Blaine County disputes Ybarra’s mastery ‘waiting list’

(UPDATED, 11:22 a.m., with response from Ybarra’s staff.)

Add GwenCarol Holmes to the list of administrators questioning state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s mastery “waiting list.”

The Blaine County superintendent says she has no interest in using the mastery model in more of her district’s schools. She says she has never discussed the idea with staff from Ybarra’s State Department of Education, or district staff and trustees.

Holmes is the third superintendent or principal to question the accuracy of the waiting list, which Ybarra has touted as she tries to convince legislators to expand Idaho’s mastery program.

“I was quite surprised to see that Blaine County School District was on the list of districts waiting to be a part of the mastery education program,” Holmes wrote in a Wednesday evening email to Ybarra and Idaho Education News. “We are not interested in this program for our district. Silver Creek High School is participating currently and finding it of benefit. However, the rest of the district is not interested and should not be on the list.”

Silver Creek is Blaine County’s alternative high school.

Idaho Education News published the SDE’s waiting list on Jan. 28, four days after Ybarra told legislative budget-writers that up to 50 districts wanted to experiment with a move to mastery, a model that allows students to move through school based on subject knowledge, not seat time. Ybarra wants the state to double its mastery pilot budget to $2.8 million, and lift a cap on the pilot program.

Soon after publishing the list, Genesee district Superintendent Wendy Moore and West Minico Middle School Principal Dustin Heath told Idaho Education News that they were not considering mastery.

Here’s a response from Ybarra spokeswoman Kris Rodine:

“We’re happy to hear that Silver Creek High School finds mastery-based education beneficial. Beyond that, the SDE’s response remains the same as when two districts questioned why they were among the 50 on a ‘waiting list:’ The list is informal, developed as school and district leaders – not necessarily superintendents – expressed interest in joining the mastery-based network. As (Ybarra spokesman) Scott Phillips stated Jan. 24, the SDE has not firmed up this informal list because the ability of the department to expand the pilot rests on legislative action, and district and charter leaders have to authorize participation.”



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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