Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Luna: Professional development funding key to school reform plan’s success

Stefani Cook, center, speaks at a press conference Tuesday on the
Stefani Cook, center, speaks at a press conference Tuesday on the "Students Come First" technology recommendations, along with state schools Supt. Tom Luna, left, state Rep. Reed deMordaunt, and Melba schools Supt. Andy Grover, right. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna said today that he's not yet decided whether he'll revise his budget proposal for public schools for next year to increase funding for professional development, as recommended by a 38-member technology task force today. Luna noted that he supported the recommendation, which was approved unanimously. Luna said his "Students Come First" school reform plan already contemplates an ongoing commitment of nearly $4 million to professional development for teachers each year. "It's historic amounts," he said. "What we've learned is that we need to make sure that we have enough revenue, because if we don't do proper amounts and the proper kinds of professional development, then Students Come First will not be as successful as we envision."

Stefani Cook, chair of the Classroom Technology Integration subcommittee of the task force and Idaho's 2011 teacher of the year, said, "From a teacher's standpoint, the professional development will be the key to the success of Students Come First." She said, "We also know that the most effective professional development is teachers teaching other teachers. If I'm using technology in my classroom, if I can share that with the other teachers in my building, that is so successful." She added, "Of course more funding would most definitely be needed and most definitely be helpful, but we are very thankful for the funding that is in the formula right now."

Luna, who gathered with the four subcommittee chairs to talk about the recommendations after the panel unanimously approved all of them, said, "This group is not window-dressing." Added Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, who chaired the "One-to-One Governance" subcommittee, "These recommendations come with such a great amount of thought and work and effort that I think we would be foolish to ignore them. The learning that has taken place here is profound. ... I think that the Legislature will definitely pay attention.

Luna said the task force's work is giving him confidence as the state approaches a 2012 referendum vote on whether to dump the whole Students Come First program. "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." Click below for a full report on today's recommendations from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.

Luna's tech task force approves recommendations
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A statewide task force on Tuesday approved dozens of recommendations for how Idaho should implement new education changes that phase in laptops for every high school teacher and student while making online courses a requirement to graduate.

The task force was created in May as part of sweeping new education changes backed by public schools chief Tom Luna. The group is charged with executing the piece of Luna's plan that boosts technology in the classroom and members held a final meeting to vote on a list of recommendations for lawmakers to consider.

The 2012 Idaho Legislature convenes on Jan. 9.

"The work that has been done here is historic," said Luna, who chaired the Technology Task Force assembled as part of his Students Come First plan. "We all had the same goal and it was to prepare students for the 21st century world that they'll live in," he said.

Among the biggest changes in the list of task force recommendations: Idaho abandon plans to phase in laptops for students grade by grade, starting with high school freshman during the 2013-2014 school year.

"The resounding message that I heard was that would be a disaster," said state Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, an Eagle Republican who chaired a committee on the technology task force that specifically examined the integration of the laptops into the classroom.

The concern was that if the laptops were first given to students in the 9th grade, teachers in classrooms with more than one grade would be unwilling to allow one student to work with a laptop alongside another student who was not issued one of the mobile computing devices, DeMordaunt said.

His committee recommended that the computers be deployed in 9th through 12th grades, starting with one-third of all high school students.

But with the change, Idaho may also need to alter a new rule requiring Idaho high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate, said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene.

The online learning rule received final approval last month from the state Board of Education and will apply to students entering the 9th grade in fall 2012.

"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."

Schools nationwide offer virtual classes, but just three states — Alabama, Florida and Michigan — have adopted rules since 2006 to require online learning, according to the International Association of K-12 Online Learning. The online rules vary from state to state, but Idaho would be the first to require two credits online.

Under the other recommendations made by the task force, teachers and students statewide would be given the same model laptop and school districts would offer parental training as part of the laptop program, making it a requirement if students want to take their devices home. Another recommendation would allow districts to also provide laptops to school counselors, librarians, and principals, in addition to teachers and students.

The new education mandates backed by Luna and the governor were the source of fierce debate in the 2011 session. In addition to the classroom technology upgrades, the changes also limit teacher collective bargaining to salaries and benefits; dump seniority as a factor in layoffs; and require union negotiations to be held in public while introducing teacher merit pay and shifting money from salaries to help pay for the changes approved by lawmakers in the 2011 session.

The changes are being carried out even as critics behind a referendum campaign seeking to overturn the laws gear up for a November 2012 vote on the measures.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: