Albertsons surveys educators on Schoolnet

Two years after providing a $21 million grant to establish a statewide instructional management system, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation is surveying Idaho educators to see how the system is working.

Schoolnet, a system for tracking student performance and growth, is in its pilot phase. Eventually, funding responsibility for Schoolnet will shift entirely to Idaho taxpayers.

In prepared statements, both the foundation and the state Department of Education downplayed the survey.

“It is common for the foundation to conduct evaluations of our grants,” the foundation said. “The foundation regularly evaluates its programs and expenditures as a way to inform our management team and board of directors and to ensure that our work meets our goals and serves our mission.”

“We would expect the foundation or any organization to evaluate an ongoing project, and we look forward to the results,” said Melissa McGrath, a spokeswoman for Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.

Schoolnet is designed to provide public schools with a student tracking system that they can use free of charge. When fully implemented, teachers and administrators will be able to assess student development in real time, and at the individual, school or districtwide level.

Any Idaho teacher can now access Schoolnet, but 51 Idaho school districts and six charter schools are receiving grants from the state to pilot the system.

The Education Department has already been gathering feedback from the pilot districts, McGrath said.

“We know there have been many successes as well as some challenges,” she said. “We have already addressed some of the challenges, while others are still being resolved as Schoolnet is rolled out statewide.”

The Schoolnet survey is being conducted by an “independent evaluator,” the foundation said. The foundation did not provide a copy of the survey, and did not say how many surveys went out or who received them.

Boise School District Superintendent Don Coberly received a survey, even though the district’s traditional schools aren’t using Schoolnet. The exception, he said last week, is the Anser Charter School, a Garden City K-8 school authorized by the Boise district.

In May 2011, the Albertson Foundation awarded the state a three-year, $21 million grant to implement a student information management system. But the grant came with the expectation that the state would pick up ongoing costs.

In 2013-14, the Education Department will spend $4.5 million in foundation money on Schoolnet — the final grant installment. Meanwhile, the state will spend a matching $4.5 million in general fund dollars for Schoolnet maintenance, operation and licensing, and $150,000 for professional development.

The state matching money is not new, McGrath said. The funding match had been incorporated into state superintendent Tom Luna’s Students Come First laws, which were overturned in November.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News is funded from a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

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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