Education task force prioritizes topics

The Governor’s Education Task Force spent the last minutes of its six-hour meeting prioritizing topics that members said were important if Idaho wants to improve education and create a more successful workforce.

But State Board member Rod Lewis concluded the meeting with this thought: “We reserve the right to come back and revisit these.”

The 31 members of the task force brought up lots of topics for discussion and state board staff grouped those topics into categories. The members then voted on their favorites. Each member cast four votes. Here are the votes and categories:

19 — professional development and Common Core
16 — teacher effectiveness
16 — fiscal stability for districts
14 — technology
12 — recruitment, retention and compensation for teachers and administrators
11 — structural changes
11 — local control
9   — Leadership
2   — looking at the differences between districts
1   — student voices

The State Board of Education has been charged with facilitating the Education Task Force meetings. Its staff will share in the coming weeks information gathered on Friday, including the minutes of the meeting and its presentations. Staff will also share out data. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25 and a location has not been determined.

“Next meeting we will continue the conversation with what really are we going to work on,” said task force chair Richard Westerberg, a member of the state board.

The task force also agreed (by consensus, not an actual vote) on sharing the goal of the State Board of Education: 60 percent of Idahoans age 25-34 will have a degree or certificate of value by the year 2020. About 31 percent of Idahoans have that distinction today.

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Businessman Bob Lokken added that this certificate should have marketable value because young adults need to have an education that ultimately makes them successful — employable — in the 21st century workforce.

Superintendent Tom Luna reminded the task force that there isn’t much time — the 2020 graduates are 8th graders today.

Meridian superintendent Linda Clark said: “we need to keep talking to each other, and we need to establish common metrics for which we all are held accountable.”

Most of the morning was spent brainstorming ideas and filling 16 large pieces of white paper with those ideas. Here are some highlights and who said it:

 ISBA president Ann Ritter:  Stay away from “one size fits all” philosophy. Give latitude to boards and district to design their own plans within established perimeters.

 Teacher Brian Smith: We need assistance in implementing Common Core State Standards so we can be successful.

 Rep. Reed DeMordaunt: We want to be No. 1. What we need to focus on is how do we get there. What can Idaho do to be the best in the world?

Businessman Bob Lokken: Accountability. With local control must come accountability.  A goal without accountability is a slogan.

 Sen. John Goedde: What happens if its not working? How do we get rid of a school district or school where it’s not working? It’s implementing accountability.

 Parent Mike Lanza: How do we encourage greater parent involvement statewide?

 IEA president Penni Cyr: Time is a huge issue. More has been added to the plate of educators but the time frame hasn’t changed. Year-round schools? Should our days be longer? Should student time be more focused so educators have more time for collaboration?

 Idaho Leads Project co-director Roger Quarles: You’re not going to win the Derby on a donkey. We need to focus on hiring and retaining highly effective leaders.

Lakeland superintendent Mary Ann Ranells: Let’s not forget about classified staff. I see them as a critical part of excellence in education.

 Board member Rod Lewis: Strong leadership leads to great results. Our task is to think about how to get to that result. What do you do with an ineffective district? Come up with an accountability system that ties leadership to school improvement.

 Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking: How do we attract the best and brightest into the field of education? Look for incentives.

 Meridian superintendent Linda Clark:  What is the amount of resources the state has to provide for a school district to do its job?  We need a balance between what is a reasonable level of support and how we can be more creative with those funds.

 Teacher of the Year Katie Pemberton: As we focus on student growth and achievement, the most important factor is the classroom teacher. We need consistent and ongoing professional development. I’m an advocate for technology and that start with wireless internet at all schools and then professional development.

 IEA president Penni Cyr: Research shows that for students to be college or career ready that pre-K is absolutely essential. That is a structural change.

 IASA’s Rob Winslow: Accountability measures need to be clear on the state and federal level with alignment.

 Charter school representative Don Heller: School choice can drives accountability.

 Superintendent Tom Luna:  Why aren’t existing programs being used in all districts?  A lot of districts haven’t taken advantage, even when the rules are removed, the system seems to maintain itself – it doesn’t change.

 State board member Rod Lewis: We need data for the group, what are those districts doing that have higher go-on rates?