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It was Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna himself who made the motion at the state Board of Education this morning to repeal the rule requiring that every Idaho high school student take at least two online classes to graduate from high school. "Proposition 3 was overturned by the voters," Luna said. "Overturning Proposition 3 in and of itself did not remove the two." But, he said, "Because of the actions of the voters on Nov. 6th … the perception in the public definitely was that the language on the ballot itself made a reference to the online graduation requirement, and so I think it's proper that we remove that as part of the pending rule."
His motion to repeal the rule passed on a 7-1 vote, with just board member Emma Atchley objecting.
"My biggest concern is that if we do not go forward with the online requirement, and we spend a year deciding whether we're going to have it or how we're going to have it, and we all end up wanting it in the end anyway, we've just lost another year," she said. "I understand the political reality, but I think it's very important that we do not in the end say that we shouldn't have at least some online learning."
Board member Rod Lewis said, "I hope that we do have the opportunity to talk further about this issue. If you really look at what's happening in post-secondary institutions and the change that is occurring there, I think it is going to be increasingly important that we have students at the end of the day know how to take classes online effectively. That will be an increasing component of their post-secondary education and our goal is to prepare students for that time."
Board member Richard Westerberg said, "All that being said, and I agree with all of that, the vote was not equivocal. It was a pretty strong vote from the populace, and it was very specific the way it was listed on the ballot. … I think … we need to reaffirm what the voters told us."
Board member Don Soltman agreed; he chaired the board's subcommittee that set the two-courses rule. "The committee of the board that looked at this looked solely at coming up with a number of online requirements," he said. "Without exception, every hearing that we had across the state, the issue always came up of … opposition to the law itself. And as we addressed those publics when we met, we explained to them that the law was in place, that the charge of the committee was only to identify the number of courses required under the law. But I can say without hesitation, at every hearing there was opposition to the law expressed."
Luna said a "different process" is needed on the issue. "I do believe we made the right decision today," he said.
Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said what the voters said last week "matters a great deal." He said, "If people aren't satisfied with what we're doing, they're not going to support further change."
The board will hold a special meeting Monday to vote on a series of rule changes, including possibly repealing the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online courses to graduate from high school; doing away with a funding scheme that automatically diverts school districts funds to online course providers if students opt to take courses online, with or without their school district's permission; and considering whether to reconsider rules regarding teacher and principal evaluations. Those follow voters' overwhelming rejection last week of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, repealing the "Students Come First" school reform laws that lawmakers enacted in 2011.
During the campaign, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the author of the "Students Come First" laws, said repeatedly that the online graduation requirement wouldn't go away even if voters rejected Proposition 3, because it was in a state board rule.
Edmunds said, "I still believe that online education is part of the future. I am not certain that the two credits is necessarily the answer. It creates a one size fits all approach." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The Idaho State Board of Education has set a special meeting for Monday, at which it could decide to repeal a rule requiring all Idaho students to take at least two online courses to graduate from high school, now that the "Students Come First" law that directed the board to make the rule has been repealed by voters.
"There isn't a legal requirement, because the board has the authority to set administrative rules and to set graduation requirements," said board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney. "That having been said, the board is well aware of the outcome of the election and this board has been very in tune with public input."
The board's agenda includes a pending rule to modify the graduation requirement, removing controversial requirements that at least one of the courses be "asynchronous," meaning the course is delivered entirely online and teachers and students participate on their own schedules. That requirement drew opposition from school boards, school administrators and Idaho school districts; state lawmakers voted in in their last legislative session to do away with it.
The board has two options on Monday, Whitney said: Approve the pending change to the rule, or reconsider the whole rule and do away with the online graduation requirement. The board's agenda packet for Monday's meeting includes this note: "The part of the question posed to the voters in Proposition 3 clearly included the repeal of online learning as a graduation requirement. While the Board has the authority to promulgate rules setting minimum high school graduation requirements, the failure of proposition three removed the statutory requirement that they include online learning for the class of 2016."
Students taking online classes from K12 Inc. in four states, including Idaho, are lagging in test scores and graduation rates compared to students in traditional schools, according to a new study by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. The study "raises enormous red flags," center director Kevin Welner told the Associated Press. K12 Inc. is the nation's largest for-profit online education provider, and it runs Idaho's largest charter school, the Idaho Virtual Academy, a state-funded online charter school that enrolls nearly 3,000 Idaho children across the state in kindergarten through 12th grade. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
Note: The Idaho Statesman has a story today questioning the study's application to Idaho, as Idaho math and reading assessment results weren't out yet when the center did its analyses and therefore were missing from the study; Welner apologized to the Statesman and told the newspaper, "Idaho is not a focus of the achievement-outcome analyses." The AP report on the data issues is included with the original article below.
K12 Inc., the Virginia-based public virtual school operator, has been sued in federal court in a shareholder class-action suit charging that the company violated securities laws by making false statements to investors about its students' performance on standardized tests, the Washington Post reports. The newspaper also reports that the firm's stock has plummeted since a series of reports in the Washington Post, New York Times and elsewhere in recent months raising questions about the effectiveness of its online virtual schools; you can read the Post's full report here. K12 operates the Idaho Virtual Academy and the iSucceed Virtual High School in Idaho; K12 Inc. is the nation's largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs for students in kindergarten through high school.
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna couldn't get lawmakers to agree to require online courses in high school, but he told the New York Times the State Board of Education will back a mandate. In January, Luna proposed mandating that eight of 46 required high school courses be taken online. In the face of opposition from lawmakers, he scaled that back to six, then four. But lawmakers removed the provision in Senate Bill 1184, deferring the decision to the unelected State Board of Education. In a story published in the Times on Wednesday, Luna said he will propose a rule this summer and the board will back him/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Do you have the impression that Superintendent Tom Luna wants public school in Idaho to become all virtual academy?