I hope that everyone in Idaho becomes familiar with IBE and their mission to be a driving force in the development and implementation of Idaho education policy that results in graduates with post-secondary credentials and who are workforce ready.
– C.L. “Butch” Otter, Idaho Governor
Idaho Business for Education (IBE) continues to support efforts to achieve the state’s goal of having 60 percent of our 25-34- year-old workers hold a post-secondary credential by 2020. Although this is an ambitious goal, it is not an academic one for our businesses. Employers across Idaho are already experiencing a shortage of educated and skilled workers. These are not just Idaho’s high-technology companies. The shortage of educated workers is also hurting some of Idaho’s most iconic industries such as agriculture, food processing and forest products. Research shows that in the 21st Century the states with the best educated workforce will win the economic race. That’s why the most important public policy the Legislature can pursue is the creation of the highly educated and trained workforce Idaho’s employers need. By focusing single-mindedly on this effort Idaho can set our students up for success in school, work and life and build the workforce that will lead to a vibrant economy for years to come.
Idaho School Readiness Act
Idaho Business for Education believes one of the most effective ways to ensure that all students are successful is to get them prepared to learn when they enter kindergarten. Unfortunately, right now nearly 50 percent of entering kindergarten students are not ready to learn how to read – meaning they cannot recognize basic letters, colors or sounds. That results in thousands of our children lacking an equal opportunity for success at the starting gate of their educational journey. Sadly, many of them never catch up with their peers. This also makes it difficult for kindergarten teachers to address the needs of the other 50 percent of the children who are ready to learn. IBE supports the adoption of the Idaho School Readiness Act which gives parents the choice between home and off-site programs to get their 4-year-old children prepared to learn in kindergarten. School readiness is one of the best investments the state can make. Research shows that for every dollar invested on school readiness taxpayers can save many times that amount down the road on remediation, incarceration, and social services. As a state, we have a choice: Prepare students early for education or address gaps in learning later with costly remediation. IBE believes it is wise to invest now rather than wait until lives and taxpayer dollars are wasted.
The largest percentage of working adults in Idaho – some 225,000 – are people who have some college and no degree. Helping this group of Idahoans complete their credential, while still working productively, would help Idaho’s economy by improving the skills of its workers. It would also help the state attain its goal of having 60 percent of our 25-34-year-old workers holding a post-secondary credential. Thousands of working Idahoans who need this assistance are post 9/11 veterans. IBE also believes that our adult workers and veterans should receive credit for their professional and military service. This will also help them finish their credentials. Let’s help all these Idahoans improve their education and skills to help strengthen Idaho’s economy.
Great Teachers in Every Classroom
IBE believes that a great teacher in every classroom is a prerequisite for student success and that every Idaho student deserves one. That’s why IBE supports funding for the third year of the Teacher Career Ladder, which keeps our commitment to raise teacher salaries over five years. Raising teacher salaries will also help make Idaho competitive with our neighboring states that continue to lure our great teachers away. IBE also believes that we need a comprehensive plan to solve the critical teacher shortage in our state. We encourage state leaders to focus on this problem so that every Idaho student can have a great teacher in their classroom.
Academic & Career Advising
IBE believes that we need to help students better understand their strengths, career opportunities and how to plan their coursework to achieve their goals. Too many students do not know what careers are available that match their interests and talents. The Legislature took a good step last year by appropriating money to hire more academic and career advisors, but we need to hire even more skilled advisors to solve this problem. We also need to push this advising into the middle schools because recent research showed that 67 percent of Idaho’s graduating seniors made their decision to attend or not to attend college by the 8th Grade. By supporting more career and academic advising we expect to encourage more students to go on and obtain a credential that will prepare them for a career and help build a vibrant Idaho economy.
High Academic Standards
IBE believes that high academic standards better prepare students for success in school, work and life. That’s why IBE strongly supports the Idaho Core Standards and opposes any effort to weaken them.
Idaho School Readiness Act
IBE believes one of the most effective ways to solve the reading problem is to reach struggling readers as early as possible. In Idaho, 49 percent of the children do not come into kindergarten ready to learn how to read, meaning they can’t recognize basic letters or know how to print their name. As a result, thousands of children do not have a fair opportunity for success at the academic starting gate and many of them will never catch up with their peers.
IBE supports the adoption of the Idaho School Readiness Act which gives parents the choice between home or off-site programs to get their four-year-olds ready to learn in kindergarten. School readiness is one of the best investments the state can make. Research shows that for every dollar spent on school readiness taxpayers can save many times that amount on remediation, incarceration, and social services. We have a choice as a state – either prepare students so they have a fair chance to be successful or spend more money repairing them. IBE believes it’s a no-brainer to invest now – not wait until we waste lives and taxpayers’ money. Read IBE’s white paper on the Idaho School Readiness Act.
Higher Academic Standards
From the beginning IBE has been one of the strongest supporters of the Idaho Core Standards. In 2013, IBE led the formation of a broad coalition of 34 groups to support the full implementation of the Standards. In 2014, the IBE-led coalition received a $200,000 grant to conduct a public information campaign to educate people about how important the standards are to improving education outcomes.
This year IBE obtained another $60,000 grant to continue this campaign which you can follow on TV, radio and social media. During the 2015 legislative session, IBE successfully continued its effort to defend the standards against efforts to repeal or weaken them, including testifying against a resolution that would have led to the rewriting of the standards. The Senate Education Committee ended up killing the resolution just following IBE’s testimony against the resolution.
Pay for Success
The Legislature approved House Bill 170 – the so-called “Pay for Success” bill – that creates an innovative and market-driven funding mechanism to advance specific education efforts in Idaho. With Pay for Success, the state can contract with private investors to fund specific efforts to improve student academic achievement. Before the legislative session, IBE met with the bill’s sponsors and provided input on the bill. IBE then briefed the Governor on the concept last fall so that he would be supportive if and when it passed the Legislature. During the legislative session IBE testified in favor of the Pay for Success bill before the House and Senate Education Committees. The sponsors were highly appreciative of IBE lending its support and credibility to the effort.
Academic and Career Coaching
IBE gave its support in the Legislature to two bills that would provide more guidance to high school students thinking about their post-secondary education and careers. One of these was an initiative by the community college presidents to hire academic and career coaches that would work for the community colleges and interface with high school students. IBE South Central Idaho Chair Curtis Eaton was one of the community college leaders that helped craft and promote this concept. The other was a law that IBE testified in support of that would hire more high school guidance advisors to help students plan their post-secondary education that would lead to a credential and skills to fill a much-needed job in the Idaho economy.
STEM Action Center
The Legislature passed House Bill 302 creating a STEM Action Center that will be singularly focused on advancing STEM education and careers. Right now several educational and economic agencies are working to advance STEM, but there is no coordinated effort. The STEM Action Center will coordinate the efforts of the K-12 and the higher education systems, with key state agencies like Commerce and Labor, and align them with private industry.
IBE’s involvement with this effort started with discussions with Micron and others about creating a center similar to one in Utah. Those discussions, including IBE, picked up steam when a bipartisan “STEM Caucus” was created in the Legislature. During consideration of HB302 IBE provided input to the sponsors, briefed the governor to win his support and testified in favor of the bill before the House and Senate Education Committees. At the bill signing, Governor Otter invited IBE President Rod Gramer to make a few comments about how important the STEM Center will be to help us fill critical STEM-related jobs in the Idaho economy.
IBE has been one of the strongest and earliest supporters of the Idaho Core Standards, and helped create IdahoCoreStandards.org to help educate others about the Standards. In 2013, IBE led the formation of a broad coalition of 34 groups to support the full implementation of the Standards. IBE continues to promote and protect the Idaho Core Standards.
What are the Idaho Core Standards?
The Idaho Core Standards are a set of higher expectations in math and English that were developed by state leaders to ensure that every student graduates high school prepared for the future. These new standards are replacing Idaho’s old set of expectations for students. Teaching and learning focus on critical thinking, strong writing skills, and problem solving – the real world skills that students need upon graduation.
How Will Students Benefit from the Idaho Core Standards?
By moving to the Idaho Core Standards, Idaho is ensuring that our students are held to the same high expectations as students across the country. The new standards focus on developing students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills – real world skills that students need to be successful in today’s workforce. In addition, Idaho’s new standards focus on a deeper understanding of materials, not just basic memorization and test-taking skills. Finally, the new standards are clear and focused, allowing teachers to explore important topics in depth with students, rather than skimming the surface of numerous topics to prepare students for tests.
How do the Idaho Core Standards Benefit Idaho?
Click here for more infographics, videos, parent resources and additional information about the Idaho Core Standards.
Continuous Improvement Law
Two years ago, the Idaho Legislature passed a law that requires every school district to develop an annual plan with measurable goals to improve student academic achievement. If followed, this law would put school districts on a path of “continuous improvement” year after year – a sure way to improve student academic growth and excellence.
This law was one of the 20 recommendations that came from the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education. As a member of the Task Force, IBE’s Chair Bob Lokken was instrumental advocating for and developing the framework which eventually became law.
In implementing the “Schoolhouse Strategy,” IBE members can work with local school leaders to use the “Continuous Improvement” law as a vehicle to get measurable results. There is power in utilizing the annual planning process to engage and rally the community, parents, teachers, and school leaders around an effective blueprint to help students achieve academic excellence.