The Boise School Board evaluates every program, policy and initiative with the question, "What difference does this make for students?" This is the lens that we use in the Boise district. It was not used to develop the Students Come First laws.
Those three laws, which voters will keep or reject on Tuesday, are in reality a series of disjointed, disconnected patched-together ideas, rather than a comprehensive, cohesive plan that supports systemic reform, improved student achievement, and college and career readiness.
The laws do not reform the way students are taught. They politicize public education by taking authority and discretion from locally elected school boards and concentrating it in the office of the state superintendent.
Proposition 1 shifts power. Part of that shift is to put teachers' future working conditions and job security in the hands of a few board members. Should Proposition 1 be affirmed, our community will need to be extremely vigilant in choosing board members who do not have a political or personal agenda. If a future board devalues our teachers, it will be very difficult to recruit or retain the high quality of teachers we currently have. The students, and ultimately the community, would be the real losers in that situation.
The other part of the shift is to increase the number of state mandates that boards must follow. Power is shifted from the local community to the state Legislature.
We believe strongly in local control, and that how a school board negotiates with its teachers is best left to local discretion.
There is no evidence that pay for performance plans contribute to improved student performance or preparedness for college and career.
New York's $75 million experiment did not increase student achievement at all. If anything it declined, according to Harvard economist Roland Fryer.
The most rigorous study ever conducted included nearly 300 middle school mathematics teachers in Nashville, Tenn. The three-year Vanderbilt University study showed no overall impact on student achievement.
None of the highest-performing nations link student test performance to teacher pay.
During the deepest recession since the Great Depression, these laws launch a new state entitlement program which provides a new laptop to every high school teacher and student in the state whether they need one or not. No data was gathered to determine the technology needs in each district. No plan was provided to demonstrate how this large expenditure of money would translate into increased student achievement or better prepare students for college and career.
We are not advocating the status quo. Prior to the new legislation, we developed and implemented a successful comprehensive plan, parts of which are now being adopted in other districts.
Weve been engaged in the reform process for more than a decade. Most recently, in 2008, the Boise district undertook a community stakeholder assessment which led to the creation of Plan 2015, our strategic plan. The planning process led to the district vision: We graduate each student prepared for college, career, and citizenship.
This comprehensive plan details systemic, research-based strategies that provide support for all students to achieve college and career readiness. Increasing enrollment in Advanced Placement and Dual Credit coursework is a central tenet of Plan 2015.
Although we have been nationally recognized for our student academic achievement, we are always committed to doing better. We believe in continuous improvement, advancing technology, and improving teacher compensation. By repealing these laws, we have the opportunity to engage in open and transparent conversation to develop true reform for students in Idaho.
AJ Balukoff is president of the Boise School Board trustees, which unanimously endorsed a no vote on Propositions 1, 2, and 3.