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New study finds four-day school weeks don’t save school districts money

A new study by a rural education group examined the 42 of Idaho’s 115 school districts that have gone to four-day school weeks as a money-saving move, and found that none have seen significant savings as a result. “Minimal savings could be achieved by reducing time for hourly employees, but districts were often reluctant to take this step,” wrote researchers Paul Hill and Georgia Heyward of ROCI, the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho. “Contrary to expectations, some districts saw their costs rise as a result of the need for additional enrichment activities and after-school snacks during the extended day.”

The researchers found some benefits from the new schedule, from opportunities for enrichment on the fifth day to longer days on the other four that better matched parents’ work schedules. But, they wrote, “None of the districts interviewed had rigorously assessed the effects of the four-day week on student achievement. Just one had set out criteria for reviewing its impact and returning to a five-day week if necessary. This means that the educational consequences of the four-day week, at present, are virtually unknown.” Read more in my full story here at spokesman.com.

You can read the full report here. ROCI is an initiative of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. The study also found that Idaho has far more school districts on four-day school weeks than the rest of the nation; just 1 percent of school districts nationwide have adopted a four-day school week.

New bilingual parents’ guide to Idaho school choices out in Spanish, English

An Idaho nonprofit funded by the Albertson Foundation today released a free bilingual “Parents’ Guide to Idaho’s School and Learning Choices,” available in both Spanish and English. “All Idaho parents, regardless of their native language, should have access to information about the growing choices available to their children so they can make the best decisions possible about what learning opportunities are best for their sons and daughters,” said Terry Ryan, CEO of Bluum. The guide is online here; there's more info here.

Bluum is an organization that works for school innovation, including bringing new, high-quality school models to Idaho and providing training and support for Idaho educators with innovative approaches. The group, then under the auspices of the Idaho Charter School Network, published a report last August entitled “Shifting Sands: Idaho’s changing student demographics and what it means for education,” projecting that Idaho’s school student population will see significant demographic changes in the next five years, becoming increasingly urban, more racially diverse and poorer. The report, which is online here, projected that Idaho’s Hispanic student population will be its fastest-growing portion, while the state’s non-Hispanic white student population is projected to decline.

 

After $61M Schoolnet fiasco, a scramble begins…

Idaho’s ill-fated $61.5 million Schoolnet experiment is all but over, writes Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News. Now, school districts can choose a substitute for the failed statewide system: an instructional management system designed to help teachers tailor their lesson plans around students’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s a big decision for district officials, Richert reporters, albeit one subsidized by state dollars. And for education vendors, it’s a market opportunity. You can read his full report here.

Idaho schools’ new star ratings out

Idaho schools fared slightly better this year in the state's new "star ratings" system, with the number of top-rated 5-star schools rising from 78 to 91, and the number of bottom-rated 1-star schools falling from 35 to 22. The number of 4-star schools fell slightly, 3-star schools rose slightly, and 2-star schools stayed roughly even. Click below for the full announcement from the State Department of Education, in which state schools Supt. Tom Luna says, “I am proud to see Idaho schools continue to make academic progress every year."

In addition to the new star ratings, the announcement reports that 90% of Idaho students scored at or above grade level in reading and 82.2% of students scored at or above grade level in math this year.

Editorial: Luna owes explanation

“Students Come First” was the name of Idaho state schools chief Tom Luna’s controversial school reforms, which included a dramatic increase in online learning. But the lesson he has failed to learn is that communication comes first in pushing significant change.

First, teachers complained they weren’t sufficiently consulted when Luna introduced his reforms two years ago. Nonetheless, lawmakers adopted them, but voters repealed them. Then, last session, lawmakers passed modified versions and made it more difficult to launch voter initiatives.

Now, Luna has befuddled his legislative allies by awarding a 15-year contract worth up to $35.5 million to set up Wi-Fi networks in Idaho schools. SR Read more.

Are you interested in hearing Luna's explanation?

Nearly 160 Idaho schools appeal their new ‘star ratings’

Idaho’s new “star ratings” for schools are the crucial report card that determines whether a school is meeting standards or not, and Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert reports that nearly 160 Idaho schools are appealing their ratings this year. About 650 schools receive star ratings; in past years, the state has generally received appeals from 75 to 100 schools, Richert writes; you can read his full report here.

Lottery Offers $30.1M School Payday

Tuesday was a $30.1 million payday for Idaho schools — thanks to another recordbreaking year for the state lottery. Idaho lotteryThe Idaho Lottery delivered a $48.2 million dividend Tuesday, the state’s cut from $197.6 million in ticket sales. Here’s how the money breaks down for K-12:

  • The first $18,075,000 go into the Department of Education’s School District Building Fund. This fund received $17 million in 2012.
  • The Department of Education’s Bond Levy Equalization Fund will receive $12,050,000, up from $7.5 million a year ago. More from Kevin Richert/The EDge here.

Question: Don't you wish Gov. Butch Otter and the Idaho Legislature supported schools as well as the Idaho Lottery does, relatively speaking?

SR: Idaho Schools Take Fresh Hits

Unbowed by the defeats of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 last November, Idaho lawmakers have renewed their efforts to undermine public school education. Legislative committees this week voted to: allow school districts to impose contract terms on teachers; fund charter school building costs; and, most insidiously, create a $10 million tuition fund for private schools. An attorney general opinion quoted by Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, quite accurately characterized the fund as “an artful dodge to allow sort of a shell with respect to support of religious schools”/SR Editorial Board. More here.

Question: I'll keep asking the question: Why do Idahoans, who say they support education, stand by while legislators continue to attack school funding and try to bring back Luna Laws?

Declo 4th graders who missed reading goal got faces scribbled on with permanent marker

Fourth-graders who failed to achieve reading goals had their faces scribbled on with permanent marker by other students last week at Declo Elementary School under the supervision of their teacher, the Times-News reports today. Some parents are concerned about the effect on the targeted students, some of whom have learning problems. You can read the Times-News' full report here from reporter Laurie Welch. The teacher reportedly allowed the children to choose their own incentive to meet the reading goal of reading a certain number of books; students who fell short either would stay in at recess or have their faces written on. Six students chose to have their faces marked on and three missed recess.

Idaho wins NCLB waiver, approval to use 5-Star school assessment system instead of ‘adequate yearly progress’

Idaho's request for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Law's measuring standards for school success has been granted by the U.S. Department of Education. The state plans instead to use a new "Five-Star Rating System" to judge school success, rather than the NCLB law's "adequate yearly progress" standard, which is based on how many of the school's students, including those in various subgroups, score as proficient on tests; under the federal law, schools that repeatedly fail to meet that standard face sanctions, including lost funding, and can be labeled as failures.

Idaho's new five-star standard weighs proficiency, academic growth, and measures of readiness for post-secondary education or careers. Idaho used the standard last school year, and more than half of the state's schools achieved a four-star or five-star rating, while just 15 percent earned one or two stars. A quarter fell in the middle, with three stars. Under the NCLB standard, for the same  year, just 60 percent of Idaho's schools made AYP, meaning 40 percent were labeled as potential failures.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna hailed the approval, which still needs a final OK from the state Board of Education at its meeting this week in Lewiston. "We will use this data to recognize our excellent schools and provide intensive technical assistance to schools that are struggling," Luna said. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak; click here to read the full announcement from the state Department of Education.

Idaho school progress stalls under No Child Left Behind law

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Student progress remains stalled in Idaho under the federal No Child Left Behind law, with about two-thirds of public schools meeting targets. State education officials released results Friday even as Idaho tries to move away from the law's benchmarks and adopt a new five-star rating system for schools. Idaho's request for a waiver from the law, though, is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Education. About 60 percent of Idaho schools met adequate yearly progress last year under the law, which is about the same as the previous year, when 62 percent met the targets, mirroring the previous year. Under the proposed new system, about half of Idaho's 650 schools were ranked as four stars. State officials say the new scale is different because it measures academic growth.

Finally some good Idaho ed news

BOISE - All Idaho high school juniors can now take the SAT for free, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna announced today.

State lawmakers in 2007 approved requiring completion of a college entrance exam by the end of the junior year as a graduation requirement, starting with the class of 2013; this year, at Luna’s urging, they appropriated $963,500 for a statewide contract to pay for the tests. More here. Betsy Russell, SR

Did you take the SAT? How did you do?

Claim: Idaho Schools Violate Title IX

The federal government has received dozens of complaints about high schools all over the state violating Title IX. Title IX is the commonly referred to name of the section of 1972 Civil Rights Act passed by the U.S. Congress that guarantees equal athletic opportunities for boys and girls in schools that receive federal funds. The U.S. Department of Education isn't saying who filed the complaints, but it does say its civil rights branch is evaluating the claims. The complaint alleges that 78 out of 115 school districts in Idaho short-changed female athletes by not offering enough sports opportunities/KBOI Staff. More here. (SR file photo: Lake City's softball team rushes to celebrate their 2011 state championship win after Casey Stengel, No. 12, struck out final Timberline batter)

Question: Do you have female athletes in your family?

Hoffman: Schools Back Union Perks

While parents are being told that kids are going to have to huddle together in rooms of 30-40 kids and while kids and parents are being told that favorite programs either have been or will be shuttered, millions of dollars are being squandered to satisfy the goofy provisions of collective bargaining agreements negotiated by schools boards with their local teachers’ unions. Even in this budget climate, school districts still allow teachers to get paid to attend to union business while on the taxpayer dime. Some teachers spend an entire school year receiving taxpayer-paid salaries and benefits without having to step foot in front of classroom of students/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Are Idaho schools facing a financial crisis?