At long last, Idaho is in for some yearly federal funding now that its application for $87 million has been approved as part of its ESSA plan.
While the Every Student Succeeds Act provides states an opportunity to highlight early learning among their educational strategies, “few early-learning related provisions of ESSA are mandated.” Thus, Idaho’s range of services fall under the needs of migrant students (Title I Part C) including those preschool migrant children (Title III English Language Acquisition and Enhancement Program). Idaho’s neighboring states of Oregon and Washington seem to have better emphasized this need for all children by actively including early learning in their ESSA plans. However, Idaho does offer a teaching endorsement for birth to third grade and utilizes a K-3 “literacy diagnostics to guide student interventions.”
With an understanding of the limits in Idaho’s plan, last November State Superintendent Sherry Ybarra encouraged the State Board of Education to approve a grant for a web-based program designed to ready pre-K students in reading and kindergarten. This online literacy program called “Smarty Ants” was approved by the SBOE April 5 with a five-year agreement. Free to families in the state, parents will be able to monitor progress through an online dashboard.
Where Idaho really shines in the approved ESSA plan is in its accountability piece. This system provides better indicators to evaluate school performance with a more comprehensive report. They include the percentage of K-8 students on track towards proficiency within three years; a student engagement survey; and a college/career-readiness indicator recognizing student participation in achieving college credits, industry certifications, and apprenticeship programs. Because of its complete dashboard of performance information in line with the move to a mastery-based education system, Idahoans will witness a significant change from the years-previous 5-star ratings based on high-stakes tests. Five percent of the lowest-performing schools will be directly provided with resources and turnaround plans.
Among other goals for the next five years, Idaho’s ESSA plan includes raising the graduation rate to 95 percent; decreasing by one-third numbers of students who are not proficient in ELA or math; and decreasing the number by one-third of those students not making progress in English language proficiency. “I’m excited to move from planning this new approach to implementing it,” said State Superintendent Ybarra.