Since I was elected into office in 2007, I have always focused on putting students first. Over the years we’ve enjoyed surpluses and weathered the “great recession”. We created new programs to better the lives of students and removed antiquated programs and policies that didn’t align with our students’ best interests.
In 2007, only 26 percent of schools in Idaho were meeting academic standards. Now that number has almost tripled and Idaho’s eighth graders score in the top 10 in reading and the top 15 in math nationally.
Idaho is no longer under the arduous regulations of No Child Left Behind. Idaho’s new accountability system was designed by Idahoans for Idahoans. Schools are rated on a 5 Star system based on multiple measures of student achievement. Today we have more five-star schools and fewer one-star schools. We are moving in the right direction.
In 2011, Idaho replaced its math and English standards with higher academic standards. Why? Because too often students would graduate high school only to take remedial courses when they arrived at college. Today’s Idaho Core Standards are college and career ready and align with the 21st Century skills every child will need to succeed.
Idaho is investing millions of dollars in learning technology. We closed the digital divide by connecting all high schools to a high-speed, secure, broadband network and created a robust wireless environment in every high school. Today, more and more schools are providing all students simultaneous access to tablets and laptops. Now all Idaho students, from urban to rural, have access to learning opportunities not previously available at their school.
Idaho’s Advanced Opportunities programs, like Fast Forward, afford students the chance to get a jump start on college and career by removing financial barriers. Idaho now pays for students to earn up to a year of college or professional technical credits before they graduate from high school and, with the digital connectivity now in place, all students can participate. This means more students are graduating high school with a semester or more of college credits, while others are earning technical certificates or licenses. The number of students taking dual credit courses has nearly doubled since 2012. Last year more than 30,000 high school students earned more than 100,000 college credits.
Eight years ago, Idaho limited school choice with an artificial cap on charter schools. We lifted that cap and expanded choice. Today there are twice as many charter schools and nearly 20 percent of Idaho students exercise educational choice by attending a public charter, magnet, academy, alternative, or virtual school.
We increased local control by modernizing Idaho’s labor laws, giving locally elected school boards the authority to manage district resources and employees.
Idaho’s Math Initiative is the envy of many other states. Over 13,000 educators have received intense professional development on teaching math at high problem solving levels. Idaho’s students have had access to digital learning opportunities and last year completed more than 16 million complex math problems. Last year almost 85 percent of Idaho students were at or above grade level in math, that’s more than ever before.
The Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars program has given more than 500 of Idaho’s brightest a real NASA experience. These students complete a rigorous semester class in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) course work. Then during the summer they spend time at a NASA facility working with NASA scientist, engineers and astronauts, giving them a real life experience in STEM studies and careers.
I campaigned, was elected and re-elected on a platform of change and reform. And in my eight years in office we’ve accomplished a lot. I was blessed with an amazing staff and had the opportunity to work with dedicated parents, educators and lawmakers. Because of that hard work, by any number of academic measures, Idaho’s students are doing better. It hasn’t always been easy and at times the road was difficult but the effort was worth it and now the path forward is clear, with the full implementation of the Governor’s 20 recommendations of The Task Force for Improving Education, Idaho will keep on the path of continual improvement.
Thank you for the honor and opportunity to serve the Great State of Idaho.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna will end his eight-year career in office at the end of this year.