Citizens put schools to test - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Citizens put schools to test

Task force seeks feedback on improving Idaho education

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Richard Westerberg didn't sugarcoat the state of public education in Idaho, and neither did the citizens who chose to speak Tuesday at the Idaho Task Force for Improving Education's community forum at North Idaho College.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 100, Westerberg, a member of the State Board of Education and task force chair, pointed to several areas of concern that he said highlight the need to find a more fiscally stable and equitable system of funding education while improving educator effectiveness at every level.

Adequate Yearly Progress scores - annual school report cards based on students' standard achievement test scores - have become flat and begun to decline after making gains in the first few years AYP was put into practice, he said.

SAT scores are also unimpressive.

Westerberg said that every high school student in Idaho took one of the standardized college placement tests in 2012, "However, only 1 in 4 of our students met the college readiness benchmark set by the College Board."

The task force's goal, its "guiding principle," he said, is to have 60 percent of the state's 25- to 34-year-olds possess some form of higher education degree by 2020.

Just 35 percent of Idaho citizens in that age bracket hold a postsecondary degree, he said, "Obviously, we have a bunch of work to do."

In addition, 46 percent of the state's recent high school graduates are not prepared to take college courses, and require some form of remedial education.

The task force was convened by Gov. Butch Otter in December, following voters' repeal of the Students Come First education reform legislation in November.

The 31-member panel has met four times since January, and is now traveling around the state, holding community forums. The Coeur d'Alene meeting is the fourth of seven planned forums.

The turnout was significantly higher, Westerberg said, than they've seen at the earlier meetings held in Nampa, Twin Falls and Lewiston. Meetings are scheduled in Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Boise.

"The end goal will be to make recommendations to the governor which he can then forward to the Legislature and, or the appropriate body whether it be the State Board of Education or the local school boards," Westerberg said.

Many of the citizens who attended the Coeur d'Alene forum were educators, and most of the individuals who chose to speak were teachers.

There were calls for a teacher merit pay system that isn't tied to student performance, and pleas to scale back reliance on standardized testing.

Coeur d'Alene teacher Chris Inlow said that while Idaho children are not required to attend school until age 7, other states require half-day or full-day kindergarten for all children.

"We are starting (at a) deficit in literacy skills from the very beginning," Inlow said.

Bruce Twitchell, another Coeur d'Alene teacher, provided an explanation for the high number of students in need of remediation after high school in Idaho, "Let's face it, our top students are leaving the state."

Twitchell and Coeur d'Alene High School counselor Rick Jones shared concerns about the quality of online courses students are now taking."I'm not opposed to online learning. I think there are many good programs out there, however, I see a growing number of students relying on these courses to get by and get a diploma, and I think it's despicable," Jones said. "The academic standards in some of these programs are very low, and students know it."

There were frequent calls for the Legislature to provide "adequate funding" for education.

Margie Gannon, a 14-year school board member in St. Maries, said voters in her district recently rejected a supplemental maintenance and operations levy for the first time since 1990.

"I understand what the voters are saying," she said. "We have to find a new way to do funding."

Another St. Maries trustee, Sandra Kennelly, said the state's funding formula isn't fair to small, rural districts with smaller tax bases. Even with the successful passage of levies, districts like hers are at a disadvantage, she said, because the tax base is lower. It creates inequity in the quality of education across the state.

Joanna Adams, the Coeur d'Alene mother of several grown children, said all of her kids have college degrees, and those who have moved to Washington and Oregon, are doing well financially.

She has one child who chose to remain in Idaho. That daughter is the highest educated, and is just a few credits away from a doctorate degree.

"She is making the least of all our children because she chose to teach in Idaho," Adams said.

Citizens finished up signing their tax forms on Monday, and sent their taxes due to the state, Adams said.

"That money needs to come back to our area, back to our schools."

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  • Greg81 posted at 6:03 pm on Fri, Apr 19, 2013.

    Greg81 Posts: 77

    I was at that meeting and some of the teachers spoke praises about Common Core as if they had been brainwashed. One teacher did speak out about the overwhelming amount of tests in schools which I agree.

    The one that chilled me to the bone was a teacher who spoke about increasing the school transport budget to get the 4 year olds into school. She also touted socialist countries curriculums and said we need a centralized system.

    I was stunned. First, hands off our children. 4 year olds belong at home learning from parents. Second. There were some people in the past who wanted to get children out of the homes at a young age. Hitler, Mao, Stalin. Get the idea? This lady has no business teaching.

  • Greg81 posted at 5:58 pm on Fri, Apr 19, 2013.

    Greg81 Posts: 77

    White Pine. I was also at that meeting. When Mr. Bill Prosser, founder of CDA Charter Academy spoke I looked around and saw many of the teachers at tables rolling their eyes in contempt. Can you teachers in public schools boast the kind of success as they have had? I also saw the eye rolls on a few other people who spoke out against common core.

    I saw similar eye rolls of contempt from teachers a while ago during meetings regarding the IB vs AP. I found all those teachers that did that very rude and disrespectful.

  • Mark on the Park posted at 8:20 am on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    Mark on the Park Posts: 471

    It is rare when I agree with every statement posited in a comment, so I commend you for your insightful analysis that puts the bulk of responsibility for a child's development where it rightfully belongs - with the parents.

  • AsISeeIt posted at 10:54 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    AsISeeIt Posts: 28

    Westerberg states that with every high school student taking one of the standardized college placement tests in 2012, “only 1 in 4…” met college readiness. This should not be surprising since far more students are testing who before would have never considered taking the college placement tests. I would imagine many of these students do not see the value in these tests and merely randomly bubble in bubbles; particularly when you consider barely a third of Idaho citizens (including their parents) hold postsecondary degrees.

    I don’t think one can understate the impact and influence a family has on the success of a student. If a child grows up with the expectation of achieving academically and learns to take responsibility for their education, that child has a much better chance of pursuing higher education. I grew up in a family of nine kids. My father graduated from University of Illinois following WW II. As all nine of us graduated from high school, there was no question about the next step—college. My wife, who I met in college, and I have had the same expectations for our two boys. We made a point of driving through colleges on family vacations; talked about the value of a college degree. We were involved in their classrooms, supported their teachers on any issue with our kids, helped with homework/projects and made a point of knowing their friends’ families. We planned and made sacrifices financially to make sure there was a means to pay for college. Our outcome: the oldest is in graduate school and the youngest is finishing his third year at the University of Oregon. Both are products of the CDA 271. Both received an outstanding education from dedicated teachers, but never did we expect that it was the sole responsibly of the teachers to prepare our kids for adulthood.

    So my long winded point here is that the problems with education in Idaho is much deeper than schools. It starts with family, and with so few parents having a postsecondary degree, their kids are not being pushed in that direction. Not to mention the vast number of parents who take no responsibility for their child’s education at the earliest levels. The endeavor of reaching 60% of Idaho adults holding a higher degree is going to be an uphill battle. AND many of those young adults who do earn a college degree will not return to Idaho. For the most part wages here do not support and value a college degree.

  • lola123 posted at 8:55 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    lola123 Posts: 343

    Soooo my suspicions have been correct all along.
    Joe Idaho is not from Idaho.
    Credibility for ANY of your comments past and present are hereby NULL and VOID.
    By the way, I doubt very much if you made any money in your lifetime worth anything. Braggart's normally are fabricators of untruths.

  • SmallMinds posted at 8:52 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    SmallMinds Posts: 31

    I sat too close to a table full of teachers who were nothing but rude the entire time expect when IEA "Proud Supporters!" spoke up. They were quite a distraction and an embarrassment.

    I realize they aren't representative "all" teachers but I wish other teachers had the courage to speak up and say that the behavior of the IEA does not represent them. I know they are out there. I just wish they could find a voice.

  • hayden_guy posted at 8:40 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    hayden_guy Posts: 400

    *couldn't care less

  • WhitePine posted at 8:40 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    WhitePine Posts: 145

    @ smallminds. Seriously? I was there. I didn't hear any jeering, heckling or witness any rude behavior. I did hear respectful applause for some of the less than rational comments.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 8:08 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    mister duh, your post is precisely what is wrong in America.
    See, you & the rest of the liberals fight for DOLLARS instead of QUALITY.
    I could care less about our "national rating" and smallminds, below, is 1,000% right on the money. This is/was a rally for more money & power for teahcer's unions, and had/has NOTHING to do with the kids OR education, just like the absolute morons who keep spouting this garbage about being "48th" in education".
    I would HAPPILY compare our schools to ANY schools in:
    New York
    And ANY other liberal our of control money borrowing/grabbing state.

    And to you; "lola", I didn't go to school here, I my education is limited, but I probably made more money in a year, 25 years ago when I was a kid than you ever did in your life. Go ahead, correct my spelling, whyn'tcha.

  • mister d posted at 7:38 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    Gee Joe, I am glad you think our schools are adequately funded when they are funded at 48th in the nation in per pupil spending. That is something to be proud of. I don't feel schools are doing that poorly and agree with the article that a lot of kids are leaving this state because the grass is actually greener across the boarder. Until we get new pro education legislatures many of our kids that want a brighter future ill leave. Why would you get a college degree here and stick around for low low pay.

  • SmallMinds posted at 7:32 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    SmallMinds Posts: 31

    It was a Pep Rally for the Teacher's Union complete with rude behavior, heckling and inappropriate cheering and jeering.

    Let me get this straight: After hearing testimony about how badly Idaho's schools are failing (you know, graduating kids who can't read and sending them to college where they have to pay for remediation to learn things they should have learned in Middle School) the teacher's contribution to the discussion was to say:

    #1 - we aren't responsible for that!
    #2 - if you only gave us more money it would all get better
    #3 - we aren't willing to be held accountable for our job performance and
    #4 - we are completely unwilling to accept any new ideas MUCH LESS present any of our own.

    To the Governor's Task Force, please let me apologize on behalf of the members of our community who do want meaningful Ed Reform for the time wasted last night listening to the same old garbage as well as for how badly teachers embarrassed us all with their boorish behavior.

  • lola123 posted at 7:04 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    lola123 Posts: 343

    Joe, since you are a product of this school system, it is now a documented fact that our schools are NOT far better than most in the nation. Voxpop is right on all counts.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 6:39 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    I agree with VOX that it's a Dog & Pony Show, but not on anythign else.
    This was nothign more than a "we always need more money" show; aimed exclusively at using SUPPOSED numbers to show why the schools are consistently underfunded, and doing opoorly, when reality is that our schools are FAR better than most in the Nation.
    Same thing as "the stock market is at all time highs, economy's in "recovery"!

  • voxpop posted at 5:23 am on Wed, Apr 17, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    A classic dog and pony show. This committee is a lame misdirect on the part of legislators like Goedde to let the electorate vent, knowing all too well that the die is already cast. Legislative opinions are set in stone and the only change will be LESS support for public education. State govt is a business special interest oligarchy and no other opinions are accepted.

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