K-12 committee enters Schoolnet debate

The Legislature’s K-12 interim committee took a long look at the Schoolnet and Mileposts software data programs during its final meeting Tuesday.

Nov. 5 Interim Committte
K-12 Interim Committee co-chairmen Sen. John Goedde, left, and Rep. Reed DeMordaunt discuss education issues during Tuesday’s meeting at the Statehouse.

Both data programs are designed to allow educators to track students’ progress throughout school and glean valuable insights into whether students are slipping behind and in need of extra attention.

The state pays for a pilot program for 51 Idaho school districts to use Schoolnet. Schoolnet is considered the second phase of the Idaho System for Educational Excellence, which requires district staffers to upload large data reports to the state.

But officials from several school districts have said they dropped Schoolnet – even though it was free to use – and switched to Mileposts at their own expense.

Blaine County and Bonneville Joint school district officials testified Tuesday that they are happy with Mileposts.

“One of the greatest features of the Mileposts program is it’s our storage base for a lot of our data,” said Lacee Peterson, an elementary school teacher in Blaine. “I can identify learning gaps within my classroom …(and) manipulate data to identify students who struggle.”

Bonneville Superintendent Chuck Shackett said his district was ready to sign up with Mileposts three years ago – but held off when administrators learned the state would pay for Schoolnet.

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Chuck Shackett
Chuck Shackett

Once they implemented Schoolnet, teachers had trouble accessing the system, at least one teacher received improper data from another district where she had previously worked and educators had to wait up for to three months to receive data through the system.

So Bonneville dropped Schoolnet and bought Mileposts.

Shackett and Bonneville Director of School Improvement and Technology Scott Woolstenhulme said teachers can update Mileposts – loading math or reading results – and have meaningful data at their disposal the next day in class.

“Having a learning management system has been been a key in our success,” Woolstenhulme said.

All of Bonneville’s elementary schools and 88 percent of all schools earned four or five stars in the most recent state five-star rating system.

Amy Bailey, chief financial officer at Silverback Learning Solutions – the company behind Mileposts — said 30 of Idaho’s 115 school districts now use Mileposts.

The cost for Mileposts runs $5 per student, which translates to $55,000 for Bonneville.

Later Tuesday, Chief Deputy Superintendent Roger Quarles said Schoolnet has had problems but state officials are committed to fixing them and making the program a resource educators can use.

“It’s safe to say we’ve all heard or we’ve all been a part of conversations that Schoolnet does not work or Schoolnet is clunky or hard to navigate,” Quarles said.

“I don’t want to have a conversation with classroom teachers to get them to try it again until those things are fixed,” Quarles said.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation provided $21 million funding to help the state pilot Schoolnet. Earlier this month, foundation officials announced they would continue funding the pilot program, but the remaining $4.5 million contribution will be released “in increments as measurable benchmarks are achieved.”

Committee members adjourned without making any recommendations or calling any votes. Shortly before the end of the meeting, Goedde said legislative staffers will prepare a report in December detailing the committee’s work.

Check Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert’s blog for the full rundown of all the topics covered in Tuesday’s meeting.

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

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