An education taskforce made up of teachers, lawmakers and business people from across Idaho recently concluded its research into how to prioritize areas of needed improvement for Idaho public schools. 

The group was formed in May by Governor Brad Little and met about 30 times from then until November to discuss problems and solutions in Idaho public education. 

The 27-member taskforce announced its conclusions from their seven months of town halls, meetings with local leaders and studying, which included goals to improve K-3 literacy and college and career readiness. 

The group created four subcommittees, each aiming to improve a different element of public education in the state. Those were a K-12 budget review, recruiting and retaining effective educators, opportunities in rural and underserved schools and schools facilities and safety. 

Debbie Critchfield is the president of the Idaho State Board of Education and served as co-chair of the group, along with Bill Gilbert a Boise-based businessman. Critchfield told BYU-Idaho Radio in an interview that the purpose of the group was to create a way for the state legislature and governor to work on education issues with increased focus. 

“With the new governor in place in January, he was interested in getting a statewide perspective on what Idahoans felt were important,” Critchfield said. “He was looking for what he would take on as initiatives.” 

Critchfield said the group emphasized two areas of measurement and target improvement: K-3 literacy and college and career readiness levels after high school. The two factors highlight student success as they enter and as they leave Idaho public schools. 

The group studied school districts and programs around the state that are already having success, looking to glean method and principles that can be adopted more widely. 

At the end of the taskforce’s work, they formalized and presented recommendations to Governor Little and the state legislature. Those include expanding optional all-day kindergarten around the state and raising base salaries for the top brackets of teacher salaries. 

Critchfield said they would also like to see the state provide school districts with more flexibility on state funding and offer more thorough emotional support resources. 

Critchfield has already met with Governor Little about the issues and expects to continue in collaboration on these issues and others surrounding Idaho public education with state lawmakers come January. 

“We do want to have an element of achievement and frankly anything less than 100 percent of our third-graders reading at grade level is unacceptable,” Critchfield said.  “However, we’re going to work towards that goal.”