With the beginning of fall comes the excitement of packing up backpacks, sharpening pencils and climbing on the bus as students and teachers return to their classrooms. As we start the new school year, I’m looking forward to seeing students and teachers excel in the classroom and beyond.
I am excited about the new Advanced Opportunities program called Fast Forward. New this school year, high school students attending public schools across Idaho will have access to funding to help cover the costs of taking college-level courses or professional-technical certification exams. The Fast Forward program provides every high school junior $200 and each senior access to $400 a year. Because of successful state programs and investments the number of high school students earning college credits has more than doubled in two years. The Fast Forward program will give even more students the opportunity to get a jump start on college or professional-technical careers. To learn more about this great opportunity, look for brochures and posters throughout your school and talk to your school counselor
Now that every district has broadband, high speed connectivity through the Idaho Education Network and every high school is a full and robust Wi-Fi environment, the proper implementation of technology is happening in classrooms all across Idaho and students are succeeding at higher levels. It’s exciting to witness the positive impact technology is having on student achievement.
As students head back into the classroom this fall they’ll continue to face higher academic standards. With these standards in place, Idaho students will now graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life after high school. Whether your child chooses to go on to college, professional-technical school, the workforce or the military, he or she will be prepared.
This spring students will take the Idaho Standards Achievement Tests by Smarter Balanced. Students will no longer be limited to a multiple choice test. They now have the opportunity to explain their answers and demonstrate critical thinking skills. This new adaptive assessment will show parents and teachers where students excel and where they need extra help, allowing teachers to work more effectively in the classroom. When we field tested the assessment last spring we received amazing feedback from students and educators. When asked what students liked about the test, one elementary student responded, “I liked that this test makes you think deeper into your mind.”
This year Idaho teachers will not only be recognized but also rewarded for the leadership they provide in their schools. For the past three years the legislature has funded over $70 million in new funding to districts for incentives and bonuses for teachers who take on leadership roles. Great teachers will have the opportunity to receive up to $6,000 on top of their annual pay for doing things like mentoring new teachers or helping develop curriculum for their school.
This is an exciting time for education. Today teachers and students have more opportunities than they ever have had in the past. There will always be challenges but working together we will always meet those challenges head on. So as we go into the upcoming school year together I hope that you share in my anticipation of another great year.
Tom Luna is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.