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Policy, Pilots and the Path to Competency-Based Education: A Tale of Three States

Education Next – Karla Phillips and Carri Schneider

“Our nation’s traditional, time-based education system advances students based primarily on their age, regardless of their depth of understanding. By not ensuring mastery, the current system pushes students forward who are not yet ready, leaving them with gaps in critical knowledge or fundamental skills that must be remedied later. At the same time, the traditional system often prevents students from engaging more deeply in their interests, excelling when they are ready, or pursuing additional academic challenges. Over time, this outdated education system repeatedly fails far too many students. A different approach gaining interest is competency-based education (CBE), a system where students advance to higher levels of learning when they demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills regardless of time, place, or pace. (Note: The terms competency, proficiency and mastery are often used interchangeably.).”(more)

Boise students trade dodge ball for camping in P.E. class

The Idaho Statesman- Bill Roberts

“Lauren Lanfear and Kate Goulet knelt in the middle of a dirt road trying to coax fire from some dry weeds, and cattail duff without the help of matches. The 13-year-olds from North Junior High scraped magnesium shavings onto a cotton ball daubed with Vaseline, then created sparks. In moments, their small pile of tinder was ablaze. “Be careful, you don’t want to kill it,” Lanfear told her eighth-grade classmate. “I’m going to grab some more cattails.” “We need a lot more,” Goulet told her. The two were among 40 students from North Junior High and Timberline High School who spent two school days in the forest outside Garden Valley recently putting to work skills they’ve been studying at school, from fire-starting to knot-tying to harness-rigging as part of a physical education class. That’s right: P.E. without laps, jumping jacks or volleyball.”(more)

Syringa Mountain School begins teaching Mandarin

Idaho Mountain Express – Andy Kerstetter

“Some children in the Wood River Valley are getting a head start on becoming fluent in Chinese, thanks to Syringa Mountain School’s new Mandarin language program. The charter school in Hailey began offering Mandarin language study this fall in addition to its existing Spanish requirement…Mende Coblentz, the school’s education director, said that teaching both Eastern and Western languages, particularly character-based languages like Mandarin, offers more challenges and opportunities for cross-cultural learning. Also, Mandarin is a practical language to learn, since China is expected to become a major influence in international trade and education…Mandarin Chinese is now one of the first choices for filling foreign language requirements at schools across the country, particularly in light of President Barack Obama’s Sept. 25 press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping, when he launched the “1 Million Strong” initiative…”(more)

All-Day Kindergarten Program In Works

Idaho Ed News – Kevin Richert

“The State Board of Education is pushing a $9.8 million all-day kindergarten plan…Eligibility would hinge on fall scores on the Idaho Reading Indicator. Students who do not demonstrate basic reading skills would qualify for state-funded, all-day kindergarten. Parents would decide whether to enroll their children in the full-day program…The all-day kindergarten plan is just the first step in a five-year, $21.5 million strategy to address literacy. And this, in turn, aligns with one of the 20 recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force. In 2013, the group of education leaders, business representatives and elected officials recommended students demonstrate literacy mastery “before moving on to significant content learning.””(more)

Getting a jump on kindergarten: Preparation programs find a home in Boise schools

The Idaho Statesman – Bill Roberts

“The Boise School District is in its second summer of offering Kindergarten Readiness on its own, after the United Way of Treasure Valley funded a similar class for three years. The district is using $36,000 in taxpayer funds to teach 119 children at four elementary schools, said Ann Farris, district regional director for the Boise High School area . The children are spending nearly four hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks ending Friday. State law prohibits schools from spending state money on early childhood education. The Boise district gets its money through a local property tax that dates back to before Idaho was a state. Most Idaho school districts lack that taxing authority. Some students are identified by teachers at kindergarten registration each spring as candidates who would benefit from a quick dose of prekindergarten prep. In other cases, parents seek to enroll their children, said Jessica Cromie, summer school principal at Horizon. Parents are not charged.”(more)

STEM supporters step up effort to improve math, science education

The Idaho Statesman – Bill Roberts

“Graduates from Idaho universities are earning more degrees in science, technology, engineering and math than their predecessors, but not enough to meet demands of Idaho employers in a growing technological workplace. Employers say the state and schools must do more, and in earlier grades, to fatten the pipeline of students choosing STEM careers. They are praising legislation passed this year creating a STEM Action Center in Gov. Butch Otter’s office to focus attention on the importance of more math and science education. They are working on legislation for 2016 that would make computer science a part of Idaho’s public school curriculum.”(more)