Dave Lent

Lent

BOISE — HB 222, sponsored by Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday. While the bill has moved through the Legislature with little fanfare, it promises to be one of the most comprehensive education reform bills to come out of the session. Lent believes it will increase the pace of student improvement in Idaho.

Unlike many education bills this session, it was widely endorsed by education groups. It has received support from the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators and the Idaho Education Association.

It will both eliminate pieces of and add to current code. It will get rid of some current reporting requirements that sponsors call “unnecessary bureaucracy.” These eliminations include literacy intervention plans, and college and career advising plans. Lent felt that little good was coming out of these requirements.

“All of you are probably familiar with our record. It’s not that we don’t have good people who are working to improve education in Idaho. But we really haven’t made much of a change in moving that ball,” Lent said.

Instead, it will add new school requirements that drive “effectiveness in the aspects of schools that Idaho’s citizens are primarily interested in, and that is: Are more kids learning to read? Are they getting better at math? Are more industry certificates being earned in CTE (career and technical education) programs? And so on.”

Instead of requirements, the school districts will create their own goals that focus on continuously improving over time rather than consistently hitting set benchmarks. They will create literacy goals, career goals and individual staff goals.

“The goals and objectives will come from the classroom back up to the state. It’s an interesting approach and we think it’ll make a difference. … (There are) just a few, maybe five or less, key performance indicators on a state level, and the rest then are generated from the bottom up, from the classroom up,” Lent said.

Importantly, a new group will be created within the office of the State Board of Education. It will be a “state commission for education excellence, the purpose of which will be to study and discuss continuous improvement plans.”

The commission will consist of one representative of the State Board of Education, one representative of the State Department of Education, one representative of the Office of the Governor, one representative of business and industry, two members of the majority caucus and one member of the minority caucus in the Senate, two members of the majority caucus and one member of the minority caucus in the House, one parent of a public school student, one person who has been recognized as the Idaho teacher of the year, one representative of the Idaho School Boards Association, and one representative of the Idaho Association of School Administrators.

“It’s all the key players. ... Historically, every five years our governor will say, ‘Let’s set up a task force.’ And you get 40 people together and you get great ideas, but it’s a snapshot in time. What seems to work better is if you have a smaller group that really keeps their finger on it, keeps working it,” Lent said.