Reform advocate: Idaho can be rural leader

Education reform advocate Andy Smarick stopped short of yelling “fire” in a crowded room.

But the former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education did sound a call for reform during an ED Sessions 2.0 luncheon Tuesday in Boise.

Smarick, now a partner at the national nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners, described Idaho’s education system as smoldering fire in need of dousing.

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Andy Smarick

“I would suggest that if you look at your test scores and student high school graduation rates and college graduation rates, that maybe there is smoke coming from your house,” Smarick said.

During his hour-long talk, Smarick said he hopes Idaho becomes a leader for rural education reform. Some other quotes from his talk:

  • “Excuses don’t do anything for poor kids. I’m waiting for a state to step up…  (and say), ‘We are going to be first state ever … to send 75 percent of our kids to college.’”
  • “If you spend more money … it matters much more how you spend it than what you spend.”
  • “The history of state takeovers or district takeovers (of poor performing schools) is pretty lousy. I think we have to close low-performing schools after they’ve been failing too long. History shows they don’t turn around.”

The talking points circled back to Smarick’s central question for parents and stakeholders.

“Do you go to bed thinking you’re positioning your kids to be best in the nation in a changing, more competitive world?” Smarick asked.

ED Sessions luncheons are a monthly speaker series sponsored by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Tuesday’s program attracted dozens of education stakeholders and decision makers. Those attending included Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R- Coeur d’Alene, Meridian Joint School District Superintendent Linda Clark and Idaho Association of School Administrators executive director Rob Winslow.

For more on Smarick, read his Q and A published earlier this week by Idaho Education News.

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

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