Luna announces tech pilot recipients

State Department of Education officials on Monday announced the 15 schools that will share $3 million in state funding to pilot technology programs.

Kuna test
Students at Kuna Middle School benefitted from an Idaho Technology Pilot Program grant in 2013.

This legislative session, state lawmakers provided funding for the second consecutive year of Idaho Technology Pilot Program grants. All told, 99 schools applied for technology awards this year, requesting a total of $26 million in grants.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said the number and quality of applications for funding proves to him that educators want to work with technology and students deserve it.

“There is more demand out there than the $3 million in funding,” Luna said. “We are celebrating today, because there is a lot to celebrate, but really this is bittersweet. It’s sweet for some and bitter for most because of the demand for classroom technology.”

A committee of 14 educators and stakeholders reviewed the 99 applicants and selected the recipients, who were notified Friday. Luna was not a member of the review committee.

One aspect of the applications that impressed Luna and his staff is that school officials did not simply request a device or computer. Their application proposals listed specific ways they would integrate technology with their classrooms and curriculum to boost student achievement.

Tom Luna
Tom Luna

Schools plan to tap no-cost open education resources, personalized education content and provide online, supplemental courses and materials.

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“What we’re seeing in the second year is it really is device agnostic,” Luna said. “What’s innovative is how the device is being used, not the device itself.”

Representatives from each of the 15 schools selected for the grant program took part in ceremonies Monday in Boise celebrating the program. House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, attended the awards ceremony and congratulated each of the winners.

Looking ahead, Luna said there are several objectives that can be used to measure the success of the technology initiative.

They include:

  • Increased access to individualized learning opportunities.
  • Gains in the number of college credits Idaho high school students obtain.
  • Greater access to technology and educational content in rural, remote districts.
  • Students better prepared for college and the workforce due to a familiarity with real-world technology tools they will encounter in their classroom.

Last year, 11 Idaho schools shared $3 million worth of funding in the first round of Idaho Technology Pilot Program grants. The first two years of grant programs are expected to reach a combined total of 4 percent of Idaho’s K-12 public school students, Luna estimated.

Although Luna is not seeking reelection this year, he will submit a 2015-16 budget proposal to Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature this fall. On Monday he said he was not ready to divulge his budgetary priorities yet, but is making plans to address access to technology on a wider scale.

“We need a statewide solution, which we don’t have today,” Luna said.

This year’s grant recipients are:

  • Meridian Technical Charter School; grades 9-12; iPads, $14,825.
  • Lapwai Middle School/High School; grades 6-12; interactive projectors; $32,986.34.
  • Centennial Elementary School, Lewiston School District; K-5; iPads; $67,707.95.
  • Cascade Junior/Senior High School; grades 7-12; Chromebooks; $38,094.
  • Ponderosa Elementary School, Post Falls School District; K-5; Chromebooks; $249,909.60.
  • South Fremont High School, St. Anthony; grades 9-12; laptops; $100,845.
  •  Mullan Train Elementary School, Post Falls School District; K-5; Chromebooks; $204,464.80.
  • Bickel Elementary School, Twin Falls; K-5; tablets; $168,377.
  • Mountain View Middle School, Blackfoot; grades 6-8; iPads; $186,323.41.
  • South Middle School, Nampa; grades 6-8; iPads; $516,619.36.
  • Malad High School; grades 9-12; Chromebooks; $223,027.
  • Vallivue Middle School, Vallivue district; Chromebooks; $328,470.
  • Forrest Bird Charter School, Sandpoint; laptops; $317,515.68.
  • Fruitland Elementary School; K-5; iPads; $345,230.06.
  • Idaho Arts Charter School, Nampa; K-12; laptop/Chromebooks; $205,604.80.

(Click here to read more from the press conference and learn the plans for each winning school):

Continued reading: Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert filed detailed reports on each of the 11 schools that received technology pilot grants last year.