The Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education has a busy April ahead. The 31 education and business leaders plan to shop their ideas around the state during seven different stops. The State Board of Education will facilitate the community forums and task force members were encouraged to attend at least the forums held in their area.
“This is our opportunity to hear what people have to say,” said Richard Westerberg, chair of the task force and State Board member.
The task force, meeting for the fourth time, spent most of Friday writing recommendations in three different focus groups:
- Effective teachers and leaders (includes professional development and teacher/administrator effectiveness).
- Fiscal stability.
- Structural change (includes technology).
The task force concluded its Friday meeting by sharing talking points developed by the three focus groups.
Effective teachers and leaders (professional development)
Karen Echeverria shared that her group’s priority was creating professional learning communities with an emphasis on collaboration.
“Most important will be to encourage shared decision making,” she said. “Increase ownership but also increase accountability.”
Other highlights from this focus group included hosting administrator mentoring programs, requiring trustee training, establishing a teacher peer review system, encouraging parent feedback and finding out more from education deans about teacher preparation programs.
Echeverria also talked about a public relations program to draw talent to Idaho’s teaching profession.
“We need to recruit and retain the very best,” she said.
Rob Winslow reported that his group’s overall goal is to create an adequate statewide funding system that is less reliant on local supplemental levies with these features:
- Simpler approach to salary and benefit schedule with some local control,
- Increase flexibility to districts with accountability (remove more line items),
- Move away from ADA model with a bigger focus on enrollment, and
- Find efficiencies by establishing regional services.
Structural change (technology)
Chair Reed DeMordaunt reported that his group wants to pose questions to the public.
“If you had $100, what would you spend it on?” DeMordaunt said. “That would be interesting feedback to get.”
He also wants to ask: How do you decide what’s successful? Graduation rates? Test scores?
“Let’s see how the public measures our system,” DeMordaunt said.
Sen. John Goedde also had a question he’d like to ask at the community forums: “What do we do with a consistently low performing school? I’d like public input on that.”
DeMordaunt concluded by saying his group also wants to get more information on what’s currently being used in Idaho and the reliability of those systems, such as the Five Star Rating System.
“Ultimately, we are a body that recommends,” Westerberg told the whole group during morning remarks. He said the recommendations will be further developed by this fall. After considering community comments, these recommendations could go to the governor for possible legislation, to the State Board for new rules, to the State Department of Education or back to local school districts.
The community forums are scheduled for these dates in the evenings (exact locations and times will be determined later):
- April 10 — Caldwell.
- April 11 — Twin Falls.
- April 15 — Coeur d’Alene.
- April 16 — Lewiston.
- April 22 — Idaho Falls.
- April 23 — Pocatello.
- April 24 — Boise.
Here is the rest of the timeline for the task force developed by the State Board:
- May 3 — Task force meeting in Boise to review community input and discuss process for focus group meetings over the summer.
- May-July — Individual focus group meetings.
- Late July — Task force meeting in Boise to discuss progress in focus groups.
- August — Draft a report and recommendations for the governor, ideas that may be necessary for the 2014 legislative session.
- September — Task force meeting to discuss a final report and recommendations to the governor.
- October — Legislation drafted and submitted to governor’s office as required by final recommendations.
Westerberg said State Board staff will set up an online bulletin board for people to comment. It’s possible that forums could be shared over the internet by using the Idaho Education Network, he said. State Board staff also will make available on its website the data being used by task force members.
“The meetings will be in the evening and as long as they need to be so that everyone has the opportunity to comment,” Westerberg said. “We are looking at change not because bad work is being done, but because we need to raise the bar,” he said.
Here is a membership list of the task force focus groups: