Ed tech vs. larger class sizes: Worth the trade-off?

Online learning would be a larger part of students' day under a proposed Idaho schools overhaul.

Thrusting his state into the center of the national debate over education reform, Idaho public schools chief Tom Luna outlined an aggressive overhaul of the state’s education system on Jan. 12 as he called for more educational technology in the classroom and a pay-for-performance plan for educators. He also infuriated the Idaho teachers union by proposing increased class sizes to help pay for the plan.

Luna detailed his proposal for state lawmakers on the House and Senate education committees. The plan, which would eliminate tenure for new teachers and limit contracts to two years, might be difficult for “the adults” in public education to digest, but the reforms are designed to benefit students, Luna said.

The state’s current system, which has lost roughly $200 million in funding during the past two years amid the economic downturn, is no longer sustainable, Luna said.

“Do we continue to cannibalize the system we currently have, or do we change the system?” he said.

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Under his multiyear strategy, which has backing from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, educational technology would receive a boost, and all ninth-grade students would be given laptops they can keep throughout high school. Starting with the 2012-13 school year, high school students in Idaho would be required to take two online courses a year.

Luna also proposes that Idaho implement a pay-for-performance plan for teachers that bases salary on their performance in the classroom, not on their education or seniority.

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