A new education study in Idaho found that early literacy is the key to improving early childhood education and that mental health issues are an emerging crisis.
Officials from Idaho Business for Education and HP Inc. announced their findings from “Statewide Study on Education and the Economy,” during a briefing with reporters Thursday at the Statehouse. The study’s findings conform with similar Idaho-based and national studies. But HP and IBE officials say what makes their study noteworthy is its neutrality and reach — more than 1,750 Idahoans from all corners of the state responded to the surveys. On top of that, researchers included qualitative data derived from 87 interviews and focus group meetings with students, taxpayers, teachers and business leaders.
“(This) makes it one of the largest education studies ever in terms of feedback from the people of Idaho,” IBE President and CEO Rod Gramer said.
HP and IBE officials will release a final, written report in August.
Findings they shared Thursday included:
- Respondents from all regions of Idaho say early literacy is the key for early childhood education and preparing students for kindergarten through third grade.
- Idahoans prefer investing in Idaho students over importing talent from other states.
- Idaho businesses value skills such as personal responsibility, collaboration, communication and ability to navigate change over specific technical skills.
- Mental health is a major issue for students that takes resources away from areas such as college and career counseling.
- Idaho ought to improve educational outcomes in order to attract investment, meet changing workforce needs and promote entrepreneurial growth.
Gus Schmedlen, HP’s vice president for worldwide education, said HP conducted the survey with company volunteers and additional researchers at no cost to IBE or the state. Gramer said he has already briefed Gov. Brad Little and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra on the findings. In the coming weeks, they will present the report to Little’s K-12 task force in order to promote education reform initiatives based on the data and findings.
“In a state where there is political vitriol surrounding education, where half of the state budget goes toward education… there are a lot more areas where people agree than disagree,” said Schmedlen, who led the new study.
The new HP/IBE survey expressed similar findings and priorities as other recent education surveys from Idaho, including Idaho Education News’ People’s Perspective, which was based on 1,000 telephone interviews.