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Eye On Boise

Bush: Digital learning ‘tip of the spear’

After their address to Idaho's school technology task force, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise joined Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho schools Supt. Tom Luna for a press conference. Luna said, “There's no better example of education reform experts in the country than these two gentlemen.” Bush said, “I'm here just as an evangelist for digital learning, but also here to commend the incredible, bold leadership of these two gentlemen, in passing the comprehensive suite of reforms that really is as important as any state effort in the last decade.”

Bush called digital learning “the tip of the spear” in education reform, but said, “What I learned in Florida was that in order to have rising student achievement happen, more often than not you have to attack this through a comprehensive effort.” He said, “The spear itself is how you reward teachers, particularly in the underserved areas and the underserved subjects, how you bring accountability to the system, how you bring a little bit of dynamic pressure so that student achievement becomes the norm rather than the exception. It requires broad policy changes, and that's what you did this year.”

Bush also said he thinks Idaho's move toward digital learning will be “a huge economic development tool,” as educators create “the content that can be exported from Idaho to other places around the country as this digital revolution takes hold.”

He said Florida requires one online course in high school. Idaho's plan, to have the state Board of Education set a requirement that likely will be much higher, will “put Idaho on the map,” Bush said. “I don't think any other state has taken this to this step.” Also unique to Idaho, he said, is the provision of the school reform law that automatically shifts funds from school districts to online course providers if students decide to take online classes. “This is part of the funding formula, so it's not just an interesting peripheral, it's front and center, it's at the core of what education's about,” Bush said. “That is unique. I don't think any state's done that in the country.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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