While campaigns on both sides gear up for a vote on the Students Come First laws, the State Department of Education is asking stakeholders across Idaho to help gauge the new laws effectiveness.
Letters went out this week to parents, teachers, and principals at a sampling of schools, inviting them to fill out an online questionnaire conducted by independent firm Interactive Inc.
Each participant receives a password to ensure only people within the sampling can take the survey.
Twelve Idaho school districts, including Meridian and Melba in the Treasure Valley, are participating in the voluntary survey, which aims to gather feedback from roughly 9,000 parents, 600 teachers and 25 principals, Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said. Participants have until Oct. 19 to take the survey.
Asked if the timing of the questionnaire was geared to help prospective voters decide how they feel about the three referenda that aim to repeal the new education reform laws or to help the state assess voter support for the laws McGrath said no.
The goal of the survey is to help the Idaho State Department of Education evaluate the effectiveness of the reforms and inform implementation efforts going forward, she said. The results will not be available until after the Nov. 6 election.
Luke Franklin, president of the Meridian Education Association, said he finds it hard to believe the survey isnt linked to the upcoming vote on the three laws that changed Idahos approach to teacher contracts, teacher pay and classroom technology.
Their timing certainly is interesting if its not connected with the referenda, Franklin said Thursday.
McGrath said the education department has planned since last year before the effort to repeal the laws was launched to conduct the survey as part of an evaluation process that is common for federal or state-funded programs. The data will be collected and analyzed by Interactive Inc., and the final report will be delivered to the education department in mid-November, she said. The estimated cost is $4,000.
The results, expected to be released to the public, will help the state determine what future changes to the laws might be necessary, she said.
If the laws happen to be repealed, we still think this is valuable data for the department and the state to have, McGrath said.
Idaho voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to keep (vote yes) or repeal (vote no) the 2011 laws Schools Superintendent Tom Luna dubbed Students Come First and opponents call the Luna laws. Proposition 1 would negotiated agreements between school boards and teachers and end the practice of issuing renewable contracts. Proposition 2 establishes teacher merit pay. Proposition 3 calls for laptops for all high school students and two online credits as a future graduation requirement.
Franklin and a spokeswoman for the Idaho Education Association said they hadnt seen the surveys so couldnt comment on their content. Nor had they received any complaints from teachers who received the survey invitation.
RIGHT OR WRONG TRACK
Invitations went out in Meridian Monday. Franklin said someone sent him a link to the survey, but he couldnt view it because he is not part of the sampled group.
The Department of Education provided the Statesman with the teacher, parent, administrator questionnaires, which went out with a cover letter saying participants experience and insights were needed to determine how best to meet the needs of Idaho students.
Teachers and parents are asked if they agree or disagree with statements such as More effective teachers should be paid more than less effective teachers and Granting teachers tenure results in greater student achievement.
Participants also are asked to assess their schools improvement in various areas and whether their schools and Students Come First are on the right track or the wrong track.
Several questions for teachers address professional development opportunities and parents are asked what information about their school is most helpful.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447