Lawmakers plan another dive into data

In September, a legislative committee spent the better part of a day diving into a dry but crucial issue: computer systems designed to help track student growth and performance.

They heard some harsh criticism of Schoolnet — a data collection system that some Idaho school districts are trying out free of charge.

K-12 interim committee, 9.12.13
The education “interim committee” will meet for the third time Tuesday. The group spent much of its Sept. 12 meeting discussing student data collection issues.

And when the K-12 legislative “interim committee” meets again Tuesday, lawmakers will hear from some school officials who have ditched Schoolnet and are paying to use a different system.

Lawmakers will hear from Bonneville School District Superintendent Charles Shackett and technology services director Scott Woostenhulme and Lacee Peterson of the Blaine County School District. Bonneville and Blaine County are among about three dozen Idaho school districts using Mileposts, a student management system developed in Blaine County schools and marketed by Boise-based Silverback Learning Solutions.

The Mileposts system costs Idaho districts $5 per student. Meanwhile, 51 school districts and six charter schools are piloting Schoolnet, with costs covered by the state and through a three-year, $21 million grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

But at their inaugural meeting on Sept. 12, lawmakers heard from school officials who said Schoolnet is plagued with glitches — prompting Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, an interim committee member and former Bonneville school board member, to ask, “Is (Schoolnet) working anywhere, for any purpose, to improve education?”

Lawmakers will hear from Albertson Foundation Executive Director Jamie MacMillan, who will discuss foundation initiatives for 2014, said foundation communications officer Jennie Sue Weltner.

The committee also will hear presentations on a wide variety of topics:

  • A panel of education stakeholders — Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association, Robin Nettinga of the Idaho Education Association and Rob Winslow of the Idaho Association of School Administrators — will discuss recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force.
  • Republican state Sens. Jim Patrick and Bert Brackett will discuss a $2.24 million proposal to boost funding for agriculture education in secondary schools. Later, a panel will discuss the need to strengthen Idaho’s overall professional-technical education system.
  • Terry Ryan of the Idaho Charter Schools Network will discuss charter education in Idaho.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in room WW 55 in the Statehouse garden level.

Coming Tuesday: Follow Idaho Education News and The EDge blog for full meeting coverage, and follow @idahoednews for live tweets.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News is funded through 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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