Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced that 117 Idaho elementary schools are being awarded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grants to fund healthy and nutritious snacks within the school day.

“The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is a voluntary program that many Idaho schools use each year to provide more nutritious options to students and integrate in the classroom to create engaging lessons about history, geography, writing or other critical subject areas,” Superintendent Luna said.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is part of a federal initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow schools the opportunity to offer children samples of fruits and vegetables that they would not usually consume.  The goal of the program is to give students the opportunity to try more fruits and vegetables, in addition to what is offered in the National School Lunch Program.

The 117 Idaho schools awarded grants this year will use the funding to provide students with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at no charge.  This is an effective and creative way of introducing fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy snack options.  Schools receive reimbursement for providing the fresh fruits and vegetables to all students within the school day, but at a different time than the school meal programs operate.

Through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, many schools offer mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks to students.  The healthy snacks are delivered to the classroom, distributed out in the cafeteria or in hallways. Students may be given the opportunity to try Idaho grown fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, corn, cucumbers, grapes, peaches, pears, pluots, pumpkins, tomatoes, and zucchini.  Students may also get to try fruits and vegetables that they recognize, but in a different form.  For example, many children may not have eaten fresh corn or pineapple spears. Teachers often incorporate these opportunities into a classroom lesson about healthy eating, geography, or having students write about their experiences.

Schools were awarded the grants through a competitive application process.  The grant funding for these schools will begin July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

For a list of schools that were awarded the grant or more information about Child Nutrition Programs at the Idaho State Department of Education, please visit

Monday, May 19, 2014


This month, Idaho students finished their “Race to 14 Million” challenge by solving 14 million complex math problems while using Think Through Math (TTM), a web-based math solution for grades 3-Algebra I provided by the Idaho State Department of Education through the Idaho Math Initiative. 

The challenge was created by the Idaho State Department of Education with the specific intention of increasing student achievement by tracking problems completed from August 15- August 1 of each year.

This year marks the largest number of problems completed in Idaho. Last year, Idaho students exceeded the “Race to 10 Million” goal by solving approximately 12.9 million math problems on Think Through Math by August.  This year, not only did Idaho students reach the 14 million goal, but they accomplished this goal on May 10, three months ahead of schedule.

“Congratulations to Idaho students!” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. “At the beginning of the school year, we knew setting a goal of solving 14 million complex mathematics problem was high, but our students have exceeded our expectations, just as they always do.”

More than 26,000 students completed problems on TTM, using the system both in school and at home. TTM’s anytime, anywhere math policy motivates students to work on math outside of school hours, including evening and weekend hours when they have access to live teachers.

“My kids love the program so much that they ask if they can stay in from recess to work on Think Through Math,” said Kathy McClendon, fifth grade teacher at Eagle Hills Elementary School in the Meridian School District.

The Idaho State Department of Education began providing Think Through Math to all public schools in Idaho in 2008, as part of the Idaho Math Initiative. The program is designed to build math muscle by supplementing classroom instruction with adaptive, problem-based instruction. Live tutors are available to assist students who struggle. A robust motivation system rewards effort and engages students to spend more time doing math.

Learn more about Think Through Math on the Idaho Math Initiative website.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Idaho’s high school seniors have shown gains in mathematics since 2009, according to the most recent results of the Nation’s Report Card. Despite the positive gains, the most recent results still show far too many Idaho students are graduating from high school unprepared for the rigors of college or career.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, is typically administered to a sample of 4th and 8th grade students in every state every two years to measure academic progress in mathematics and reading. Idaho was one of 13 states to participate in a pilot of the 12th-grade NAEP.

Among these states, Idaho was one of just four states in which students posted higher average math scores in 2013 than they did four years ago. In 2013, the average score of Idaho high school seniors in mathematics was 156, which is higher than the average score of 153 in 2009.

“I am pleased to see Idaho’s high school seniors making gains in mathematics in recent years. I believe this is a direct result of the Idaho Math Initiative, which has worked since 2008 to provide targeted professional development to Idaho’s teachers and more opportunities to every Idaho student to ensure we raise academic achievement across all grade levels,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I applaud every Idaho teacher, parent and student for this success, but it is clear we have more work to do to make sure every child graduates from high school prepared for the rigors of college and career.”

Despite the positive gains in mathematics, the data shows that just 24 percent of Idaho’s 12th grade students scored at or above proficient – or on grade level – in mathematics, according to the 2013 NAEP results.

In reading, Idaho’s high school seniors continued to outpace the nation, but they did not show significant growth over 2009. An estimated 41 percent of Idaho’s 12th grade students scored at or above proficient – or on grade level – in reading, according to the most recent results.

The results mirror what Idaho has seen on the SAT over the past two years where an estimated one in four high school juniors taking the exam have met college- and career-readiness benchmarks set by the College Board.

Idaho is working to address these challenges in several ways, including raising academic standards through the implementation of the higher, more rigorous Idaho Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts.

NAEP is currently the only assessment that can compare student achievement across multiple states, but that will change when Idaho fully transitions to the new Smarter Balanced Assessment next year. The Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the previous ISAT to measure students against the new Common Core State Standards, which Idaho adopted in 2011, and will give Idaho a more accurate measure of how Idaho students perform academically compared to students in other states in future years.

Click here to learn more about the Nation’s Report Card results.

Click here to learn more about the Idaho Core Standards or Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Idaho Students Donate To Fight Meth During Idaho Gives Day

On Idaho Gives Day, students across Idaho raised more than $1,000 for the Idaho Meth Project – all through solving complex math problems!

Through Idaho’s Math Initiative, which started in 2008, students in Idaho’s public schools use Think Through Math, an award-winning software system to supplement their in-class math instruction. With Think Through Math, students can turn points they earn for studying math into donations to charities. For every 5,000 points a student earns, they can donate one dollar to a charity of their choice.

On Thursday, May 1, during the annual Idaho Gives online giving event, students participating in Think Through Math donated $1,222 to the Idaho Meth Project, which works to combat drug abuse.

While students across Idaho contributed, five classes donated more than any others.
  • The Watkins Homeroom 2 class, Twin Lakes Elementary School, Lakeland Joint School District
  • The Miss Clark 2013 class, Syringa Elementary School, Pocatello/Chubbuck School District
  • The A. Eiden Montessori class, Liberty Elementary School, Boise School District
  • The Bellomy 6B class, White Pine Elementary School, Boise School District
  • The Elsberry class, Eagle Hills Elementary School, Meridian School District
Congratulations to all of these students, and thank you for your generosity!

Friday, May 2, 2014


For several years, Idaho teachers have been attending i-STEM workshops where they work side-by-side with leaders in Idaho’s business and industry to gain skills and knowledge on how to integrate more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into their classrooms.

Now, i-STEM has earned an international award for its innovative approach on professional development.

The International Association for STEM Leaders recognized Dr. Louis Nadelson of Boise State University and Anne Seifert of Idaho National Laboratory last week with the STEM Professional Development Leadership Award for creating i-STEM and providing professional development to more than 1,750 teachers across Idaho.

Dr. Nadelson said the award came as a “complete surprise.”

“This has been the work of many people. I have a wonderful team that includes people from K-12, state government, higher education, and business and industry. I feel lucky to provide leadership and vision toward this,” he said.

The International Association presented 15 awards in total last week, including the award to Idaho’s i-STEM team. “This award shows we are on the right track, and we are at the forefront here in Idaho to address STEM education in a meaningful way,” Dr. Nadelson said. 

i-STEM is a coordinated statewide effort by the State Department of Education, Idaho Professional-Technical Education, educators, businesses, and industry to support STEM education in grades K-12. The goal is to provide professional development opportunities that help Idaho’s teachers gain STEM content knowledge and learn activities that increase student interest and achievement in technical subjects. Specifically, i-STEM focuses on inquiry-based problem-solving and inquiry-based learning on topics of interest to Idaho, its industries and their needs.

“Congratulations to the i-STEM team for this well-deserved recognition. Through i-STEM, the education community has partnered with business and industry in an unprecedented way to help nearly 2,000 Idaho teachers as they integrate STEM education into K-12 classrooms. As a result, our students will be better prepared to go onto college and into the workforce and not need remediation once they get there,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I am proud that others across the country – and the world – have recognized this innovative work.”

If you want to learn more about i-STEM, check out our video online.