'Students Come First' to put laptops in classrooms this year

'Students Come First' to put laptops in classrooms this year

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on September 4, 2012 at 10:42 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 7:00 AM

BOISE -- The state's controversial education reform known as "Students Come First," will be up for a recall vote in the November 2012 General Election. However, as students start the 2012 school year, some of the law's changes are already in effect.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna explains what has -- and what has yet to change.

2011-2012: College credits, collective bargaining, tenure

According to Luna, the new laws have already given students an increased ability to earn college credits while in high school. "This is the second year where students in high school have the opportunity to earn up to a year's worth of college credits," said Luna.

Luna says the laws have also restricted collective bargaining for teacher salary and benefits. "The collective bargaining agreement only lasts for one year and then you start over," he explained.

The state has already phased-out tenure for new teachers as well. "If teachers have tenure today, they keep it, Luna said. "They've earned it -- they keep it for life -- but all the new teachers coming in behind them work under a one-to-two-year contract."

2012-2013: Pay for performance, laptops in classrooms, online classes

Luna said 2012-2013 marks the first school year that Idaho teachers will get a bonus under the state's "pay for performance" plan.

That means teachers whose students show academic growth will get a bonus. Luna said he expects 85% of Idaho's teachers are to earn these bonuses, averaging $2,000 each.

Luna says this fall also marks the first school year where teachers and administrators will work with laptops in the classroom. Luna had previously stated the laptops would be in place in the fall of 2012.

He told KTVB on Tuesday they will still make it in the classroom this fall. "That was always our goal is this fall, and it's going to be a little bit later in the fall than I had anticipated," he said.

Idaho's department of purchasing is working to choose which company will supply the laptops. Luna said once they figure that out, things will move forward according to schedule.

This year, ninth graders, will see another change: online classes required for high school graduation. "The class that's going to graduate in 2016 is going to have to earn just two of their 46 credits through some form of distance learning," said Luna.

2012 General Election, 2013 and beyond

Luna also says he plans to provide laptops to every high schooler in the state in the following three years. High school students are slated to receive laptops in the classroom starting in the 2013.

With the November election a few months away, Luna also says he is confident in "Students Come First," adding that the state will continue to make changes to the laws.

"'Students Come First' was not perfect when it was passed in 2011," Luna said. "We made changes to it last year and we'll continue to make changes to it going forward."

Three referendums on "Students Come First" will be on the November ballot. They each address collective bargaining, pay for performance, and technology in the classroom. Efforts to recall Luna, himself, have been unsuccessful thus far.

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