Summary: Current themes in Idaho are Complete College Idaho, dual enrollment, the Common Core, workforce development training with emphasis on health care and high tech, four-year institution program prioritization, and limited restoration of funds as the state emerges from the recession.
Specifics: Idaho, like several western states, has embraced Complete College Idaho, part of Complete College America. I am a co-leader of an Idaho State Board of Education award focused on faculty development as the various campuses explore the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) and how to adapt some form of it to their own situations–part of Complete College Idaho. From that document: “The State Board has set an ambitious goal that 60% of Idahoans ages 25-34 will have a degree or certificate by 2020.” http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/cci.asp. Although Idaho has a high rate of high school graduation, we have a low college continuation rate. Many young people cannot afford college and their parents cannot or will not help them. Thus a number enter college older than age 18, maybe as parents with children, and everyone is working, often long hours. Idaho has the highest percentage of minimum wage workers in the country.
In his 2014 “State of the State and Budget Address,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter identified support for education as his top priority and called for “a multi-year effort to restore funding to public schools” withheld during the economic downturn. This primarily affects K-12, which has experienced problems in recent years. In a 2012 referendum, voters overturned three education laws that would have cut teacher autonomy and required all students to take some online classes prior to high school graduation. There have been recent debates in the state legislature on the Idaho Core Standards.
The governor favors increased concurrent enrollment, increased use of technology, and a concentration on STEM fields. His new watchword is “K-through-Career,” not K-12, with a focus on workforce development training. The governor praised our relatively new community college in the Boise area, the College of Western Idaho (CWI), and its phenomenal growth, and he wants to invest in “high-demand programs” at each of the four-year institutions and add instructors in “targeted areas” where there are not enough upper-division courses so students can progress quickly to a degree.
The four-year institutions are engaged in an intensive “program prioritization” process this year, mandated by the State Board of Education. All aspects of each college—academic, administrative, and support units—are under review; metrics have been developed to assess each program, and the process is very detailed.
In his annual budget request, Boise State University President Bob Kustra emphasized “an educated workforce” and referenced the Department of Labor’s “Hot Jobs” list, which includes health sciences, technology, and engineering. The focus is STEM disciplines and high tech as well as digital technology support for teaching and research; Kustra noted that the arts and humanities are important at the point where art and technology intersect.