Friday, June 19, 2009

Luna praises Blaine schools

Board of Education discusses numerous issues at Hailey meeting

Express Staff Writer

Tom Luna, state superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday that the Blaine County School District has achieved some good scores the past school year in Idaho Standard Achievement Tests. Photo by David N. Seelig

Idaho's superintendent of public instruction said Thursday that the Blaine County School District has achieved some impressive Idaho Standard Achievement Test results for the 2008-2009 school year.

"That is impressive for any district to have 91 percent of the students reading proficiently," Luna said in an interview. He was in Hailey for the Idaho State Board of Education's June meeting.

Luna was referring to ISAT score results released last week by Lonnie Barber, the school district's assistant superintendent. The results, which showed significant increases from the previous school year, indicated that 90.7 percent of the district's students are proficient at reading, 86.7 percent are proficient at math, and 80.9 percent are proficient at language arts.

"Blaine County is a good school district and I think there's lots that other districts can learn from the Blaine County School District," Luna said.

ISAT results from other school districts in Idaho won't be publicly available until later in the summer, but Luna said other districts are also seeing improvements in ISAT scores, particularly in reading proficiency. The improvements are likely the result of continued state emphasis on remedial programs, he said.

"It's just an indicator all over the state that good things are going on," said Luna. "I think even with less money that we'll continue to see increases in student achievement."

Luna acknowledged that school districts such as Blaine County, which rely more on local property tax assessments than state funds, have been better able to weather state funding cuts this year prompted by the recession. Nonetheless, he said most school districts in Idaho have been able tighten their budgets without having to layoff teachers. He said he expects state funding to remain "level" next year.

Luna, an elected public official, is one of seven members of the state Board of Education. The board's June meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Coeur d'Alene but was moved to Hailey so the meeting would coincide with the Governor's Cup golf tournament set for this weekend in the Wood River Valley.

The board mainly reviewed state college and university programs. Miscellaneous items, such as approving alcohol at collegiate home football games, were listed on the meeting agenda, as were various school district requests concerning funding caps for student transportation.

Idaho Public Television gave a brief overview of its funding and accomplishments and showed a five-minute preview of an upcoming Outdoor Idaho program about the Phantom Hill wolf pack. The program is set for release in October. It documents how the Wood River Valley-based pack moved south in March and roamed for several weeks in close proximity to people.

Terry Smith:

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