Friday, August 22, 2014

A Reset of the Star Rating

Recently the Idaho State Board of Education approved a proposed accountability plan for the 2014-2015 school year.

The plan was brought to the Board by the Department of Education. Because Idaho fully field tested the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test in spring 2014 there is not a baseline score to calculate growth for accountability. Therefore Idaho will not publish a summative star for school year 2014-2015, but will publicly report all elements of the Star Rating with the exception of growth.

“This is a reset of the Star Rating system,” said Superintendent Tom Luna. “It’s not a pass on accountability. Schools will still be held accountable for student success through public reporting and meeting school improvement designations.” Luna continued, “Growth is and has been a major part of our accountability system and must continue to be a major part. To calculate star ratings without growth would be akin to No Child Left Behind that we worked so hard to change. By resetting star ratings, we maintain the integrity of the Star Rating system and create a baseline for growth in future years."

Idaho's 5 Star Rating System is based on multiple measures: proficiency, academic growth, graduation rate, SAT scores, and advanced opportunity participation. Growth on the new ISAT will be on a vertical scale, like a yard stick, that allows parents, students, and educators to easily see growth in student achievement year after year.

Students will take the new ISAT in math and English language arts next spring (2015) and will receive their scores. Schools at the end of next year, will have the option to distribute reports that show student growth between the ISAT given in 2013 and the new ISAT given next year (2015). However, because of the difference in the tests, it’s not appropriate for the state to use these growth reports for accountability.

Priority and Focus Schools (the bottom 15 percent in achievement) as well as Rapid and Turnaround Schools will continue to be calculated. These designations have been and will continue to be based on proficiency scores, not growth, so they will continue to be published.

The 2014-2015 accountability plan will be available for public comment. If changes are required, then the Department will bring changes to the Board of Education in October. The plan will then be presented to the US Dept of Education as part of Idaho's accountability plan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Luna Accepts Position Beginning in 2015

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has accepted a new position with a national non-profit, beginning in early 2015.

Superintendent Luna will serve as vice president of policy, advocacy and research for Project Lead the Way, the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs and teacher training.

"My focus and priority today continues to be the children of Idaho,” said Superintendent Luna. “There are several major initiatives that need continued attention such as teacher quality and pay through a new tiered system of licensure and a well-funded career ladder, technology implementation to increase access throughout Idaho, dual credit opportunities for all high school students and ensuring students are reading proficiently by the time they exit third grade. These are my highest priorities as I finish my second-term as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

As vice president of policy, advocacy, and research, Superintendent Luna will oversee a team focused on advancing federal, state, and local policies, as well as research initiatives that support STEM growth across the United States. Superintendent Luna will oversee four regional directors, as well as a team of policy analysts and researchers.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Idaho Technology Pilot Project

The following is a guest post on the State Educational Technology Directors blog by Alex MacDonald, the Director of Instructional Technology at the Idaho State Department of Education. You can read the original post, here
Over the past two years, the Idaho Legislature  has appropriated $6 million to be made available to schools across Idaho for technology pilot projects. The pilot projects, which run for up to two years, are designed to improve student academic growth as well as financial efficiencies through a full integration technology model.
The intent of this grant program is to focus on technology implementation at a single school building that will be scalable to other schools and sustainable statewide after the pilot period. In many situations across Idaho, the state recognizes that school buildings are severely lacking in technology that enhances and maximizes learning opportunities for students and changes instructional practices for educators. In the 21st Century, every student and teacher in every school in Idaho should have access to the necessary technology, tools, and knowledge to create a Next Generation Learning Environment (NxGLE).
Many educators and policy makers struggle with what the NxGLE looks like. This is typically because they are in search of one-size fits all approach, trying to standardize technology integration and searching for a silver bullet. It has become very evident through the 26 pilot projects  that local autonomy is paramount. Educational leaders need to look at the students’ levels to define not what an NxGLE looks like, but what it does. What are the planned knowledge, skills, and learning outcomes?
The first step our pilot school leaders took was to look at the Idaho Core Standards. With this guidance, administrators and teachers worked hand in hand with students, to clearly understand whatstudents need to accomplish learning outcomes, a truly collaborative process. This has sparked a transition over the last few years of teachers becoming facilitators of learning and has enabled them to use of technology to coordinate personalized learning for students. Here are some key phrases of NxGLE descriptions taken from the project proposals, with key ideas bolded.
  • Outstanding knowledge and skills required for success in a globalized working and learning environment.
  • Authentic student voice, which is the deep engagement of students in directing and owning their individual learning.
  • A focus on collaborative learning and critical thinking. Our classrooms will be student-centered, mobile and flexible learning environments focused on academic achievement and social interaction.
  • Students are put at the center of the learning process and are engaged in constructive learning experiences, lessons are vigorous and relevant to the real world and reflect the knowledge and skills needed for success in apost-secondary education or career.
  • Their student-centered inquiries will combine discipline knowledge and research techniques to solve problemspursue new knowledge, build, and create.
With an established vision of the NxGLE, instructional leaders are ready to implement different technologies and tools that support the learning outcomes, objectives, and higher order skills that are paramount for students. Though the Idaho Technology Pilot is not complete, leaders have solidified key philosophies and learned about essential elements within the paradigm shift. Below are several of these general findings:
  • Leadership and fortitude is paramount in success
  • Projects need focused and scaled deployment plan
  • High speed broadband is essential to maximizing the devices and learning resources
  • Technology integration paradigm shift takes several years, not just a summer
  • Technology integration coaches or specialists for job embedded professional development are valuable
  • Recurring teacher collaboration time (weekly or monthly) is essential
  • Successful deployments use a technology integration model, such as the SAMR or TPACK
  • Interoperability with applications and resources is important.
  • Students as support” model for Tier 1 support and training is effective
NxGLE has opened learning opportunities; learning is no longer confined to the four walls of the classroom or the hours of the school day. With technology as the support mechanism of learning and NOT the focal point and teachers facilitating learning, students across Idaho are engaged to excel, similar to other students across the country. How are your districts and teachers enabling the Next Generation Learning Environment?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Student Scores Increase in Critical Reading, Mathematics During 2014 SAT School Day

Scores increased in reading and math for nearly 17,000 Idaho high school juniors who took part in the 2014 SAT School Day last April.

“These results are more evidence that student achievement in Idaho continues to increase and that Idaho’s high school students are moving in the right direction as they prepare to ‘go on’ to postsecondary education.” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. “I’m convinced this trend will continue and excited to see even more students strive as they ‘go on’ into college and their careers.”

On average, compared to previous test results, students scored about two percent better in critical reading and math, but scored two percent less in writing. While the mean score in writing did drop slightly, students made between a five and six percent increase in the skill categories dealing with grammatical relationships and structures. 

The average critical reading score in 2014 was 464, compared to 454 in 2013. In mathematics, the scores increased from 453 to 461. Overall in 2014 the number of students who scored a 700 or better in critical reading increased 33.2 percent.

The biggest score increase from 2013 to 2014 was with critical reading questions dealing with reasoning and inference. These questions challenge students to understand assumptions, suggestions and implications in reading and to draw informed conclusions. Overall, students correctly answered 17.7 percent more questions in that category.

In 2007, the Idaho State Board of Education and Idaho Legislature approved high school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2013 requiring students to complete a college entrance exam such as the SAT. The State of Idaho makes this possible by funding SAT School Day in which all high school juniors can take the SAT or ACCUPLACER exam, paid for by the state.

For more information on Idaho SAT School Day, including results by district, visit

Editor’s Note: Please take caution in reading and reporting the data on Idaho SAT School Day versus national results that are released for the ACT and SAT. The Idaho SAT School Day data only measures the results of Idaho high school juniors taking the SAT paid for by the state. The national results for the ACT and SAT measure the results of a cohort of students (sophomores, juniors and seniors) who graduate in a given year and selected to take the SAT or ACT during their high school years.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Idaho Awarded $75,000 Grant to Help Low-Income Students Take Exams

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Idaho $75,552 as part of its efforts to boost college-and career readiness for historically underserved students. The grant will help defray the costs of taking advanced placement tests for low-income students.

“This is an opportunity for students throughout Idaho to excel. This grant, along with Advanced Opportunities programs, such as Fast Forward, offered through the Idaho Department of Education, give students the opportunity to earn college credits in high school,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. “It’s a chance for students to excel without the worry of a financial burden.” 

The grants are used to help pay for low-income students taking approved advanced placement tests administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations. By subsidizing test fees for low-income students, the program is intended to encourage students to take advanced placement tests and obtain college credit for high school courses, reducing the time and cost required to complete a postsecondary degree.

Based on the anticipated number of tests to be taken, the grants under the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program are expected to pay all but $18 of the cost of each advanced placement test taken by low-income students.

The Advanced Placement Test Fee program is administered by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. For additional information on the program visit:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

ISAS Academy Two: Day 7

After a late night practicing their presentations the students were up bright and early to go through another round of practice. The students worked till they were ready and the presentations sounded great.

The students arrived at the event center around ten in the morning and set up their poster presentations. They then received guests and family to talk about the mission to Mars they had planned. Students also reunited with family members after their week long absence from home.

Students present their design mission to their family members. 

The presentation began with a welcome from program director Peter Kavouras and was followed by a buffet. The audience received a preview of the students' time at the Academy through a video and slideshow during their meal.

Next the teams introduced themselves along with their job titles and presented their mission which was done in four parts with each team presenting their portion of the mission. Each presenter was eloquent and thorough with their short speech and communicated to the audience well.

Students present their mission design to the banquet hall.

After the presentations a few special guests including  Dr. Janet Callahan, Assistant Dean of Boise State College of Engineeing. Dr. Tony Roark, Dean of Boise State College of Arts and Sciences, and Corey Morasch of Micron stood and talked about the students' experiences and vision of the program. They communicated to the audience the positive impact the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program has on the students and their desire to see it continue.

An audience of family, friends and others from the community join to hear the ISAS presentation.

Michael Brune was then introduced and she in turn introduced each team's teacher-mentor. After making a few remarks on the performance of their team each mentor presented their team members with certificates of achievement. After their team received their certificates one team member on behalf of their team was asked to talk about their experience at the Academy. This may have been the most heartwarming and convincing part of the banquet, for you saw their sincere appreciation for the program.

Teams receive the certificate of achievement. 

The time to say farewell came too quickly. Students and mentors alike felt that the time they had spent together made it hard to part but we will see these students again in the near future.

The Green team takes one last photo together. 

Thank you so much for following these students during their time at the first Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Academy. You can find photos, videos and other media of their time spent at the academy on the Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also find more information on how to get involved with the program as a student or a teacher at our website. And it was our pleasure to bring their story to you all week. Please come back in two weeks to follow the updates for the second academy beginning the 27th.

--Camille Eddy (ISAS 2012 alumna) and 
Holly Palmer (ISAS 2013 alumna)
ISAS Social Media Mentors

Saturday, August 2, 2014

ISAS Academy Two: Day 6

 The students' day began with a presentation from a former ISAS student. Abigail Sevier attended the ISAS Academy it’s very first year, in 2010. She is currently a senior at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. This summer she has an internship at NASA Langley in Virginia. She talked to ISAS scholars about the opportunities ISAS opens up to you.

Abigail Sevier teleconferenced with ISAS students.
 The Boise State University SPHERE (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage Reorient, Experimental Satellites) coordinators talked to ISAS scholars about how they could from a Zero Robotics team. The presenters were a graduate student, Nilab and an undergraduate student, Marina. They and their team are the link between the MIT Zero Robotics Program and high schools and middle schools around the state of Idaho. The challenges for both teams change annually, but always involve programing a spherical robot to accomplish a selected task in space. Winning teams get to send their codes to a SPHERE on the ISS for testing. This year’s challenge is keeping a meteor from hitting earth.
Students had the opportunity to learn about Zero Robotics.
Soon afterwards students had the opportunity to participate in a teleconference with Dan Isla who is a Boise State University graduate and Systems Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Dan Isla worked on the Assembly Test and Launch Operations Team (ATLO) for the Mars Rover Curiosity and talked about the seven minutes of terror landing, the rover's activities on the planet and its instrumentation. Students had their last chance to talk to an expert about their mission before tomorrow's presentations, and they also asked questions about the road to a NASA career including opportunities at BSU and other colleges and high schools in general.

Dan Isla presented to the ISAS scholars, allowing them to ask him many questions.

The students had the opportunity to participate in workshops that provided a hands on approach to different career fields, including: measuring snow, DNA detection, antibiotic development, cryptology, robotics, and metal casting. The students worked with college students, graduate students and professors to complete different experiments in these areas of study. Experiments varied from changing pennies to appear gold, to making alloys, to programing a rover to find water on Mars.

One of the 6 workshops allowed students to mix chemicals to make golden pennies.

ISAS scholars finished the day working hard to meet their morning deadlines. Power-Points and posters were finished, edited, and in the poster’s case, printed. Teams had the opportunity to practice giving their presentations as they well tomorrow at the luncheon. It was rewarding for everyone to see how much they had accomplished this past week at the ISAS academy.

Don't forget to check out the Facebook and Twitter pages for more pictures, videos and other ISAS related posts and media.

Camille Eddy (ISAS 2012 alumna) and
Holly Palmer (ISAS 2013 alumna)
ISAS Social Media Mentors

Friday, August 1, 2014

ISAS Academy Two: Day 5

The ISAS students' day began with a tour of the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Boise facilities. HP stands out from other technology companies because they are so broad in specialties. They create many different computers, printers, their accessories and many other technological items, and are constantly researching testing and creating more. This company is also trying to become the world’s cleanest IT company, recycling ink cartridges and any hardware device made by many companies. Boise is loosely known as HP’s inkjet center. HP is strictly a no pictures facility so no inside views will be included in this post.
The entrance to the HP main building.
 Students were able to see how they test their printers to meet global conditions and requirements. This process includes testing different types of paper, inks and the packaging. In the prototype lab students saw 3D printing and scanning machines in action; some scholars got their own hand scanned. Scientists and engineers from different backgrounds sat with the ISAS Academy at lunch, giving students a chance to see more options and possibilities, as well as getting advice for their future. The scholars enjoyed in interactive activities and tours they were able to take part in at Hewlett-Packard.

 Returning to the Boise State University Engineering buildings, the teams got a chance to better discuss all the information they received from the scientists they met at NASA Ames and HP. Mission planning became more intense as students realized the end of the week is soon approaching. A couple of scholars from each team had the opportunity to walk through undergraduate research presentations hosted at Boise State University by the Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research (ICUR). And there they saw undergradate students from across the nation presenting their research using posters similar to the ones students are designing for their final banquet on Saturday.

The final presentation of the day was given by former astronaut Wendy Lawrence. She spoke to the students on the physiological concerns that exist when we spend extended periods in space, concerns such as: radiation that is in space, fluid shifts, that can affect eye vision and psychological factors such as isolation and lack of resources.

The team leads have grown close over the week. They, along with many other students asked Wendy Lawrence for a picture.

After a stressful week students had the opportunity to relax and bowl, play billiards and ping pong. Both former astronauts, Wendy Lawrence and Barbara Morgan played with the scholars. Students enjoyed the relaxation and interaction with these two esteemed women, as they talked with the students in a less formal manner. The break was much appreciated as tomorrow will be another busy day at the Academy.

Wendy Lawrence plays billiards with ISAS students.
Students had the chance to relax and bowl, along with other activities.

Thank you for reading, and as always be sure to check out the Facebook and Twitter pages for more photos and frequent updates during the day. We hope to see you at the banquet on Saturday where the students will be presenting an engaging and impressive final presentation. #ISASacademy

Camille Eddy (ISAS 2012 alumna) and 
Holly Palmer (ISAS 2013 alumna) 
ISAS Social Media Mentors