Idaho is a landscape carved by dramatic falls and canyons, and its education system can at times feel similarly rugged. Less than half of all students are proficient in reading and math and less than a quarter of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Looking more closely at Idaho’s student population, there's a disparity in the performance of low-income and Hispanic students compared to that of their wealthier peers. The National Assessment of Education Progress clearly indicates variations in grade levels and content areas.
More than two-thirds of Hispanic students in the communities we serve tested at basic or below basic in English on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. The disparities in math and science are similar for migrant and low-income students. These statistics only begin to highlight the inequity that exists throughout the state, which since 2007 has ranked last in the country for average annual wage, per-capita income, and wage increases. This trend is expected to continue for the next 10 years, while employers will simultaneously increase their demand for individuals with higher levels of education.
Working to reverse this trend, the response to Idaho's growing inequity has been strong. In Treasure Valley coalitions of local districts, foundations, nonprofits, individuals, and businesses have worked to raise awareness and develop innovative solutions. The Treasure Valley Education Partnership, for example, has set a goal of having at least 80 percent of Treasure Valley students go on to some form of post high school education by 2016 and beyond. The Caldwell P16 Education Project is a culture-changing initiative that inspires, educates, and motivates children to seek education beyond high school by providing preschool programs and career aspiration programs at every school in the Caldwell district.
At the statewide level, the governor and state board of education recently headed a task force focused on improving the state's education system. The task force recommended 20 proposals that are in the process of being implemented and have the potential to dramatically impact the education system. Notably, local organizations are working to provide support for more personalized learning experiences for students and for school leadership training. Teach For America is playing a role to help districts recruit, develop and bring a diverse group of our nation’s emerging leaders into Idaho classrooms. Working together to address educational inequity is critical and we are proud to be among the many local individuals and organizations working to give children access to a great education and future opportunities.