Second thoughts: State Board wants to keep dual-credit program intact

The second time around, the State Board of Education had second thoughts about tightening Idaho’s dual credit policy.

On Friday, the board tabled a proposal that would have restricted high school students’ dual-credit course options.

The policy, as written, would have limited dual credit options to “a general education course as defined by the State Board of Education,” or a course that a student could use toward a postsecondary degree or certificate.

On Monday, the State Board gave the language its preliminary approval. But at the start of a 15-minute conference call Friday morning, the board tabled its vote from Monday — acknowledging concerns over the public notice preceding that meeting.

With Monday’s vote declared void, board members then proceded to pick apart the dual credit proposal. They expressed concern that the language could weaken a successful and growing dual-credit plan — a linchpin in the State Board’s efforts to improve Idaho’s stagnant college completion rates.

Pete Koehler, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s chief deputy, warned that the tighter dual-credit language could lead to “strong unintended consequences” — particularly for students pursuing career-technical education credits.

The board voted 6-0 to table the dual-credit language; Ybarra and new board member Andrew Scoggin were absent.

The goal of the short-lived dual-credit proposal was to ensure that the state paid only for coursework that would help high school students work toward a postsecondary degree. The state paid for 80,000 dual credits in 2015-16, at a cost of $4.8 million. According to the State Board, the majority of this coursework qualified only as college elective credits.

With Friday’s vote, the State Board endorsed the rest of its legislative agenda — including a potential crackdown on bad teacher evaluation data. This proposal would levy fines of up to $50,000 against school administrators who intentionally report false data to the state. The language would be tied to the career ladder law that lays out a schedule for teacher pay raises.

The proposal caught education leaders off-guard this week, and board president Emma Atchley said she has already heard some concerns about the plan. “I think that will have some more attention paid to it,” she said.

Monday’s meeting was beset with several procedural problems. A sketchy agenda made no reference to the dual-credit or the teacher evaluation data proposals, or any other bills in the board’s 52-page meeting packet. Reporters received word of the meeting at about 5 a.m. Monday, less than five hours before the meeting.

During Friday’s brief meeting, board members made a couple of references to Monday’s meeting. Atchley did not say Monday’s meeting violated open meetings law, and said the board decided to start over with a new meeting in “an abundance of caution.”

Before explaining his change of heart on the dual-credit proposal, David Hill of Boise made a joking mention of Monday’s conference call, referring to it as “the meeting that didn’t happen.”