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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: school reform

Ed task force endorses teacher career ladder, mastery-based student advancement, more…

The governor's education stakeholders task force has agreed on a slew of recommendations to recommend to Gov. Butch Otter, from a teacher career ladder program that could cost $253 million over six years, to advancing students based on mastery of subjects or concepts rather than grades. Idaho EdNews reporter Kevin Richert has a rundown at his blog here; click below for a report on some of the recommendations from AP reporter John Miller, including a near-unanimous vote to endorse the new Idaho Core standards for student achievement. Richert also has posted a report here on today's outcome, its remarkable unanimity compared to the school reform fight that preceded it, and what happens next.

A list of the approved recommendations from the State Board of Education is online here, along with a link to details in lengthier documents from today's meetings.

Ed task force debating reform ideas…

The governor's education stakeholders task force is now getting into something of a debate over Idaho Core standards; Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert is following today's debate in a live blog here, and you can watch the meeting live here. So far, the task force has voted on one recommendation from its “structural change” subcommittee, unanimously backing a “mastery based” education system. That means students advance based on content mastery, rather than “seat time” requirements.

Ed task force to vote up or down today on each subcommittee recommendation

The governor’s education stakeholders task force has convened this morning, to begin assembling its final recommendations to Gov. Butch Otter. Chairman Richard Westerberg told the group, “There’s been a considerable amount of work been done and we’ll see the fruits of that work the rest of today, and hopefully get it to the finish line with a set of recommendations that we can forward on to the governor.” First, he said, each of the task force’s subcommittees will meet for 30 minutes to work through their recommendations. Then, the full task force will reassemble at 9:45 and each subcommittee chair will present their panel’s recommendations. Task force members will ask “clarifying questions” on each proposal, and when they all understand  it, they’ll take a vote on whether or not to include it in their final recommendations for the governor.

“We’ll do that on each of the recommendations,” Westerberg said.

Ed task force releases its subcommittees’ proposals

The draft recommendations from subcommittees of the governor's education stakeholders task force are out; Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News has a report here, and you can see the recommendations here, along with the agenda for tomorrow's task force meeting, which will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hatch Ballroom at the BSU student union building.  The 31-member task force is scheduled to consider its subcommittees' recommendations Friday and decide on its recommendations to Gov. Butch Otter. You can listen live here.

Ed task force proposals could be pricey

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A preliminary list of recommendations created by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's new Task Force for Improving Education shows a focus on recouping lost education dollars and improving the workforce by paying teachers more money. The Idaho Statesman ( ) reports the preliminary list includes a draft recommendation to raise minimum teacher salaries from $31,000 to $40,000 statewide, and to seek to restore $82.5 million in operational revenue that school districts have lost since 2008. The recommendations aren't final — task force members are expected to meet Friday to further discuss the list, which reflects subcommittee recommendations to the full task force. The task force was created eight months ago to bring stakeholders together after a stormy education fight that led to the defeat of the Students Come First laws in a referendum last November.

More than three dozen testify on ed needs

Lots and lots of people spoke at the education stakeholders task force forum in Boise this evening; by my count, 37 had testified by the time the meeting ended around 9:20 p.m. Among those, 15 spoke out against the new Common Core standards. The next-most common theme was the need for increased funding for Idaho’s schools, followed by a call for more focus on early-childhood education, special education needs, increased flexibility for Idaho school districts, increased teacher pay and skepticism over merit-pay plans.

“This is not the end of the information-gathering,” task force chairman Richard Westerberg, a state Board of Education member, told the crowd at the close of the hearing. Comments still are being accepted via email, at Plus, Westerberg said comments from all seven public forums around the state will be transcribed and given to all members of the 31-member Task Force for Improving Education; more than a dozen of those members attended tonight’s forum.

Said Westerberg, “This has been a good evening.  I appreciate your passion, appreciate your attendance.”

Big, passionate crowd focuses on funding, concerns about Common Core

At tonight’s education forum at the state Capitol, there’s a big and passionate crowd, and several common themes have emerged among the first 20 to speak: Backing for more funding for Idaho’s schools; opposition to the new Common Core standards for what children should learn each year; and support for special education, improved teacher pay, more flexibility for local school districts and more focus on early-childhood education.  “If Idaho today was making the same effort at funding public schools that it did in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, Idaho public schools would have $550 million more in funding than they have today,” former longtime state chief economics Mike Ferguson told the crowd. “This magnitude in funding reduction has not been without consequences.”

Former four-term state lawmaker and longtime teacher Steve Smylie said, “I think it’s pretty simple what we need to do, four things. One, understand that the problem is really infrastructure. Two, we need to get on the same team, we all want the same thing. Three, it’s going to cost money. So far, we don’t seem to be willing to pay for it. A survey from 2012 by Gallup … indicates that 65 percent of Americans would be willing to increase their tax payments to support struggling schools. We don’t seem to feel the same way here. No. 4: This isn’t some hidden mystery, we already know what will improve schools – it’s just simply a matter of doing it.”

Phoebe Smith, whose daughter joined her along with her service dog, told the session, “The first solution to education funding: Return tax levels to where they were in the ‘90s, then use that money to fund education and restore Idaho’s social safety net. … I want Idaho to stop playing games with education.”

Opponents of Common Core standards were particularly outspoken, and greeted with big cheers and applause. Richard Twight called the standards a “perverse, un-American system,” and said, “With Common Core our children are to be transformed into creatures of the central state.” Susan Frickey called Common Core “the new miracle drug,” and said, “Look hard at the intended and unintended consequences of this path, particularly the very large, very permanent federal footprint evidenced in compliance with these standards and what they would mean to our local education and state sovereignty in Idaho.”

Meanwhile, the State Department of Education has posted a list of “myths and facts” about the Common Core standards; you can read it here. Testimony is continuing.

Ed task force holds Boise hearing…

The seventh and final public forum by the governor's education stakeholders task force is tonight in Boise, starting at 6:30 p.m. MT. You can watch live here.

100+ turn out for ed stakeholders forum in Pocatello; Boise forum set for Thurs.

An energetic crowd of 101 turned out at Tuesday’s education stakeholders task force meeting in Pocatello, reports Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News, and their concerns focused on supporting teachers, criticism of the new Idaho Common Core standards and more; you can read Corbin’s full report here. Larry Gebhardt, an adjunct faculty member at Idaho State University, called on task force members to foster a renewed culture of learning, and said teachers have not been shown the respect they deserve. “The overall tone of legislation in education policy indicates a great disrespect toward teachers and teachers in Idaho on K-12,” Gebhardt said. “There is no epidemic of bad teachers and bad faculty. Students are getting the best result from the limited resources available.”

Two members of the 31-member task force attended; it was the sixth community forum the group has held around the state in the past two weeks. The final forum is set for this Thursday at 6:30 in the Lincoln Auditorium in the state Capitol; the public is invited to offer its input on how best to improve education in Idaho. There's more info here.

More than 200 turn out for ed stakeholders forum in Idaho Falls; Pocatello, Boise up next

More than 200 people turned out for last night’s education stakeholders task force public forum in Idaho Falls; tonight, the task force heads to Pocatello. Reporter Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News reports that the new Common Core state standards were a big topic at the Idaho Falls session, as were funding issues. Four of the 31 task force members attended the session, including state schools Superintendent Tom Luna. You can read Corbin’s full report here; tonight’s forum starts at 6:30 at Century High School in Pocatello; and Thursday, the task force will hold its final public forum of the series in Boise, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Auditorium on the lower level of the Idaho State Capitol.

Ed stakeholders forums in Idaho Falls tonight, Pocatello tomorrow, Boise on Thurs.

The governor’s education stakeholders task force, dubbed the Task Force for Improving Education, is continuing its community forums around the state this week, with a forum in Idaho Falls scheduled this evening, Pocatello on Tuesday, and Boise on Thursday. Tonight’s Idaho Falls forum will be at 6:30 at Tingey Auditorium at University Place; Tuesday’s at 6:30 at Century High School in Pocatello; and Thursday’s at 6:30 at the Lincoln Auditorium on the lower level of the Idaho State Capitol. The public is invited to offer comments; there’s more info here.

Five months after voters rejected them, teacher contract curbs from Prop 1 are back on the books

Five months after Idaho voters strongly rejected them, a series of laws limiting school teacher contract rights in the state is back on the books.   Gov. Butch Otter has signed five controversial bills into law to revive parts of voter-rejected Proposition 1, on everything from limiting negotiated teacher contract terms to just one year to allowing school districts to cut teacher pay from one year to the next without declaring financial emergencies. Four of the five bills have emergency clauses making them effective immediately – one, the bill limiting contract terms to one year, is retroactive to Nov. 21, 2012, the day the voters’ Nov. 7 decision took effect.

“Maybe there was some partisanship in those, I fully understand that,” Otter said. “I don’t think I could’ve asked, nor did I ask the Legislature to only address those things that they were going to get total, unanimous support for. I said where you can find consensus, come forward with ‘em, and we’ll work on ‘em, and we’ll work on ‘em together.” He said, “I think we picked the low-hanging fruit, and the low-hanging fruit was those things that seemed reasonable, those things that reached a consensus and those things the Legislature passed. And I’m proud.”

Otter pointed to other measures that won broad support, some of which passed without a dissenting vote in either house. One of those revived a little-remarked provision from Proposition 1 to require all teacher negotiations to take place in public; another revived a requirement for master labor agreements to be posted on school districts’ websites. A third, HB 261, forbids teacher layoffs from being done solely by seniority; that’s a change from Proposition 1’s provision that seniority not be considered at all, and the bill passed unanimously.

But the five bills, like the 2011 “Students Come First” school reform laws that Idaho voters repealed through three historic referenda in November, all passed with little or no Democratic support and with bipartisan opposition in both houses. You can read my full story here at

Corder blasts Goedde for revival of Prop 1 pieces, calls on him to ‘return the flag’

Former Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, is blasting Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, saying he displayed “wanton disregard for the public will” in helping reenact some of the anti-union measures in the voter-rejected “Students Come First,” the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey reports. Corder, in an op-ed piece, even calls on Goedde to return the state flag given to him by the Senate in recognition for his service in the 2011 session, when “Students Come First” was enacted. You can read Popkey’s full post here.

Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News also has a post on Corder’s piece, which Richert reports is on Facebook; you can read Richert’s full post here.

Packed house, anger, gratitude at ed stakeholders task force forum in Coeur d’Alene

Twenty-four people testified to the Task Force for Improving Education tonight in Coeur d’Alene, as the governor’s education stakeholder task force held its fourth public forum and its best-attended one yet. “It’s good to see a packed house,” said Richard Westerberg, task force chairman and state Board of Education member. Seven of the 31 task force members attended.

By my count, among the 24 who testified over the course of the two-hour forum at North Idaho College, there were some overriding themes: Seven pleaded for more state funding and less reliance on local property tax override levies; six called for less emphasis on test scores and standardized testing in Idaho’s schools (said one grandmother of four, “We’re driving our kids crazy”); and five called for increased teacher pay.

Other popular ideas: Checking into the quality of online course offerings to Idaho students; including the arts and humanities along with the STEM topics, science, technology, engineering and math; and support and enthusiasm for the new Idaho Common Core standards for what student should learn at each grade level (one person spoke specifically against those, saying he didn’t want to see “national education”).

There was some anger, particularly over the voter-rejected “Students Come First” laws and concerns that they were enacted without input from parents and teachers. There was also lots of gratitude – to the task force for listening this time. “This doesn’t have to be the end of the dialogue,” Westerberg said at the close of the forum. He noted that online comments can be submitted to the task force at “Thank you very much for a great showing and some really good input,” Westerberg told the crowd of close to 100.

The task force’s next public forums are set for April 22 in Idaho Falls, April 23 in Pocatello, and April 25 in Boise; there’s more info here.

Ed task force gets earful in Lewiston

The governor's education stakeholders task force heard concerns about funding, teacher salaries and standardized testing at its public forum in Lewiston last night, the Lewiston Tribune reports; click below for a full report. The newspaper reports that three of the 31 task force members attended the forum, though another report from Idaho EdNews says four task force members attended; tonight, the task force has a forum in Coeur d'Alene, at 6:30 p.m. in the North Idaho College student union building, Lake Coeur d'Alene Room.

Just two members of ed stakeholders task force attended last week’s public forum in Twin Falls

Only two of the 31 education stakeholders task force members attended the Thursday night public forum in Twin Falls, reports Idaho Education News. A crowd of just under 50 turned out, but only a handful testified; the meeting, scheduled to run for more than two hours, broke up after barely an hour. You can read a full report here from Idaho EdNews’ Kevin Richert; it was a smaller turnout than the first forum in Nampa the night before, where nine task force members attended and 19 people testified.

The sessions were the first of seven scheduled statewide this month; tonight, there’s one in Lewiston, and tomorrow night, Coeur d’Alene. Also scheduled are forums in Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Boise. The governor and the state Board of Education organized the task force to identify a path forward after voters in November soundly rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws enacted in 2011.

Mike Lanza, co-founder of the parents and teachers group that campaigned against the rejected laws, offers this commentary here on the forums and encourages people to attend and have their say.

Ed stakeholders task force public forums start tomorrow in Nampa, public comments sought

The governor’s education stakeholders task force is launching its seven-city tour of the state this week, with the first public forum tomorrow night in Nampa. Boise State Public Radio reports that attendees at the Nampa forum, set for 6:30 p.m. at the Nampa High School Little Theater, will see five to 10 of the task force’s 31 members, hear a short speech by the chairman, and then the floor will be turned over to the attendees. “These sessions are to get public feedback and input, and so the bulk of these forums will be to hear from the public who attends,” she says.

Here are the questions the State Board of Education wants people to consider before speaking at the meetings:

* What is the basic amount of funding needed to adequately educate a student in Idaho?

* Given the finite amount of funding, how would you like it spent in your school?

* How should/could we balance a decentralized model with the Constitutional requirement for a uniform, thorough, common system of education?

* Is funding based on attendance an appropriate model?

* What should be the measure(s) to hold schools and districts accountable?

* What should we be measuring with respect to student achievement?

* What should be done about schools/districts that continually underperform?

* What professional technical education skills would you like to see taught in high school?

The hearings continue on Thursday night in Twin Falls, next Monday in Lewiston, April 16 in Coeur d’Alene, April 22 in Idaho Falls, April 23 in Pocatello and April 25 in Boise; you can see Boise State Public Radio’s full report here.

Ed stakeholders task force sets seven community forums around the state in April

The governor's education stakeholders task force has scheduled a series of seven community meetings across the state this month, including sessions in Nampa, Twin Falls, Lewiston, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Boise; click below for the full list, including times and locations.

“This is an opportunity for all stakeholders to learn about what the Task Force has been working on and to offer feedback and ideas about education in our state,” said Richard Westerberg, task force chairman and state Board of Education member. “We hope to get the input of a broad cross section of the public including parents, students, educators and civic leaders.” The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls and Boise sessions will be streamed live on the Internet by Idaho Public Television.

Goedde: Pay cuts beat teacher layoffs, focus on successes to build teacher morale

Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he backs new legislation allowing school boards to cut the salaries of experienced teachers because it beats laying off teachers. “When you’re given X number of dollars to employ teachers, either you employ less teachers and increase class size,” or reduce salaries, he said. “To me, from the standpoint of the students, it’s best to have a stable classroom.” You can read my full story here at

Asked if he expects more cuts in school funding in Idaho like the unprecedented cuts of the past few years, Goedde said yes – particularly if federal funding is cut as part of national deficit reduction efforts. For next year, however, Gov. Butch Otter has recommended a 2 percent increase in state funding for Idaho schools, and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna has called for a 3 percent increase.

Goedde disputed the recent Office of Performance Evaluations report that surveyed 2,486 Idaho teachers and found a “strong undercurrent of despair” and a climate that “disparages their efforts and belittles their contributions.” Said Goedde, “If I walk into this building on Monday morning feeling good, and everybody I talk to says ‘you’re looking bad,’ maybe I start feeling bad. I think despair is contagious, as is enthusiasm – it’s a state of mind.”

Goedde said he believes the best way to improve teacher morale in Idaho is, “We need to focus on successes.” Toward that end, he said he’s asked the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, and the Idaho School Administrators Association to each bring forward examples of successes in Idaho schools. “We’ll hear them in this committee,” Goedde said. “If we can focus on positive things that are happening in education, everybody is going to be happier.”

IEA chief: ‘This is the Luna Laws all over again’

Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr is disputing Idaho School Boards Association chief Karen Echeverria’s assertion that the IEA only had problems with two portions of Proposition 1, regarding continuing contract rights and limiting teacher negotiations to just salary and benefits. “Frankly, everything in Proposition 1 is of concern to IEA and our members,” Cyr said. “It’s not just the IEA that had problems with Proposition 1. It was all of the voters who voted almost 58 percent to repeal that law.”

The measure, repealed by voters in November, sought to roll back Idaho teachers’ collective bargaining rights. Cyr, who said her group wasn’t “asked to the table” to discuss the ISBA’s new bills, said, “It’s very baffling that the Idaho School Boards Association didn’t hear the voters, and Ms. Echeverria’s comments are contrary to what the public said. This is the same thing, déjà vu. This is the Luna Laws all over again.”

Asked about the bill the ISBA proposed to repeal a longstanding Idaho law giving experienced teachers with continuing contract rights the right to renew their contracts at at least the same salary the next year, Cyr said, “It seems to negate the continuing contract law. It’s very clearly giving carte blanche to school boards to decide what salary to pay teachers, from any given year, how long their contracts are, etc. And that is what a continuing contract is about.” She said, “There’s all these back-room deals going on again, like happened before. We think legislators need to listen to the public, listen to the people who voted, and take heed.”

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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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