Index ranks Idaho education 15th in the country based on options for students


Tom Schultz, director of the Idaho Department of Lands, told a legislative interim committee that investments from the endowment lands produced a record return in fiscal year 2014.

The Center for Education Reform (CER), a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to assisting states with education concerns geared toward choice in education and accountability, has released what it calls the “Parent Power Index,” ranking states on parents’ ability to choose a quality education for their children.

CER uses several factors in rating each state, including charter schools, online learning, teacher quality, school choice, as well as whether or not the state’s governor is pro-reform, which Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is.

The ratings are from 0-100 percent and Idaho ranks No. 15 with an index rating of 71 percent.

The index, in its summary of Idaho, also mentions that the Gem State ranks in the top five “as judged by the key elements of digital learning and informing parents of their options, which includes charter schools.”

It also makes reference to propositions 1, 2 and 3—the referendums opposing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education reforms—saying that an effort is under way to improve teacher quality should the opposition to the laws fail to repeal them.

Melissa McGrath, communications director for the state Department of Education, says it’s not a surprise to see Idaho ranked where it is in the index. “We are proud of the many ways in which Idaho’s education system now empowers parents and families to make the best educational choices for their children.

“It is not surprising to us that Idaho would rank high in this index. I believe we will rank even higher if the report takes into account other parts of Students Come First, including the fact that now all parents can provide input in teacher and principal job evaluations,” she said.

Rep. Reed DeMourdant, R-Eagle, a member of the House Education Committee, said school choice, one of the factors used in the CER index, is vital in education.

“School choice is so important for our state. It has certainly provided lots of options that our kids never had and I think we need to continue and expand and provide opportunities for our parents out there to go out and create the schools that they need,” he said. “What that means is we need to look at successful models in our state that are proven, we need to be able to replicate those easier, and we don’t have that ability today.”

DeMourdant also says that funding equalization for charter schools would play a large role in expanding school choice and options for parents. “I believe we need to look at bonding equalization, bond levy equalization. I believe our charter schools ought to be able to participate in that as well in the same way that our traditional schools get bond levy equalization.”

While the Eagle lawmaker believes that Idaho’s education reforms are rather small compared to what can be done in the future concerning education reform, he is a proponent of incorporating some data-based models to make even greater strides in the K-12 public education system.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface. There are so many things that we can do for our kids in terms of using data to help drive that individual student’s education,” said DeMourdant. “Today education is so much a group event, meaning that it is a teacher in front of a classroom lecturing and half the kids in the class may or may not be ready for that lecture. Data allows us to individualize that education by student.”

DeMourdant predicts that education reform in Idaho is just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with student performance and achievement. “As I look at innovative things that are being done around the nation to really provide individualized instruction for each student, data is a critical aspect of that and I think there are some great tools we can provide our teachers so they can start to customize the curriculum by student. That’s where I think we’re going to go next with education.”

The CER Parent Power Index ranks Indiana as the top state with a grade of 84 percent. Utah is the only neighboring state to Idaho with a top 10 ranking, coming in eighth at 75 percent.

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The Center for Education Reform has given Idaho a No. 15 ranking in its Parent Power Index., The Center for Education Reform has given Idaho a No. 15 ranking in its Parent Power Index.
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