After The $61 Million Schoolnet Fiasco, Idaho Districts Scramble To Find New Systems

May 1, 2015

Discovery Elementary School in the West Ada School District. West Ada will continue to use an instructional management system from Schoolnet contractor Pearson Education, at least through 2015-16.
Credit Idaho Education News

Idaho’s ill-fated $61.5 million Schoolnet experiment is all but over.

Now, school districts can choose a substitute: an instructional management system designed to help teachers tailor their lesson plans around students’ strengths and weaknesses.

It’s a big decision for district officials — albeit one subsidized by state dollars. And for education vendors, it’s a market opportunity.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake for students, districts, vendors and taxpayers.

Instructional Management System, Explained

Let’s start with the basics. What is an IMS, and why is it important?

When an IMS project works properly, teachers are able to use real-time student data to tailor instruction. For example, teachers can administer a pretest before starting a new unit; through an IMS, teachers can make adjustments before launching into the new unit. An IMS guides teachers toward finding learning materials that best fit a student’s needs.

“It’s an incredibly powerful tool because it helps inform your instruction,” said Will Goodman, the State Department of Education’s chief technology officer.

And a strong IMS may be more important than ever, as Idaho moves towards a fundamental shift in the way students move through the school system. Eventually, Idaho wants to abandon its traditional approach — where students move from grade to grade based on seat time — to a mastery-based model that links advancement to command of curriculum. Idaho will begin a mastery pilot later this year.

It would be very hard to make a mastery-based system work without an IMS, Goodman said. Click here to continue reading this story from Idaho Education News.