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)

Lawmakers OK state science, math, tech, engineering office

The Idaho Statesman – The Associated Press

“Idaho lawmakers have approved a new state office intended to coordinate efforts by schools and industry to promote science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM Action Center is getting two full-time staffers and nearly $540,000 to launch, according to a plan approved by the state’s powerful budget-writing committee on Thursday. Coeur d’Alene Sen. Bob Nonini, one of the sponsors of the original legislation, told The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Washington, (http://bit.ly/1NGwrtj ) that he was extremely pleased now that the legislation has won the support of both houses and had funding allocated by the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee. The STEM Action Center will operate as a state office under Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, with the goal of identifying and coordinating best practices for STEM education in state schools. “Now we need to go out and find ourselves a great executive director,” Nonini said. “It’s going to take a unique person — someone with some salesmanship and some STEM knowledge.” The center will also coordinate professional development efforts for teachers, work with industry officials on workforce needs and opportunities and coordinate STEM-related competitions, camps and more. A nine-member board of education and business leaders will oversee the work of the agency.”(more)

The Complications of Educational Returns in Rural America

Education Next – Andy Smarick

“The latest paper from ROCI, our rural ed-reform task force, is a totally fascinating study of the economic “return on schooling,” how much do individuals in a given location benefit financially from higher educational attainment. Although it focuses on Idaho, its lessons are applicable everywhere. In “Economic Returns to Education in Idaho,” Paul A. Lewin and Willem J. Braak begin by calculating that, in the US, an additional year of education currently provides an average return of about 7.7 percent for full-time workers. Good news for sure, but things get more and more interesting the deeper you dig. Between 1929 and 1977, Idaho’s per capita income was near the national average. The recessions of the early 1980s and late 2000s briefly decreased the state’s income level, and the recoveries never returned the state to its original growth path. By 2014, Idaho’s per-capita income was one of the nation’s lowest. Is education the cause? Idaho ranks 46th in the nation in the percentage of high school students going on to college, and its graduation rate from four-year institutions of higher education is among the lowest in the nation.”(more)