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.|