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Task force tweaks education reform

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 14, 2011

Idaho’s Luna hails efforts; high schoolers to get laptops

BOISE – After six months of study, a statewide task force Tuesday called for buying all Idaho high school students laptops rather than tablets, phasing them in school-by-school rather than grade-by-grade, and sharply upping the state’s investment in on-the-job teacher training to accompany the new technology push.

“The work that has been done here is historic,” said state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, who chaired the task force charged with figuring out how to implement the technology boosts in his Students Come First school reform program, which lawmakers approved last year. “We all had the same goal, and that is to assure that we’re preparing our students for the 21st century world that they’ll live in.”

The controversial reform program is up for a referendum vote in November, which could repeal it. But Luna said the task force’s work has given him confidence the reforms will survive the vote.

“Not every student has had access to the same technology, the same types of information and learning opportunities. We’ve accomplished that through Students Come First,” he said. “Just as this committee came to that realization, I think the more people see these laws being implemented and the positive effect they have, that come November of 2012, I’m very confident the voters of Idaho will say this is the path we need to stay on.”

The 2012 Idaho Legislature convenes on Jan. 9; Luna said he’ll present the task force’s 47 recommendations, which range from requiring face-to-face parent training before students would be allowed to take their new laptops home, to more than tripling professional development hours for teachers within the school calendar.

Over the past six months, the task force heard numerous presentations, took trips to visit schools in other states that have enacted programs supplying one computer to each student, and met numerous times both as a full, 38-member panel and in subcommittees.

With the change in phasing in the laptop computers, Idaho will need to adjust its new graduation requirement that students, starting with the class of 2016, complete two online classes to graduate from high school, said Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene.

“I don’t think, legally, you can make the requirement and only provide some of the students with the devices, you’re denying them equal access,” said Goedde, who sits on the technology task force. “My thought would be that we stagger the graduation requirement to match the deployment of the computers.”

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