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Study suggests plan for Idaho education

By Justyna Tomtas Lewiston Tribune

Results from a new study focused on education and the economy in Idaho released in part on Thursday could be used as “a map” of sorts to guide policymakers as they attempt to strengthen Idaho’s long-term competitiveness in both categories.

The five-month study was conducted by Idaho Business for Education and HP Inc. It took in comments from more than 1,750 Idahoans, including parents, businesses and superintendents, as well as 87 interviews and focus groups.

In a telephone press conference Thursday, Rod Gramer, president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education, said the broad spectrum of the study makes it the largest ever conducted in Idaho.

The full study will be released in August, but some key findings include:

Stakeholder groups across the state see improving early childhood education as key to long-term educational outcomes.

A broad consensus that investment in Idaho’s students is preferred to importing talent from other states.

A willingness from businesses to participate in job training opportunities.

Gus Schmedlen, HP’s vice president of worldwide education, said businesses also want students who can communicate and collaborate, placing a high priority on noncognitive skills like “personal responsibility, grit and perseverance.”

“These are the skills of the future,” he said.

Schmedlen said there are 15 or more recommendations that came out of the study. Out of those, he believes there are five the state “should urgently address.”

Those are:

    The establishment of a statewide vision for superintendents and school boards that allows for flexibility in each community.

    A focus on literacy and early reading preparation by providing options beyond state legislation.

    A push to make students aware of college and career pathways as soon as middle school.

    Elevating the teaching profession to attract and retain educators statewide despite the opportunity to earn higher salaries in bordering states.

    Addressing “the urgent issue” of mental health to ensure students are safe and happy so they can be successful in both their higher educational pursuits and careers.

Gov. Brad Little, his task force on education and other stakeholders have already been briefed on the study’s findings.

It will be up to policymakers to determine how the information is used.

“Now, it is up to the governor, Legislature, the state board (of education) and the task force to say ‘this is where we need to be going and this is how we get there,’” Schmedlen said.

HP led the study on a pro bono basis. The company hired economist Marcela Escobari, with the Brookings Institution, to be an independent observer.

More information on the study can be downloaded at

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