As Idaho lawmakers and educators regroup after repeal of the states education reform package, national experts visited Boise Tuesday to offer suggestions for improving education.
About 130 people, including 50 members of the Idaho Legislature that convened this week, turned out for the Albertson Foundations Ed Sessions luncheon. Americas Education Reform Hangover: Where Does Idaho Go from Here?
They heard from Paul Hill, founder and former director of the University of Washington-based Center on Reinventing Public Education, and Marguerite Roza, a senior scholar at the center and author of Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go?
Hill said approaches being used elsewhere in the nation include increased emphasis on school choice and allocating school money by students rather than by program or category, such as transportation.
Giving districts and schools flexibility to use available funding in the way that works best for them can be key, Hill said, suggesting a performance-management approach that emphasizes experimentation to get the best education for the student any way we can.
Decentralizing control can be effective, enabling districts to close failing schools and charter new ones that better meet families needs, he said. Or, he said, the state could empower its department of education to take over and charter out schools that are failing.
Hill and Roza both stressed the importance of creating a system that provides incentives for innovative approaches that, often, can save money.
School spending is increasingly outpacing school revenue, Roza said, anticipating a 9.1 percent gap by 2017.
Were setting ourselves up for a decade of budget cuts, and thats why we need an overhaul, she said.
Staffing at the nations schools has increased dramatically in the past four decades, only recently beginning to decline after years of recession, Roza said.
In 1970, she said, there were about 58 adults school employees per 1,000 schoolchildren. By 2008, that number had increased to 127 adults per child.
She said the education system has been adding adults as a reform strategy, but that strategy does not appear sustainable any more.
Roza and Hill mentioned creative approaches to serve students without adding adults, including paying the most effective teachers a per-pupil bonus for increasing their class sizes.
Roza cited a California school district that uses three teachers to handle four classrooms by including a technology lab in the mix. A similar approach in Idaho, if applied statewide, could free up $28 million in school funding, she said.
She suggested identifying the most talented teachers and leveraging those talents to best serve students.
She cited an example of a school where one teacher was tremendously effective in teaching kids to read but was ready to retire because she was weary of the other day-to-day efforts in leading a classroom. The principal responded by slightly increasing class sizes throughout the school so that the gifted teacher could be freed to focus only on reading, drawing small groups of students from each classroom.
There are examples of success already in this state for every type of school, Roza said, suggesting that districts and schools seek out information on whats working among their peers. Boise State University recently launched a grant-funded effort, Idaho Leads, to identify and share best practices across the state.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447