ISU Headlines

Idaho State University participates in project that uses master educators to strengthen K-12 schools’ effectiveness for at-risk students

Posted December 16, 2009

The Idaho State University College of Education’s Intermountain Center for Educational Effectiveness is East Idaho’s regional service center for implementing a statewide program that employs master educators to help K-12 schools improve the quality of education they provide to at-risk students.

This is the second year ISU has participated in the Idaho Building Capacity Project. Last year it received about $680,000; this year ISU has received more than $1.1 million to implement a new phase of the project.

The Project is funded with federal school improvement grants awarded through the Idaho Department of Education. ISU's Intermountain Center for Educational Effectiveness coordinates the programs in Regions IV, V and VI, including the Twin Falls and the Magic Valley area, Pocatello and Southeast Idaho, and Idaho Falls and the Upper Snake River area.

"The Idaho Building Capacity Project provides in-depth, one-on-one assistance to teachers and administrators in many schools across Idaho," Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. "This program played a significant role in helping increase the number of Idaho schools reaching adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind from 25 percent of schools in 2007 to two-thirds of Idaho schools in 2009."

More important than those impressive dollars amounts, however, is what the program is accomplishing by employing some unique means to educational success.  One of the key components of the program is to employ "capacity builders," who are recently retired, highly distinguished educators that are trained by the state to assist school and district leaders as they help to improve Idaho's neediest schools and districts.

"The purpose of the program is to support a variety of student improvement efforts and goals, and improve instruction," said Debra Pfost, the Idaho Building Capacity Project regional coordinator at the ISU ICEE. "The master educators are going in to select schools and school district offices and helping improve instruction in any way they can."

These capacity builders coach principals and teachers, offer instruction themselves, analyze weakness and strengths and come up with new methods to reach stated goals.

"These consultants have a wealth of knowledge and experience, which they apply to various needs," Pfost said. "The needs in a school in Challis are so much different than the needs of a school in Pocatello. These consultants can tailor their advice to the specific school or office they serve. This is not a 'cookie-cutter' type program."

The program's stated goals for the capacity builders are: 1) to build leadership capacity and technical knowledge of school improvement at all levels; 2) empower local leaders to build their own internal capacity to sustain and continually evaluate, adjust, and implement school improvement efforts; and, 3) build capacity of Idaho to systemically offer assistance to schools and districts in needs improvements status.

Schools and districts are selected that serve a high percentage of at-risk students that have limited local resources.

The program began as a pilot project in January 2008 at 19 sites in the Caldwell and Mountain Home school districts. It was expanded statewide last year, with the state's two other regional programs centers in Boise, implemented by Boise State University, and in Coeur d'Alene, implemented by the University of Idaho.

Last year there were served 54 schools and district offices participating in the program; by the end of 2010 there should be 91 sites participating.

Last year the program served 13 schools or district offices in the East Idaho region administered by ISU. Those sites were the Butte County Joint School District #111, Arco Elementary School, Butte County Middle School, Cassia County School District, Declo Elementary School, Challis Joint School District #181, Challis High School, Pocatello/Chubbuck School District #25, the Alameda Center in Pocatello, Wilcox Elementary School in Pocatello, Preston School District #201, Oakwood Elementary School in Preston, Twin Falls School District and O’Leary Junior High School in Twin Falls. The number of sites in East Idaho should double in the next year.

"This is another example of the ISU College of Education's Intermountain Center for Educational Effectiveness's continued commitment to our K-12 partners in Eastern Idaho," said Charles Zimmerly, director of the ICEE and the Idaho Building Capacity Project grant administrator.