COMMON CORE, GUNS ADDRESSED IN EDUCATION MEETING

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Julie Wootton reports: Budgets, legislative ideas and proposed changes to a rule about gun-free schools were among items addressed yesterday by the Idaho Board of Education.

The board oversees public K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and its meeting here drew dozens of college and university administrators from around the state.

After a work session Wednesday, the board met yesterday at the College of Southern Idaho’s Herrett Center for Arts and Sciences to tackle an agenda with more than 50 items.

Highlights included:

Common Core State Standards

State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna updated the board on preparing teachers for the transition to Common Core State Standards.

The standards will be taught for the first time in Idaho during the upcoming school year.

While the standards have broad support, he said, “there’s the obvious concerns about making sure resources are available.”

The state will spend $21.9 million during the next fiscal year on professional development of teachers.

“The vast majority of that distribution will go directly to (school) districts,” Luna said.

Getting ahead with Credits in Middle School

The board unanimously approved a rule change that clarifies language about graduation requirements.

The Department of Education has programs so students can accelerate their coursework. Language changes make it clear that middle schoolers can take high school courses for full credit.

Gun-free Schools

School security long has been an issue, but it gained momentum after the December shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

Idaho Code gives local school boards the option of allowing select employees to carry a gun on campus. The rule language now is being changed, however, to clarify that students cannot be authorized to bring firearms to school.

Board member Milford Terrell said some school districts — not necessarily in Idaho — have armed employees, which “is perfectly legitimate in the type of world we live in today.”

Terrell said he understands barring students from carrying weapons, but said teachers could save lives by being able to react.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said the current policy has been in place for years and won’t be changed except to clarify the ban on students’ firearms at school.

Idaho Public Charter School Commission

Under one agenda item, the board considered 10 legislative ideas for the 2014 session.

Seven were approved and three were dropped. Those were proposals to make the Idaho Public Charter School Commission a self-governing agency, as well as other proposals from the University of Idaho and from Idaho State University.

Currently, The charter school commission now is governed by the state board, and board member Richard Westerberg opposed the motion to make the commission independent and in charge of its own budget and personnel.

Before the vote, Westerberg told the Times-News that the board wants to avoid a perceived conflict of interest, as it hears the appeals from schools authorized by the charter school commission.

College of Southern Idaho Progress Report

CSI officials reported on a number of topics, including the college’s eight-county service area, remediation rates, dairy training and training partnership with the Chobani yogurt giant.

Idaho Opportunity Scholarship

The board unanimously approved changes to the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship, increasing minimum GPA requirements to 3.0 to qualify for the $3,000 annual stipend for full-time students, said Tracie Bent, the board’s chief planning and policy officer.

New Programs

Board members unanimously approved a new graduate certificate for a mathematics consulting teacher endorsement at Boise State University and an aerospace composite technology program for North Idaho College, which received a $2.97 million grant for the program. The board gave conditional approval for an online teaching endorsement program for Idaho State University. After the first group of students completes it, the program may gain full approval.

Teach for America

The board approved Teach for America as a state-approved teacher preparation program in Idaho.

That move will give rural districts a greater ability to find teachers for hard-to-fill positions.

Teach for America will work with rural, high-poverty school districts, said Nicole Brisbane, managing director of new site development for the program.

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