Expert: Parents and data can transform education

Jeanne Allen, a national voice on education reform, emphasized that for Idahoans to transform education they need to engage parents and use data.

Allen spoke to about 100 business and education leaders and lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon during the monthly Ed Sessions luncheon hosted by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

Allen is a senior fellow for the Center for Education Reform and said after studying Idaho education and its history, she wanted to offer her advice to the crowd.

She started with dismal news.

“In a two-year period, only 13 state did worse than Idaho (academically) and Idaho’s gains are insignificant, less than one percent progress over two years,” she said, referencing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data.

Parents should have a bigger influence if Idaho expects to raise its academic standards, Allen said, and referred to the national charter school movement from the 1990s that she contends was started by parents who were unhappy with their traditional public schools.

“Parents used to say that safety and proximity to their home are the No. 1 reasons for picking a school — now it’s performance,” Allen said. “Parents want options.”

She then offered her advice on what needs to change:

Charter school law.  “We know what works in schools, but we need to have freedom. Resist the temptation to overregulate.”

More choices for all students.
“Expand learning opportunities.”

Learning grounded in technology is considered fringe. “Unless you completely reset the dial its not going to end up where you want.”

Policy discussions around teachers are consumed by pay. “Create truly new ways to support teaching and leadership professions.”

Data systems are in infancy and they ignore nuances and real-time growth. “Accountability across the country is broken; we struggle with how to measure.”

The public is unaware. “Parents know what is better. Parents and parents rights are paramount.”

She also complimented Idaho on five things going in the right direction:

  1. Idaho leaders are in the game
  2. There is progress on reform
  3. The Governor’s Taskforce for Improving Education
  4. Idaho Ed Trends and other data sources are strong
  5. Reform groups are converging

“If I leave you with one thing — data is critical,” she said. “There is no reason we shouldn’t know where each student is at any given time. Unless we are measuring in real time what students are doing, we can’t measure teachers and hold schools accountable.”

To see her lecture or past luncheon speakers, go to

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News and Idaho Ed Trends are funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Idaho Education News manages Idaho Ed Trends.


Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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