K-12 task force takes a step back to focus on career readiness

POCATELLO — Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 education task force used Friday’s meeting as a chance to hit the pause button and review potential recommendations that could surface next month.

“We needed to take a breath,” task force co-chair and State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said.

Rather than narrowing the list of potential recommendations its subcommittees have been developing this summer, the “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” K-12 task force might add one. After spending most of the summer focused on early literacy, task force members turned their attention to the value of high school diplomas and how Idaho schools prepare students for college and careers.

“This was the first meeting where we spent a majority of the time talking about the college and career readiness piece,” Critchfield said. “We’ve spent significant time on literacy. It’s not that this was less important, but we weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to do with this piece. It was a little more fuzzy.”

The task force didn’t narrow its focus enough to issue a college and career readiness recommendation during Friday’s meeting at Idaho State University. But members engaged in a spirited discussion about whether high school graduation requirements actually mesh with Idaho’s efforts to promote career-technical education courses, apprenticeships and trades for students who don’t pursue a four-year degree.

Greg Wilson, Little’s education liaison, will work with the task force’s co-chairs to synthesize Friday’s debate and work on a potential recommendation in the coming weeks.

Nothing is final, but task force members discussed tweaking graduation requirements or creating new high school diploma “pathways” that could focus on different areas of emphasis, including CTE coursework, internships and apprenticeships.

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For the first time, the full task force also reviewed the various recommendations that its subcommittees started developing this summer. No recommendations are final, but the list could include:

  • Creating a new school accountability system focused on growth in K-3 literacy rates, as measured by the Idaho Reading Indicator and compared to schools with similar demographics.
  • Increasing pay for veteran teachers by building out a third “rung” of the career ladder salary system, adding a maximum salary of $60,000.
  • Adding money to the K-12 rainy day savings account, the Public Education Stabilization Fund, to help soften the impact from a potential recession.
  • Offering optional, all-day kindergarten across Idaho.
  • Addressing social-emotional learning and well-being, perhaps through training for trauma-informed teaching.

“My main objective for today was to give the task force the best or most complete preview of what is likely to being coming from the subcommittees,” task force co-chair Bill Gilbert said. “It’s time for this task force to start ruminating on what is likely to come out of those groups.”

Next up, task force subcommittees will hold their final meetings over the next two weeks.

The full “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” Task Force next meets on Oct. 1 in Moscow. The full task force is also expected to meet Oct. 23 and Nov. 4.

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