Wednesday, June 27, 2012

EduStat 2012 - Day One Case Studies

In addition to prominent to keynote speakers, EduStat also featured experienced educators from around the state of Idaho and the country who shared their perspectives in Case Studies. Attendees chose from among a number of these Case Studies to attend during the second half of the conference each day. Here are two Case Studies from Day One:

Mrs. Fowler-Mack and Dr. Brown share their reform efforts in Cleveland.

“Cleveland’s Plans for Transforming Schools,” Christine Fowler-Mack and Dr. Russ Brown

Dr. Russ Brown and Christine Fowler Mack traveled to Boise to share their work in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Dr. Brown is the Deputy Chief of Organizational Accountability for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He is a published author, formal children’s mental health professional, and former university researcher working to embed the use of data in goal setting, progress monitoring, and decision making at all levels of the academic process.

Mrs. Fowler-Mack has experience as a Superintendent and as Chief of Staff of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She currently works as the Chief of Innovative Schools and Programs in Ohio’s second-largest school district and is at the forefront of some of Ohio’s most ambitious school reform efforts. She has won several distinguished awards for her leadership ability, and her focus has been aggressive systemic and legislative change intended to ensure the academic success of every child in Cleveland.

The presenters started with an assessment of the past as a foil for their vision of the future.

Cleveland had been struggling with a low graduation rate and uninspiring test scores, and feedback from the community made it clear that students were not prepared for the workforce when they graduated. While there were signs of some positive growth, that growth was much too slow.

Additionally, Cleveland’s school buildings were not being used efficiently. Some schools were considerably underpopulated, while others were at or near capacity.

So Cleveland took action, implementing broad, high-level reforms to bring much needed change. The city took a proactive stance. It began actively seeking great teaching talent and instituted performance-based accountability for all schools. Cleveland also eliminated seniority as the sole determinant in any employment or assignment decisions.

The city took a look at its schools and resolved to grow the number of high-performing district and charter schools and close and replace failing schools. As a result, it closed sixteen buildings due to poor performance and lackluster enrollment. It then gave the remaining schools more autonomy. The schools were divided into groups. Higher performing schools now get more autonomy; struggling schools work with the active support of the Central Office. It has also facilitated district-charter partnerships.

The focus of the Central Office has evolved as well, moving from a more compliance-based role to one that focuses on service. The administration now focuses on key support and governance roles and gives schools more authority. The Central Office also spends more time visiting schools and learning and supporting school’s needs. Its employees are dispatched into districts to maintain a connection with what’s happening in the schools.

To ensure transparency, reformers created the Cleveland Transformation Alliance to ensure accountability for all public schools in the city. The Alliance is composed of representatives of parents, community members, business leaders, civic organizations, and the Board of Education, and the goal is to promote clear and ongoing conversations about education in Cleveland. The Alliance serves as a watchdog and helps keep everyone focused.

Cleveland has also started two “new tech” high schools to respond to reports that students were not ready for the workforce. New tech high schools are 1:1 programs. Students work in project groups to address relevant issues that keep them engaged in school and connect them with the community. These schools have already had a very promising impact on student outcomes.

For  Fowler-Mack and Brown, the challenge is to find ways to accelerate the positive changes they are already seeing. The goal is to graduate students prepared to enter college without remediation.  

Mrs. Chavez interacts with Mr. Gural as they discuss a math problem in real-time over the IEN.
“Distance Learning over the Idaho Education Network: Not Your Average Online Class,” Dave Gural and Michelle Chavez

Idaho educators Dave Gural (who retired this year) and Michelle Chavez took time to share with EduStat attendees their methods and experiences teaching real-time synchronous courses over the Idaho Education Network (IEN).

Mrs. Chavez has been a teacher at Weiser High School for 17 years, where she has taught a range of English and Literature classes, including dual-credit classes and IEN classes. She has been teaching over the IEN since its inception. Mrs. Chavez also serves in several leadership roles and has earned several prominent awards, including Teacher of the Year at Weiser High School and the 2012 International Society for Key Women Educators Award. She has a passion for human rights. Mrs. Chavez teaches a Holocaust Literature course, and her permanent Holocaust exhibit is on display at the Snake River Heritage Museum in Weiser, Idaho.

Mr. Gural began teaching in 1969 and has taught continuously for 43 years, with experience at all levels of mathematics at the junior and senior high school levels. He has been the calculus teacher at Eagle High School for the last nine years. His classes include Calculus I and II, both for Concurrent Credit through Boise State. The Eagle High Calculus program is currently the only program approved by BSU for Concurrent Credit in Calculus II. Mr. Gural has twice been honored with Teacher of the Year distinctions, once in Washington and once at Eagle High School. He is one of the pioneers of the IEN in Idaho.

Mr. Gural and Mrs. Chavez demonstrated the power of the IEN and the promise of high quality remote learning that it delivers on. Mrs. Chavez was physically present in the room, while Mr. Gural  joined in synchronously via the IEN. It was great to hear from these experienced teachers, and to see the doors digital learning has already opened in the state of Idaho.

Mr. Gural demonstrated the impressive technology setup in his classroom. A screen in the front of the classroom and a screen in the back allow the students in the classroom to see and hear one another and Mr. Gural. Students can raise their hands to ask questions in real time or interact with students in other classrooms.

With one touch of a button, Mr. Gural can toggle between multiple cameras and camera views, giving students a view of his desk from multiple angles, as well as a view of the blackboard as he works. But those are just some of Mr. Gural’s options. Switching views from his document camera (think digital overhead projector) where he works on scratch paper, to his computer screen that allows him to write digitally, or to any one of the devices he has connected to the feed (graphing calculators, an iPad with an app that lets him graph 3D maps, etc.) is just as easy. It’s surprising, really, just how versatile the system is.

Mr. Gural uses his document camera so students can follow along as he works on scratch paper. In the top right of the screen, Mr. Gural and his class can see themselves and one another.
Mrs. Chavez shared how she interacts with her remote classroom—just the same as she does with her physical classrooms. Mrs. Chavez teaches her Holocaust course over the IEN. A proctor in the remote classroom supervises students and ensures everything is working as it should. Mrs. Chavez shared that she has not had student behavioral issues.

Both teachers were enthusiastic about their IEN experiences, with Mr. Gural, who retired this year after 43 years of teaching, obtaining permission from Eagle High School to proudly demonstrate the classroom where he has honed his digital learning craft.

EduStat 2012 - Aaron Sams and the Flipped Classroom

Aaron Sams shares with the conference from San Diego, interacting with the crowd live via the IEN.
Our second keynote speaker of Day 1 of Edustat, Aaron Sams, gave an energetic presentation on his extensive experience with the flipped classroom concept. He joined and addressed the conference from San Diego, speaking to the crowd via synchronous video over the IEN.

Aaron has been an educator since 2000 and currently teaches Chemistry and AP Chemistry in a Colorado high school. Learn more about Aaron. He was eager to share his approach and connect with other educators. Write him an email (, follow him on Twitter (@chemicalsams), or  take a look at his blog (

Sams is a high school teacher, but sees the value of the flipped classroom model at many grade levels.

The biggest question of the flipped classroom model is: What is the most valuable use of classroom time? The answer, says Sams, is not what it used to be. Students used to go to school because that is where they had the most access to knowledge. Most of that information came from their teacher. Today, students have access to information around the clock, and resources abound. Simple lectures and worksheets do not capture a physical teacher’s value. Students can now access lecture information at home, then process that information and learn how to apply and use it in the classroom.

In this way, content delivery happens during down time, and a teacher adds value through face-to-face interaction with students. The flipped classroom often overlaps the blended learning model.

By archiving lessons and having students watch them at home, Sams is able to allow students to work at their own paces. But that instruction does not just have to happen at home, and it does not have to be delivered solely via video. Students can work through content at their own pace in the classroom as well, receiving special attention from the instructor when they have questions.

An instructional management makes it possible for students to work at different paces. The system allows Sams to generate random tests that prevent students from cheating or copying answers from their peers.

The flipped classroom is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it often looks different for different educators in different subjects and grade levels. Sams offered examples from economics to p.e. to demonstrate the flexibility of the flipped classroom model.

Sams also took the opportunity to address several misconceptions.

Misconception #1 is that the flipped classroom relies on video. In a lot of ways, the flipped classroom is not all that different from we have always expected from students in some subjects—for instance, reading at home in a literature class, then discussion with a teacher in the classroom. The flipped classroom works exceptionally well with a video format, but it is not limited by it.

Misconception #2 is that flipped learning creates a digital divide. Sams hasn’t found this to be true. For students how lack the internet, he has the lessons available on flash drives. For those without computers, he burns DVDs. Other students simply do the work in class.

Misconception #3 is that flipped learning propagates bad teaching (lectures). Sams and some of the examples he cites address this in several ways. They didn’t always choose lectures. Sometimes they drew from current events. They used other resources. They created engaging videos and played characters. In one example, two characters explain the lesson. One is the expert and one is clueless. The format allows for engaging banter and a question and answer format between the two characters.

For an easy association, Sams offered a relatable example from his own experience. His snowblower broke down. So he searched the internet, found a step-by-step repair video on YouTube, and fixed his snowblower. Kids do the same all the time. Why not apply that model to education? Watch the video, then practice in a classroom with the guidance and supervision of an expert—the teacher.

And that’s the value of the flipped classroom. It’s a new tool that maximizes the value of the teacher. As Sal Khan suggested during his visit to Boise, the flipped classroom only makes the teacher more important.  It’s not magic. It can’t replace teachers. But it can maximize the benefit of a teacher in the classroom.

The model even allows for what Adora Svitak advocated earlier in the day. Sams offers the example of, where students create math content videos to instruct their peers. Students love to teacher and share. It helps them learn better, and it motivates them because they know they have an audience.

As a concept, the flipped classroom harnesses new tools of technology to empower students and teachers in the classroom. 

Mr. Sams offered the following resources for those interested in learning more about the flipped classroom:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Great Start to EduStat 2012!

Today’s EduStat University 2012 conference kicked off this morning at 7:30 a.m., when educators began to fill the large conference room of The Riverside Hotel in Garden City. Several hundred teachers from around the state of Idaho came together this morning to be a part of Idaho’s first educator conference focused on increasing student achievement through a 21st Century, technology-rich, data-driven practice.

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna opened the conference, thanking educators for playing a role in the education renaissance that is happening around the nation—a renaissance Idaho, with its forward-thinking Students Come First laws, is helping to lead. Yet, even as Idaho takes a leading role in education reform and technology integration, our state has been lucky to have a number of successful examples from around the country on which to base our approach. Representatives from those successful programs, including Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director for the state of Maine—which has been implementing a 1:1 program at the state level for the last decade—have come to EduStat University 2012 to share their insights with Idaho educators.

Idaho’s Students Come First reforms were passed to support the needs of students—modernizing the classroom to engage and provide Idaho’s students with the skills they need to find success in postsecondary education and the workplace without the need for remediation. It was fitting then, that, to set the tone for EduStat, today’s first keynote presenter was a student.

All eyes on Adora Svitak as she addresses the EduStat Conference.
 Adora Svitak: "The New Kid(s) on the Block: Youth Digital Culture and Implications for Student Voice in Education

Adora Svitak is a gifted young student who decided at age seven that she wanted to write a book. With the enthusiastic support of her parents, she was first published at the age of 12. She has been a champion of literacy and delivered the speech, “What Adults Can Learn from Kids” at the prestigious TED Conference. Read more about Adora here:

At EduStat this morning, Adora shared her insights about digital youth culture and her excitement about some of the changes that have already begun here in Idaho. “I think this is a really awesome time to be both a student and a teacher,” shared Svitak. “This is a world that excites me immensely.”

Adora Svitak explained that change in our schools requires not only creative forward thinking but also an understanding of youth digital culture. By understanding how students today express and interact with each other, teachers can harness student enthusiasm. We see viral memes and creative advertising—everyone is trying to reach kids—so why isn’t education doing the same.

Adora suggests that students today (as they probably always have) love an audience. An audience gives students a purpose for their creation. Whether it is creating an engaging video or presentation or simply writing a report, sharing that work gives students a sense of pride and purpose. Using tools like social media, Adora has connected with her classmates in groups created to support classes she is taking.

Svitak also encouraged project-based learning. Digital tools make it easy for students to creatively engage in projects. It also gives them a platform to share with and teach their peers. Svitak herself has posted videos to YouTube. Students are unlocking these tools outside of the classroom, why create “blue tape zones” that prevent students from the same benefits in the classroom, asks Svitak.

Svitak wants to see technology in the classroom, pointing out that laptops allow student both a venue for content delivery and a means for content creation. And she encourages educators to let students experiment, advocating a “touch the stove” approach that lets students learn on their own and circumvents the attraction that students often have towards items that are forbidden.

Adora finished her presentation by recommending that we reconsider our learning environments. In one slide, Svitak drew chuckles by showing several images, one of which looked like a high school hallway. The others looked like a cathedral and a library. With a voice vote, the attendees concluded that the first image looked most like a school environment only to find out that it was a prison. Svitak encouraged educators not to imprison learning but to open the digital doors to a broader world of learning.

Adora shares a laugh with Supt. Luna after her presentation.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Hundreds of Idaho teachers and principals will visit Boise this week to learn from local and national leaders about how to create the 21st Century Classroom to keep students engaged and improve academic achievement.

EduStat University 2012 will bring together Idaho educators working hard to increase student outcomes through a 21st Century, technology-rich, data-driven practice.

More than 300 teachers and principals from across Idaho are scheduled to attend. The event will be held at The Riverside Hotel in Boise on June 26-27, 2012. The Idaho State Department of Education has partnered with Schoolnet, the statewide instructional management system, to host EduStat, which is funded through a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

EduStat is aligned with Students Come First, which passed in 2011, and will help Idaho’s teachers and principals as they work to implement these reform laws at the building level.

Presenters include Idaho teachers who are using digital learning to raise student achievement and educators from New Plymouth School District who successfully created and implemented pay-for-performance nearly 10 years ago.

In addition, EduStat will feature nationally known speakers, such as chemistry teacher Aaron Sams who uses a “flipped” classroom to engage students every day, Jeff Mao who has led the implementation of the 1:1 laptop initiative in the state of Maine, and Adora Svitak, an innovative 14-year-old with brilliant ideas about what adults can learn from children.

Here are some of the highlights of EduStat University 2012:

Tuesday, June 26:
  • 8:30 a.m.: Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna will kick off EduStat with opening remarks. 
  • 9:30 a.m.: 14-year-old Adora Svitak will give a student’s perspective on technology and education with a keynote address, “The New Kid(s) on the Block”: Youth Digital Culture and Implications for Student Voice in Education.”
  • 10:45 a.m.: Aaron Sams, a chemistry teacher from Colorado is a dynamic speaker who will describe how he uses advanced technology in a “flipped” classroom setting to improve student achievement and make sure all students are engaged every day.
  • 2:15 p.m.: Idaho teachers and administrators from New Plymouth School District will present on their successful pay-for-performance plan during a breakout session. (They will present again at 3:30 p.m.)
  • 2:15 p.m.: Idaho classroom teachers Dave Gural (Eagle High) and Michelle Chavez (Weiser High) will describe how they use digital learning over the Idaho Education Network to engage Idaho students and improve student achievement in breakout sessions. (They will present again at 3:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, June 27:
  • 8:45 a.m.: Jeff Mao will give a keynote address on how the state of Maine successfully implemented a 1:1 laptop initiative in grades 7 and 8.
  • 10:00 a.m.: Greg Green, a principal from Michigan, will describe how he turned student achievement in his school around using classroom technology to engage students every day and show them relevance in what they were learning.

All keynote addresses during EduStat University 2012 will be streamed live online at

To view the full schedule for EduStat University 2012, visit

Monday, June 18, 2012

Governor's Cup Scholarship Recipients Announced

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter today announced the 22 recipients of the 2012 Governor’s Cup Scholarships to Idaho colleges and universities.

Recipients were chosen from among more than 500 applicants by the Idaho Governor’s Cup Scholarship Fund Inc.’s 17-member board of directors. Selections were based on each applicant’s commitment to public service, academic achievement, and community involvement.

The award is $3,000 per year, renewable for up to four (4) years, or two to three years for professional-technical programs, contingent upon the availability of funds. A total of 98 students now have been awarded scholarships through the program during Governor Otter’s administration.

Here are this year’s recipients, along with their high schools and the schools that they will attend in the fall:

Academic Scholarships – Four-Year Programs

Erica Albertson
Borah High School, Boise – attending the University of Idaho

Nikkaila Bain
Moscow High School – attending the University of Idaho

Demsie Butler
Bliss High School – attending Lewis-Clark State College

Kara Fleming 
Meridian High School – attending Northwest Nazarene University

Brandon Garner 
Sugar-Salem High School, Sugar City – attending BYU-Idaho

Matthew Greer 
St. Maries High School – attending Lewis-Clark State College

Roxanne Hill 
Castleford High School – attending Northwest Nazarene University

Shara Kehrer 
Payette High School – attending Idaho State University

Katie Keller 
Bishop Kelly High School, Boise – attending the University of Idaho

Amanda Kleist  
Century High School, Pocatello – attending Idaho State University

Argia Larrocea-Phillips 
Meridian High School – attending Northwest Nazarene University

Taylor Maloney 
Weiser High School – attending the University of Idaho

Amanda Michaels 
Centennial High School, Meridian – attending the College of Western Idaho

Demetria Riener 
Prairie High School, Ferdinand – attending Lewis-Clark State College

Michelle Robinson 
Caldwell High School – attending BYU-Idaho

Ivan Esparza 
Nampa High School – attending the College of Idaho

Tayler Schvaneveldt 
Grace High School – attending Idaho State University

Katie Vandenberg 
Middleton High School – attending the University of Idaho

Sarah Walsh 
Meridian High School – attending the College of Idaho

Professional-Technical Scholarships – Two-or-Three-Year Programs

April Hillestad 
Columbia High School, Nampa – attending the College of Western Idaho

Edwin Lopez 
Vallivue High School, Caldwell – attending the College of Western Idaho

Rafe Williams 
Clearwater Valley High School, Kooskia – attending Lewis-Clark State College

“It’s an honor to help in some small way to ensure our most deserving students get the financial assistance they need to prepare for a brighter future right here at home,” Governor Otter said. “The generosity of our sponsors and the passion that these young people show for learning and giving back to their communities is matched only by the commitment of everyone involved to making Idaho an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

The 2011 event’s “premier” sponsors of the Governor’s Cup Scholarship Fund, with $35,000 donations, were:
  • CenturyLink
  • Mountain View Hospital.
The 2011 event’s “major” sponsors, with $25,000 donations, were:
  • J.R. Simplot Co.
  • Potlatch
  • Micron Technology Foundation
  • Blue Cross of Idaho
  • Agrium
  • Paris Hills Agricom
  • Premier Technology
  • Sun Valley Co.                       
A reception for this year’s scholarship recipients is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19, from 4-6 p.m., at the Idaho House (formerly the home of J.R. and Esther Simplot). The students will receive certificates and have a photo opportunity with Governor Otter and First Lady Lori Otter.

The 2012 Idaho Governor’s Cup event is scheduled for August 23-25 in Coeur d’Alene.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Donnelly Elementary School Teacher Garners White House Praise for Excellence

Deirdre Bingaman, a Donnelly Elementary School teacher, has been selected as one of 18 teachers nationwide to receive the President’s Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Ms. Bingaman was selected for “her demonstrated excellence in focusing her class on environmental education projects that reflected real-life community challenges and creating a powerful connection between her students and the natural world.”

The President’s Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes and supports teachers from both rural and urban education settings who make use of experiential and environmental opportunities that use creativity and community engagement to help students develop a sense of civic responsibility and stewardship in ecosystems. The prestigious award is bestowed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Ms. Bingaman earned this honor the ‘old fashioned way’,” said Kate Kelly, Director of EPA’s Office of Ecosystems, Tribal and Public Affairs in Seattle. “By working hard to demonstrate inspiring leadership and deliver excellence in environmental education, all the while sparking her students’ imagination with challenges and adventures beyond the traditional classroom.”

Diedre Bingaman’s fifth grade classes have worked as equal partners on a range of environmental projects with area professionals. Bingaman started the Boulder Creek Project in 2008 after learning that the State identified a nearby stream as suffering poor water quality. Her classes compiled stream information, applied scientific methods to answer tough questions, and then presented final results to the City Council and community members. Bingaman’s students have also analyzed the school recycling program and are part of a Idaho elementary school effort to report their recycling results online to help calculate statewide results.

This year’s winning teachers' programs range from field studies in watershed and wetland science in New England to the study of clean energy sources in Colorado and ocean and climate science in Texas, forest ecology and trout studies in the Pacific Northwest and water resource management projects in the desert. 

For more information about the other winners please visit:

For more information about this program please visit: