Idaho Education News

Lawmakers received $5 million worth of good news Tuesday morning. The state’s bill for school broadband could come in well below budget.

One reason for the savings: School districts have been able to tap into federally administered dollars that had been cut off during the Idaho Education Network broadband contract dispute.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A local astronomer has made his crowdfunding goal and Boise will soon have an observatory again.

Kyle Green / Idaho Statesman

Treasure Valley school districts faced with a shortage of special education teachers are turning to alternative routes of certification as they struggle to fill positions.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the shortage has hit West Ada School District, the state's largest district, and Boise School District, one of Idaho's highest-paying districts. Council, a logging town near Boise with only 240 students, has also struggled to find special education teachers.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

On top of the tallest academic building on the Boise State campus sits a large metal dome. It is an observatory that has been at the school for more than 35 years. At one point, the dome was a hive of activity, giving students and the public a chance to peer deep into our solar system. Now it sits mostly empty and unused, after years of neglect.

Idaho Education News

A scramble to add teachers and staffers in Vallivue, Twin Falls and beyond.

A portable classroom building at Madison Junior High School.

Emergency property tax collections. And perhaps, in Boise, an earlier-than-expected discussion about another building bond issue.

Across many of Idaho’s largest districts, preliminary enrollment numbers are heading upward, and that has short- and long-term implications. In the short term, class sizes will increase. In the long term, taxpayers may be asked to add new facilities.

A Boise teacher in her 70's is helping kids learn outside of the classroom in an usual way: with a tablecloth.

Micky Afnan began her career as an educator in 1958. She taught high school, then elementary students.

While teaching the younger children, she recalled a colorful tablecloth her mother made when Afnan was a child. It included a map of the U.S. with the state capitals. Afnan says the cloth helped her memorize all of the capitals in a few months.

Idaho Education News

Idaho’s SAT math scores dropped in April — and it’s potentially a warning sign, according to a top state education official.

The drop in 11th graders’ SAT scores compounds another round of troubling news. This spring, only 30 percent of 10th graders received proficient math scores on Idaho’s new statewide exam, the so-called SBAC test that is aligned to the Common Core standards.

Idaho Education News

Idaho SAT scores dropped slightly in April — and the decrease was most pronounced in math.

Idaho Education News

Linda Clark has spent 37 years working in Meridian-area schools. She has seen the suburban school district mushroom from 9,700 students to an enrollment of nearly 37,000 — with all the pressures and construction demands that come with growth.

But for Clark, the past few weeks have been particularly tumultuous.

Chris Butler / Idaho Statesman

Boise’s Concordia Law School graduates its first group of students Saturday. The school, which is three years old, just received provisional accreditation in June.

Graduate Blake Echols transferred to Concordia for his second year of law school. He says the fact that the institution wasn’t accredited when he started didn’t bother him.

“I got opportunities here that I probably wouldn’t have had elsewhere," says Echols, "it being a new school, it being a much smaller school.”

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

A new study says the switch to a four-day school week isn’t saving Idaho school districts the kind of money they had expected. The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho even found that some districts say their costs went up after the change.

More questions than answers hang around Idaho lawmakers grappling over the now defunct statewide school broadband access program.

A legislative interim committee met Tuesday to begin determining whether the Idaho Legislature should attempt a new statewide broadband program.

Idaho's broadband program dissolved earlier this year after a district judge ruled the $60 million contract that created the system was illegal. This left individual school districts scrambling to secure their own broadband access contracts for the upcoming school year.

Kari Greer / Boise National Forest

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says closing public access to some state forest lands amid wildfire concerns by private timberland owners is an option that has to be considered due to extreme fire danger this year.

Consultant Jim Riley on Tuesday told Otter and other members of the Idaho Land Board that a million acres of private land has been closed this year to the public due to potential wildfire.

Riley says the private owners are concerned about human-caused fires starting on state land and spreading to neighboring timber stands.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

A former College of Southern Idaho vice president, who claims she was discriminated against based on her gender and national origin, is suing the college.

The Times-News reports that Edit Szanto filed the suit in U.S. District Court last week against the school's board of trustees, President Jeff Fox and former interim president Curtis Eaton.

Szanto worked at the college for 17 years and was put on involuntary paid leave in January 2014. Szanto claims she was the victim of discrimination because she is a woman and an immigrant.

Derek Bruff / Flickr

A study by a rural education group has found that the four-day school week some Idaho schools have adopted has not been saving money as they were intended.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, an initiative of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, found that some districts saw their costs rise after the switch to a shorter week. There was little data on the educational impact of the schedule.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A visiting Boise State professor has spent this week trying to get Idaho children to connect with refugee children.

The “Quilting to Speak” workshop is the brainchild of Reshmi Mukherjee. She’s a visiting professor at Boise State, and is teaching a course this summer about communication between refugees and non-refugees.

When local wildfire agencies are concerned that fire danger in their area is getting extreme, they can ask for a visit from a national team of experts. One of those teams has been in Boise this week. National Wildfire Prevention and Education Teams conduct short, intense messaging campaigns. The National Interagency Fire Center describes the program this way.

biologycorner / Flickr

Idaho students scored higher taking new standardized tests compared to the national benchmarks used to measure English language arts and math proficiency.

The Idaho State Department of Education released the preliminary scores on Wednesday.

Scores were supposed to be released June 5, but a delay with the vendor pushed the release date several weeks.

This is the first year the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium examination's scores have been released. Last year, the state rolled out a practice version to work out the kinks of the new system.

UnShuttered Soul~ Good to be busy! / Flickr

Starting July 1, Idahoans will see new laws that range from how much they pay at the gas station to giving teachers a pay bump.

Next week marks the start of a new fiscal year in Idaho. This means a $95 million transportation plan designed to help repair Idaho's crumbling bridges and roads will go into effect. For Idaho residents, vehicle registration fees are going up $21 and gas will cost 7 cents more because of higher taxes.

Idaho Education News

When it comes to paying and keeping teachers, there are wide gaps between Idaho’s haves and have-nots.

Idaho’s new five-year plan to boost teacher pay will not solve this problem. In fact, it could even get worse.

The $125 million career ladder law is designed to narrow the teacher pay gap between Idaho and neighboring states. Within Idaho, teacher salaries are set locally, and results vary widely from district to district. (To see how your local district stacks up, use the searchable table at the bottom of this story.)