisville, McCammon, Menan, Melba, Meridian, Middleton, Montpelier, Mountain Home, Murphy, Murtaugh, Nampa, New Plymouth, Nez Perce, North Fork, Notus, Picabo, Payette, Placerville, Pocatello, Preston, Rexburg, Richfield, Riddle, Rigby, Ririe, Riverside, Roberts, Salmon, Shelley, Shoshone, Soda Springs, Star, Sugar City, Sun Valley, Thatcher, Twin Falls, Weiser, Wendell and Winchester.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today he is requesting a 5.9 percent increase in state general funds for Idaho’s public schools for fiscal year 2015, which will fund the 2014-2015 school year. The increase covers the first year of implementation of the Task Force for Improving Education’s recommendations, as well as other key initiatives and programs for Idaho’s K-12 public schools.

“This is a prudent, responsible budget that outlines just the first year of a multi-year plan to improve Idaho’s public schools through implementation of the Task Force for Improving Education’s recommendations,” Superintendent Luna said. “With these changes, implemented as a comprehensive package, we can ensure every student not only graduates from high school but graduates prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.”

Every year, state agencies are required to submit budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year to the Governor and Legislature at the beginning of September. Superintendent Luna asked for an extension so he could incorporate the Task Force recommendations into his FY2015 budget request.

The Task Force recommendations include moving to a mastery-based system of education, broad support for the implementation of higher academic standards, increased technology to bridge the digital divide, a career ladder compensation plan for teachers, and restoration of operational funding for Idaho school districts, among others.

Here are the highlights of Superintendent Luna’s request for a 5.9 percent increase in state general funds for Idaho’s public schools in FY2015:

Teacher Pay:
The budget proposes $42.5 million in new funding to implement the first year of a new career ladder compensation model for Idaho’s teachers. The Task Force developed this career ladder, which combines competitive salaries for teachers with incentives, rewards and accountability. The system will be tied to a revised system of state licensure. A technical advisory committee will continue to work on the details of implementation of the career ladder model for Idaho.

Once the plan is fully implemented, a beginning teacher in Idaho will make $40,000 a year and can continue to earn salary increases based on experience, performance and other factors.

Operational Funding:

The budget proposes $16.5 million to restore the first year of operational funding, or discretionary funding, for local school districts. This begins the Task Force recommendation to restore operational funding that was reduced from school district budget during the recession. Districts use this funding to pay for utilities, health care and other costs at the district level. 

Advanced Opportunities: 
The budget proposes $5 million in additional funding to expand dual credit, Advanced Placement and other advanced opportunities for high school students. This will build upon the current Dual Credit for Early Completers Program, 8-in-6 and other statewide programs to fulfill the Task Force recommendation for Advanced Opportunities.

Professional Development:
The budget proposes $12.2 million in continued funding for professional development for Idaho’s teachers. This line item continues funding spent at the state level to provide professional development on the Idaho Core Standards this school year and also continues to provide an estimated $8 million to local school districts to buy professional development days for teachers. This helps fulfill the Task Force recommendation for Ongoing Job-Embedded Professional Learning.

The budget also proposes $300,000 in continued funding for administrative evaluations and an additional $250,000 to provide master calendar training to assist school administrators in creating time for job-embedded professional development and collaboration among teachers. These budget line items help fulfill the Task Force recommendation for Training and Development of School Administrators, Superintendents, and School Boards, and for Job-Embedded Collaboration/Professional Development and Site-Based Collaboration, respectively. 

The budget proposes $13.4 million in continued funding for classroom technology. Of this funding, more than $8 million is distributed directly to local school districts to spend on integrating technology in the classroom, and $2.25 million is spent at the state level to provide a wireless infrastructure as well as support and maintenance for that infrastructure in every public high school. The remaining $3 million has been set aside for technology pilot projects in Idaho’s public schools.  

School Safety and Security:
The budget proposes $2.75 million in funding for Safe- and Drug-Free School Programs. Of this, $2.2 million will be distributed to local school districts to invest in Safe- and Drug-Free School Programs at the local level. The remainder will be used at the state level to support Idaho’s schools and districts and to implement the recommendations of the School Safety and Security Task Force.

Continued Work:
The budget proposes $300,000 for technical advisory committees and a student advisory committee to continue work on the Task Force recommendations. Several recommendations, such as the Career Ladder and Mastery-Based System, will require additional work before they can be fully implemented.

Superintendent Luna met with representatives of the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Northwest Professional Educators and other stakeholder groups before submitting his proposed budget today.

This budget request will now go to the Governor’s office for consideration. The Governor will present his budget request to the Idaho Legislature in January. The Legislature will set the budget for fiscal year 2015 early next year. Fiscal year 2015 begins July 1, 2014.