Idaho US State Law Legal System Concept
Idaho US state law, legal system and justice concept with a 3D rendering of a gavel on the Idahoan flag on background.
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The Bottom Line Idaho: Model Legislation for the Nation

Student-centered learning is being rolled out in Idaho. During the 2015 session, House Bill 110 passed the Idaho state legislature which mandated the Idaho State Department of Education transfer from the traditional group-based education to what they refer to as “mastery-based education.” 

The Idaho State Department of Education website states, “This model will move students away from the current time-based system to a mastery-based system to allow for a more personalized and differentiated learning experience. Mastery Education (ME) requires focus on explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that will empower students and prepare them for the 21st Century.”

This exciting news suggests that Idaho is ready to revamp the system. The state is implementing this legislation exactly the way it should be done as well, permitting several districts to the state’s pilot program. Originally the legislation enabled 20 schools to smoothly transition into this process. In this current session, Governor Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1059 which has eliminated the cap of 20 schools. According to the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sherri Ybarra, “Students, teachers and administrators in 32 Idaho schools are already seeing success as incubators for our collaborative, personalized approach, and many more schools and districts have expressed interest in joining.”

This concept mirrors Discovery Institute  Senior Fellow Don Nielsen’s  “innovation districts” in his book Every School. He states “I support charter schools, but I also support the notion of allowing innovation to occur in the existing public system, both at the school level and at the district level. To do this will require legislation that allows schools and/or districts to propose innovative alternatives to traditional methods. Such proposals, if approved, should grant waivers to the school or district so that current laws, codes and union contract terms can be waived.”

This is exactly what Idaho has done, they should pat themselves on the back as this will be beneficial for not only Idaho but sets and example for the entire nation. However, changing the system does not stop here. The next issue is leadership development. As it stands, the public education system rarely produces courageous leaders, tends to create mediocrity. Leaders in schools are not trained to lead, but to manage. Leaders rise above the status quo’ managers are trained to keep the performance moving, not necessarily improving. This must change. Nielsen’s suggestion is “to create ‘Institutes for Educational Leadership.’ These institutes would have extraordinarily high admission standards and would be populated with instructors from business, education, and public policy schools as well as leaders from business, the military, and current school systems.”

Idaho is now in a unique position to be the leaders in transforming the educational system. The American Center for Transforming Education is both excited and encouraged by this development and will be watching closely to how this plays out.

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.
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