Idaho Senate passes ‘self-directed learner’ bill

A bill to allow schools to designate certain students as “self-directed learners” unanimously cleared the Senate Wednesday and will head to the House.

Senate Bill 1238 would allow K-12 schools to award the designation to students based on mastery of content knowledge, granting those students added flexibility in and out of the classroom.

Schools can already functionally do so. The Wilder School District is already running a similar program, Superintendent Jeff Dillon said when advocating for the bill.

Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, testifies in favor of his “self-directed learner” bill on the Senate floor. Blake Jones / Idaho Education News

But the bill would give schools wider latitude to operate such programs, chiefly by allowing self-directed learners to pursue opportunities out of their classroom or school during school hours. To do so, SB 1238 would let schools count those students as always in attendance, even if they aren’t, to collect attendance-based funding from the state.

The bill “allows for more individualized learning,” sponsor Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, told senators. “Let’s reward some of these motivated students.”

Teachers could offer or rescind the designation to a student if the student is considered self-motivated, shows academic growth and meets other criteria agreed upon by the teacher, student and their parents.

The bill passed with no debate.

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, lauded its ability to help advanced students learn at an accelerated pace. Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, thanked Thayn for his effort to improve students’ learning opportunities.

The bill pulled support from the Idaho Education Association, and passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee last week.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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