Boise director responds to task force

As an Area Director for the Boise School District, I would like to address several of the Governor’s Education Task Force’s questions beginning with:

Given the finite amount of funding, how would you like it spent in your schools?

We appreciate the conversations around funding for teacher salaries but would like to see greater flexibility in the use of those funds, while still maintaining the accountability outlined in previous legislation.

The current funding designated for differential pay ties districts’ hands to a degree. We would like to see that funding continue but with increased flexibility. For example, districts could choose to use funds to recruit and retain hard-to-fill positions (such as STEM fields), districts may use funds to save teacher cuts, or increase beginning or all teacher salaries, or they may choose to create their own pay-for-performance program.

Accountability should still be an important part of this flexibility. We support the requirement for each local school board to develop and submit a five year plan for improving college preparedness. This would also provide a foundation supporting the State Board’s goal of increased postsecondary degrees earned by Idaho students.

These plans are the first step in addressing comprehensive reform at the local level. Funds could be tailored to best fit each district’s need for supporting K-12 student rigor and the structures required to develop and maintain high standards for all students. We know programs such as Gear Up and AVID provide targeted support to help students engage in accelerated and AP courses, critical components for accessing postsecondary opportunities. Increased flexibility in funding could also support the implementation of programs like these.

District plans would provide a comprehensive look at the path each district is setting forth for college-readiness along with how the State funding will be utilized to help accomplish the stated goals.

What should be the measure to hold schools and districts accountable?

We believe this is best determined locally as each district builds plans based on their unique needs. For Boise, the SAT has become a significant data piece used in planning, but other districts may not agree. If only one high school data source is selected, we would like to see the SAT used for comparative analysis and monitoring districts’ progress toward college readiness.

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We have adopted the motto that “calculus begins in kindergarten” emphasizing an overall District focus for determining our vision. If we had the opportunity to utilize funding in a more flexible manner, we would welcome the opportunity to share a comprehensive plan with the State as part of their accountability process. It would provide us with the opportunity to engage with other districts, improve practices, and learn from others’ successes.

What should be done about schools that consistently underperform?

We ask the Task Force to use multiple lenses in defining what “underperforming” means. For example, under the pre-waiver criteria, Boise had a school that typically missed AYP but is now a 5 star school. Conversely, we have a school that made AYP every year and is now a 1 star school. This is not a judgment regarding the quality of past of current systems, it is simply a reminder of the importance in how the State analysis and supports “underperforming” schools. We believe the definition should be multi-faceted and comprehensive rather than narrow and singular in focus. Tools such as rubrics could be utilized to better capture an individual school’s challenges, allowing staff to collaborate and problem-solve around multiple data points.

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