Education is changing rapidly across the nation, and Washington and Idaho are no exception. State standards have become more rigorous, funding issues persist and technology is changing classrooms.
Here are 10 things to watch for in 2015:
1. New state tests for K-12 students in Washington and Idaho. Adopting a new set of state standards based on a nationalized curriculum – Common Core – means new state tests to check students’ learning levels. Because Common Core is more rigorous than previous standards, and because all students will have to take the tests online, educators are concerned that scores will be low.
2. Computer science classes being integrated into more elementary school programs in Washington and Idaho. A worldwide effort to teach an “Hour of Code” to millions of students brought attention to the fact that only 10 percent of American schools teach the subject.
3. Putting more hand-held computers in students’ hands. Spokane Public Schools and Coeur d’Alene School District launched programs in which students are using tablets like the iPad in class. All students attending Gonzaga Prep and St. George’s School are using the technology.
4. Schools will have more armed school resource officers. Across the country, school officials considered ways to improve safety in schools following the mass shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Since then, school districts have increased law enforcement presence in and around schools. Spokane Public Schools is in the process of arming more than a dozen school resource officers in the district.
5. Two new charter schools will open in Spokane: Pride Prep and Spokane International Academy. Washington voters approved a law to allow charter schools in 2012. Spokane Public Schools became an authorizer in 2013, giving the district the authority to approve its own charter schools. Both Pride Prep and Spokane International Academy will open in the fall.
6. A Coeur d’Alene School District elementary school will open despite a $1.8 million shortfall in the money needed to finish the project. The funding gap for Winton Elementary School was discovered in mid-December. Superintendent Matt Handelman tightened his oversight of the $8 million project. School trustees are considering closing the difference using district reserves.
7. Robotics programs will be offered in all of Spokane Public Schools’ elementary schools by fall 2015. The district started the programs in six elementary schools in 2013. That expanded to 26 schools this year, and is expected to be in all 34 elementary schools by September.
8. Spokane Public Schools and Mead, Central Valley, Nine Mile Falls and Cheney school districts will ask voters to approve bonds totaling $410 million in special elections slated for February. Thirteen school districts will ask Spokane County voters to approve levies. Money raised through bond issues can be used on capital projects – school construction and remodeling. Levy moneys go into the general fund and are used for maintenance and operations. Thus, bonds are for building; levies are for learning.
9. Washington school districts will receive more money from the Legislature for materials, supplies and transportation. The Washington Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision forced lawmakers to better fund basic education. Since then, more money has flowed into school districts, but not fast enough for the Supreme Court justices, who found the Washington Legislature in contempt in September. Lawmakers have until 2018 to find billions more for K-12 education.
10. Increased numbers of students will enroll in postsecondary programs. New state standards require more students to leave high school ready to enter college, prompting new programs that aim to help teens develop a plan following their senior year. Spokane Public Schools began an initiative for every student to pursue postsecondary education by enrolling in either a technical, two-year or a four-year college – T-2-4.
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