From fallout over teacher evaluation data to a cancer-stricken custodian, Idaho’s 2016 education landscape was a mixed bag of bombshells, emotion and twists.
We photographed. We filmed. We reported.
We analyzed and dove deep into the details and dollars, and now we’re looking back at this year’s most memorable stories — and what many of you had to say about them.
(To see this year’s most memorable quotes, click here.)
Some stories we knew would nab headlines. Others rose to the forefront of conversation a little more unexpectedly. (
To see some of our lighter-side stuff that had high readership, click here.)
If you blinked, you likely missed some of it. But don’t fret. Our 2016 Year In Review is here. So before the big glittery ball drops this Saturday, let’s look back month-by-month on 2016’s major news.
1/11/2016: Lawmakers look on after Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State address, which outlined a series of budget recommendations that would increase public school funding by $116.6 million in 2016.
1/27/2016: Nearly 1,000 students, parents, educators and advocates march down Capitol Blvd. toward the Statehouse steps during National School Choice Week. The debate surrounding school choice and charter schools ran a deep thread in Idaho politics in 2016.
2/2/2016: House Education Committee chairman Reed DeMordaunt leads an effort to reject a rule covering new science and humanities standards pertaining to the age of the planet, creation of the universe and global warming. The standards never gained traction in 2016.
2/19/2016: Director of the Public Charter School Commission Tamara Baysinger briefs the Idaho State Board of Education with a report that shows Idaho public charter schools are far less diverse than Idaho’s traditional public schools.
3/1/2016: Butte County students communicate with students from other Idaho districts by using the now-dead Idaho Education Network. The Idaho Supreme Court voided the contract for the network broadband project unanimously in March, amid the state’s big-money broadband battle with vendors.
3/10/2016: Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, left, and House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt talk during the 2016 legislative session following a report tracking $16.7 million in teacher “leadership premiums” compiled by the State Department of Education that was fraught with bad math. DeMordaunt later went on to call for more accountability in the evaluation process.
4/5/2016: Gov. Butch Otter vetoes the famed Bible-in-schools bill. “I have deep respect and appreciation for the Bible as a religious doctrine as well as a piece of historic literature,” Otter said. “However, allowing (the bill) to become law is in direct contravention to the Idaho Constitution.” Otter also signed an $8 million bill aimed at settling with vendors on the mothballed Idaho Education Network.
5/2/2016: A refugee student listens to his teacher. Idaho education News kicked May off with a week-long series about the state of refugee education programs in Idaho.
5/23/2016: Boise teen Barry Gans performs a dance move. Gans’ dedication earned him an invitation to attend New York City’s prestigious Juilliard School. “My body is my career,” he told Idaho Education News.
6/22/2016: Recent Firth High graduate Jared Andersen sits in the school’s new weight room, which now bears his name. Firth administrators named the room after Andersen because they considered his bout with cancer and his desire to “pay it forward” extraordinary.
6/27/2016: A kindergartner works through his textbook following two class action lawsuits with plaintiffs demanding that the West Ada School District return some $2 million in students fees and “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in refunds from the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District.
6/29/2016: An elementary teacher helps students identify basic words. In June, two Idaho education reports revealed widespread teachers shortages across the state, even as the first year of the state’s $125 million career ladder salary law raised teacher pay by 2.1 percent.
7/14/2016: State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra announces plans to overhaul or replace the state’s teacher evaluation model in the wake of reports revealing widespread data inaccuracies. Ybarra would later change her mind about revamping evaluation models.
8/22/2016: First grade teacher Courtney Massimino consoles teary-eyed Tripp Grenke on his first day of school. Our multimedia specialist Andrew Reed shadowed Grenke from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. — a day “full of anticipation, joy, jitters and tears tucked together with pancakes and pizza bagel bites,” Reed wrote. Reed’s own footage and a body cam strapped to Grenke made for a video that garnered 112,000 views on YouTube.
8/23/2016: The Idaho State Capitol’s skylights. We took a close look at the monumental tax overhaul passed by the Idaho Legislature in August 2006, and its effects on taxpayers now. Tallied up, the major tax shift pencils out to a tax increase for Idaho residents in 2016.
9/9/2016: Idaho’s SBAC scores improved from third grade through high school in 2016, though data shows that math scores tend to drop as students advance into higher grades.
9/19/2016: Members of the Idaho State Board of Education announce a crackdown on bad evaluation data, including fines against superintendents who deliberately falsify reports. In August, Idaho Education News first reported that two Idaho superintendents admitted to sending false data to the state.
10/10/2016: Blackfoot’s cancer-stricken custodian Steve Bishop leaves encouraging notes to students during his night shift. Our video documenting a day with Bishop garnered some 150,000 views on Youtube.
10/11/2016: Students in the West Ada School District type papers and pedal on “kinesthetic desks”— English teacher Tracy Poff’s vision to help students “retain more information” via “active bodies and minds.”
10/17/2016: Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter says graduation rates still need “significant improvement” in the wake of Idaho’s No. 39 national graduation ranking. Graduation and college go-on rates emerged as hallmark initiatives throughout 2016.
11/29/2016: Kindergarteners embrace Idaho teacher of the year Mary Spiker, who said she was once “afraid” of teaching kindergarteners.
12/14/2016: Elementary students practice reading by matching objects with corresponding letters and words. Our Kevin Richert teamed up with Idaho Public Television’s Melissa Davlin in 2016 to produce a 6-story deep dive into the bleak state of Idaho literacy, and where it goes from here.