Over the last eight months, the Task Force on Improving Education has been meeting to explore recommendations for reaching the State Board of Education's goal that 60 percent of Idaho citizens ages 25-34 attain at least a one-year postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020. The Task Force was made up of 30 people representing a broad group of stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, parents, institutions of higher education, school boards, and business.
On August 23, the Task Force released its final recommendations. I am pleased with what we accomplished. Through these recommendations, we can move our good education system to a great education system, a system in which we prepare every child to graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation once they get there.
Many of the items recommended are ideas we have discussed and debated for several years. Now, we have the solid framework in place and the support of all stakeholders involved in education to make these ideas possible.
Here is a summary of the recommendations. A complete list of the recommendations in more detail is available online at http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/board_initiatives/Education_Improvement_Taskforce/08-23-13/index.asp.
Mastery Based System
We recommend the state shift to a system where students advance based upon content mastery, rather than seat time requirements. This may require a structural change to Idaho's funding formula and/or some financial incentive to school districts. We also recommend that mastery be measured against high academic standards.
Idaho Core Standards
We strongly endorse the rigorous and successful implementation of the Idaho Core Standards as an essential component of high performing schools. Higher standards in all subject areas help raise student achievement among all students, including those performing below grade level.
We recommend students demonstrate mastery of literacy before moving on to significant content learning. Reading proficiency is a major benchmark in a student's education. Students must learn to read before they can read to learn content in other subject areas.
We recommend the state ensure that all students have access to advanced opportunities by expanding post-secondary offerings while a student is still in high school.
Revamp the State's Accountability Structure Involving Schools
We recommend the state revamp the accountability structure involving schools. The existing structure that relies on compliance mandates should be replaced with a system that is based on accountability for student outcomes. The state has constitutional and financial authority and mandates to ensure a quality and uniform education.
Empower Autonomy by Removing Constraints
We recommend the Governor's Office, State Board of Education, and State Department of Education evaluate existing education laws and administrative rules and work with the Legislature to remove those which impede local autonomy, flexibility to adapt to local circumstances, and the ability of the schools to be agile, adaptive, innovative, and drive continuous improvement.
Annual Strategic Planning, Assessment, and Continuous Focus on Improvement
We recommend each district be required to have a strategic plan (and to renew it annually) that identifies and focuses district-wide continuous improvement toward statewide goals. Both the local board and the state should provide oversight to ensure that the plan is appropriate to local circumstances and aligns to and supports the state's goals. The plan forms the basis from which accountability will be structured and the superintendent will be evaluated.
Job-Embedded Collaboration/Professional Development Time
Teacher effectiveness is paramount to student success, and professional development is paramount to teacher effectiveness. We recommend structural changes to allow for job-embedded collaboration time. Time to collaborate is critical to effective teaching and implementation of higher standards and technology. Professional development must be regularly scheduled and ongoing.
Statewide Electronic Collaboration System
We recommend that a statewide electronic collaboration system be adopted for educators to share ideas and resources across the state.
High Speed Bandwidth and Wireless Infrastructure
We recommend the state expand the existing high speed bandwidth infrastructure to ensure every school (high school, middle school, and elementary school) has the bandwidth and wireless infrastructure necessary for simultaneous equal access and opportunity. This will require ongoing funding for the repair and replenishment of equipment.
Educator and Student Technology Devices
We recommend that every educator and student have adequate access to technology devices with appropriate content to support equal access and opportunity. Educator professional development is critical to the effective implementation of technology.
The recommendations will now be delivered to the Governor for consideration. I will do everything in my authority to ensure we have the resources, policies and programs necessary so the work of this Task Force becomes a reality, and we reach our goal of 60% postsecondary attainment goal.