Nine Treasure Valley school districts are among 30 districts and two charter schools across Idaho that will be the first to receive laptops for students and teachers in the next two years, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced Tuesday. The 1:1 initiative providing laptops to every high school student in the state over the next few years -- is part of the Students Come First laws enacted last year aiming to revamp Idahos education system to better prepare students for graduation, college and the workforce. The laws have drawn outspoken opposition from teachers unions and others, and voters statewide will be asked to decide in November whether Students Come First should be repealed.
Treasure Valley districts selected for the first round in the laptop initiative include Boise, Kuna and Meridian in Ada County; Melba, Middleton, Notus and Vallivue in Canyon County; Emmett in Gem County; and Homedale in Owyhee County.
This is an exciting day for schools all across Idaho, Luna said in a news release. Reaching a one-to-one ratio of students and teachers to laptop devices in every public high school is just one part of the Students Come First laws. Idaho schools now join thousands of schools across the United States in creating 21st century classrooms where learning opportunities are limitless and will provide equal access to the best educational opportunities for every student no matter where they live.
In Meridian, Superintendent Linda Clark said the 1:1 laptop initiative will enable us to more aggressively move toward the creation of 21st Century classrooms by putting powerful learning tools into the hands of our teachers and students. Further, these tools will expand student access to the courses offered through the district's Virtual Schoolhouse. This opportunity will allow us, as a small, rural school district, to open up a new world of learning and equal access to the best educational opportunities that other schools in our region have had for years, Melba School District Superintendent Andy Grover said. This will allow our students equal access and help put us all on the same educational track with the ability to take classes from other schools, universities, and even other states.
Laptops will be distributed this fall to teachers and administrators in the selected schools; they will spend the year learning how to integrate the devices into their curriculum. Laptops will be distributed to students at those schools in the 2013-14 school year. The state has not determined which specific device will be used, but the general description is one that students can take from class to class and use for word processing, research and digital textbooks. The state is currently accepting bids for a statewide managed service contract and expects to make a decision this summer on which vendor will provide the devices, software and technical support.
The statewide selections for Round 1 represent a third of all high school students in the state. The remaining two-thirds of Idahos high schools are scheduled to receive laptops within the next three years. Districts that have more than one high school, such as Boise and Meridian, will decide which of those schools will be part of Round 1.
Because more than 170 high schools representing about 84 percent of Idahos high school students wanted to participate in the first round of deployment, the state developed a competitive application process to determine the schools and districts that were most ready to benefit, State Department of Education officials said. A committee of Idaho educators and State Department of Education staff reviewed the applications throughout May in a blind process, without knowing which schools or districts they were rating.
Other elements of the Students Come First laws include $40 million in new funding for teacher pay-for-performance, $4 million per year in ongoing funding for professional development, and paying for high school students to take up to 36 college credits before graduation.