Report: Idaho wasted $61M on failed school management system
Idaho wasted $61 million on a failed statewide instructional management system for schools, according to a new state performance evaluation, as former state schools Superintendent Tom Luna pushed it forward despite warnings it wouldn’t work.
Tim Corder, special assistant to new state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, told lawmakers this morning the report is accurate. “We really are a changed administration,” Corder told the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. “It was not us. It was the previous administration. … Superintendent Ybarra did not create that problem, but Superintendent Ybarra is going to be about fixing that problem.”
The report from the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations showed that Idaho has spent $61 million on trying to implement Schoolnet statewide, including a $21 million grant from the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation.
The state committed a total of $77 million toward the project, including the grant, as part of Luna’s “Students Come First” school reform initiative.
Idaho voters rejected the Students Come First laws in a 2012 referendum. In addition to the statewide instructional management system, the push called for a laptop computer for every Idaho high school student, a new focus on online learning, and shifting resources to cover the new expenditures without increasing school funding.
“Poor management, poor decisions, and poor system functionality compounded themselves and prevented the goals for a statewide instructional management system from being realized,” Rakesh Mohan, director of the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations, told lawmakers.
Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, called it “sickening results, if you ask me.” She said, “I think we’ve been waiting to hear this report. … You see that there’s $61 million, you think, wow, that would have gone a long way for roads.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, agreed. “This is just , it’s more than disheartening,” he said, “and I think even though the department may have changed leadership, that we need to make sure that things are investigated a little further and people tell us how this has been made so that it doesn’t happen again. It seems to be every year we find somebody has a great idea, and doesn’t check it out, doesn’t build a good RFP, dsn’t build a good plan, doesn’t manage the plan, and we end up spending tens of millions of dollars of citizens’ money, and then of course we claim poverty on why we can’t support the teachers or the other services.”
How 3 districts empower teachers as tech leaders
Plans to transition to a digital environment are forming in districts across the country, but the success of those plans largely hinges on one thing: teacher buy-in. Three school district leaders share how they are empowering their teachers to be leaders when it comes to technology use.
Panelists included Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District; Dwight Jones, Superintendent in Residence with Discovery Education; and Todd Wirt, the assistant superintendent of academics with the Wake County Public School System.
Next page: Supporting teachers as digital transition leaders
"Creating a digital learning environment is critical to our children's success," Grier said. "I believe that tehcnology, when done right, gives kids more time."
The challenge, he said, lies in moving from having simply good teachers who produce average gains to having great teachers who can use technology as a tool to empower their instruction and support student achievement.
"The importance of digital learning environments--it's critical," he said. "You can create the environment but you have to have a high-quality teacher who is trained and who knows how to make the most out of that environment."
"The classroom environment has changed dramatically," Jones said. "How do we support teachers as they go to scale? Help them get the necessary professional development and help them 'see' a new classroom where they work with students who want to have a voice in their learning."
"We're asking teachers to be more vulnerable and trust their students more than they have," said Wirt, addressing the need to create a shift where students and teachers use digital tools and resources and collaborate more.
"How do you create the culture and conditions where teachers feel confident to take risks and experiment in that environment?"
Free summer school access to lessons for schools, districts
Educators and administrators across the country are looking for innovative, effective ways to ensure their students do not become victims of the ‘summer slide’ as well as attain mastery of state and national standard benchmarks.
Learning Upgrade, leading provider of engaging song and game based curriculum for math and reading, is offering complimentary summer school access to its web-based, standards aligned curriculum to all qualifying U.S. schools and districts.
The company looks to support districts in their quest to halt the dreaded summer slide, without putting a burden on their budget. In addition to the lessons, Learning Upgrade will provide additional support to summer school teachers and administrators while enrolling students, integrating the curriculum and tracking progress to mastery.
“This is the fourth year Learning Upgrade will offer full and complimentary access to any qualifying school in the US. Results over the past 3 summers have been extremely positive. In just four weeks, students can complete a full year of curriculum with detailed, web-based reports for parents, teachers and students,” said Learning Upgrade CEO Vinod Lobo.
Research from the National Summer Learning Association shows that, without refreshing their memories, students may lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency over the summer.
“Summer is a fantastic time to engage all learners, and prevent the dreaded summer slide, especially those that may need extra help catching up or keeping up with their classmates,” states Lobo.
Companies partner on math progress
Think Through Learning, authors of Think Through Math (TTM), has entered into an agreement with MetaMetrics, the developer of The Quantile Framework for Mathematics.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Quantile Framework will now be integrated with the TTM supplemental math curriculum, providing insight into a student's readiness and ability to learn more advanced mathematical skills and concepts.
This collaboration will impact more than 2.6 million students across the U.S. who currently use Think Through Math in their classrooms.
Next page: How Quantile measures will help teachers and students
Students will receive Quantile measures from the assessment component of TTM beginning in the 2015-16 school year. These student Quantile measures will provide guidance on which mathematical topics the students are ready to learn. Each lesson in the TTM adaptive curriculum will also receive Quantile measures that will indicate the difficulty of mathematical skills and concepts. With both the students and curriculum receiving Quantile measures, students will be assigned content that is tailored to their abilities and that can help improve their skills.
"We are delighted to be working with Think Through Math, which has quickly become the standard for supplemental math curriculum in schools throughout the nation," said Malbert Smith, Ph.D., president and cofounder of MetaMetrics. "Quantile measures can provide a deeper level of insight for teachers by enabling a whole new level of personalization for the millions of students who use Think Through Math."
A scientific scale that measures a student's readiness in mathematics learning, the Quantile Framework for Mathematics describes a student's mathematical achievement level as well as the difficulty of the skills and concepts being taught. By placing the curriculum, the instructional materials and the students on the same scale, Quantile measures allow teachers to determine if students are on track to pass year-end assessments and succeed in college and careers.
Kansas preschool programs focus on literacy support
To ensure young children are reaching important achievement standards and school readiness goals, the Kansas Preschool Programs (KPP) are integrating structures necessary for implementing a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS).
The Kansas MTSS framework is based on a systematic, evidence-based approach to curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices for influencing positive educational outcomes. Working within this framework, the Kansas Inservice Training System (KITS), a program of the Kansas University Life Span Institute at Parsons, initiated training to reinforce assessment, planning, and intentional instruction by the KPP.
“Our goal is to support educators at the classroom, school and program level working together to inform instruction and make data-based decisions for improving programs as a whole and educational outcomes for individual children,” says David Lindeman, Ph.D., Kansas University, KITS Director.
At the core of the Kansas MTSS framework, is the identification of children who may need additional instructional support in the area of early literacy, beyond what the core curriculum provides.
The myIGDIs assessments were selected to provide early childhood educators with ongoing universal screening and progress monitoring information useful for making instructional decisions for groups and/or individual children.
“As an evidence-based approach to differentiating instruction and targeting intervention, myIGDIs are perfectly suited for decision-making frameworks such as MTSS. We’re thrilled to be working with the KPPs, together striving to improve child outcomes,” says Steve Johnson, President of Early Learning Labs.
Funded by the Children’s Cabinet and administered by the Kansas State Department of Education, leadership teams of the 12 KPPs were trained last year on using myIGDIs data to identify potential gaps in the program curriculum, need for staff professional development, as well as the instructional needs of the children in the area of early literacy development.