Monthly Archives: January 2014

The New Grassroots Surge

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerIdaho is fired up. Lawmakers need to take note; Idahoans kind of have a record of banding together and overruling their state leaders when they are angry (Luna Laws anyone?), and it seems that of late there are some really angry folks.  Pitchforks are in high demand at local hardware stores.

So what’s heating up this storm? Opposition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)and its partner the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has lawmakers on edge, and it should. Continue reading

Teachers with Training Wheels

By Levi B Cavener


Don’t worry about the swim instructor wearing floaties around his own arms while he “teaches” students how to swim. Oh, and ignore the training wheels attached to the cyclist instructor’s bicycle. Such is the advice given in Teach For America’s (TFA) response published in Idaho Education News to an Op-ed I authored in December critical of the organization.

The response, penned by TFA’s “special education specialist” Dhathri Chunduru, offers a detailed view of how the organization supports TFAers hired as special education instructors in Georgia. In her reply, Ms. Chunduru outlines the types of supports TFA provides to these new special education “teachers.”

To TFA’s credit, it appears that they offer some training critical to any would-be special educator. However, she seems to have missed the larger point. TFAers receive this training on the job. Yes, students and parents, your TFA “highly qualified teacher” has training wheels.
Continue reading

The High Stakes of Overtesting.

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerThe semester is drawing to a close for many secondary schools, including my own, across the state during the next few weeks. With this closing comes the ritualistic ceremony of the dreaded end of course exam.

Continue reading

New Year Navigation

By Mary Ollie

MaryIt’s back to the classroom on Monday, January 6 and of course I’ve not been sleeping well.  Tossing and turning is as predictable as a Treasure Valley inversion in winter.  For me, it always occurs the week before classes resume.  Sometimes, I wake up remembering a course taught years ago.  Other times it is a vision of things to come that interrupts my sleep. Continue reading

The Not So Black and White Timecard

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerFor many districts in Idaho, students will return to their classrooms tomorrow. Yet, today reminded me that many teachers have never left.

Like many teachers, I was in and out of my school during break to prepare for the spring term and end of semester exams that will hit me full-force starting tomorrow. When I signed in at my school’s out-of-hour log today, I took the time to look over who had been in and out during the break.

Continue reading

2014 Legislature: My Optimistic Glass Half-Empty Reading

Yes an optimist can have a glass half empty.

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerOn Monday the doors will open to a new legislative session. It will be a cordial reunion in which freshman will try to be seen with the  veterans. In the spirit of bipartisanship, democrats and  republicans will mingle together on the floor while waiting for the Govenor’s speech. There will be an atmosphere of opportunity and hope that has been absent since the Great Recession struck the gem state.

Continue reading

Academic Thug

I’m the biggest bully around around.

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerAbout this time three years ago, my state’s superintendent pointed the finger at Idaho Education Association’s members as being responsible for a reprehensible act of vandalism and intimidation. He told reporters that those “union thugs” were to blame, despite the fact that neither he nor the investigating Nampa police department had even a modicum of evidence to base this assertion on.

I am a member of the IEA, and at the time I was left more than a bit steamed. I was steamed that a person, or perhaps a group of people, honestly thought that positive discourse could be achieved through blatant intimidation. I was even hotter that the person who was supposedly leading my state’s profession was castigating all IEA members as somehow being involved under an umbrella of guilty by union association. Even more, I felt the pressure boiling that somehow my association with the organization branded me as a thug.

Continue reading

King For a Day

By Levi B Cavener

Idaho has $26 million education dollars; here’s how I’d use it.

Levi B CavenerState superintendent Tom Luna announced today that he won’t be implementing the task force proposal to raise teacher salaries by implementing a tiered teacher certification system.

The fact that Luna is choosing to proceed with all the recommendations of the task force aside increasing teacher pay speaks volumes about Luna’s feelings about teachers, and that issue  will receive a post of its own right here soon. However, turning back to the issue at hand, then, is what to do with those dollars meant to implement that recommendation.
Continue reading

Diane Ravitch Gave Us a “Shout-Out” on TFA

diane_cover-248x300National education blogger and education advocate, Diane Ravitch, posted Levi’s Op-Ed on TFA today on her website.  Thanks Diane for including Idaho in the national conversation of education policy!


Physical Fitness Requires Financial Fitness

Are Idaho’s new physical education rules healthy?

By Levi B Cavener

Levi B CavenerIn November of last year, the Idaho State Board of Education approved a new set of rules that require additional physical education instruction in Idaho’s schools.  The new set of rules was a scaled down version of the original package and does not include a 2 credit PE graduation requirement.  It does, however, require PE an hour a week for elementary students, and about 3 hours for middle school student every two weeks.

On the surface, this is great news.  Every student in Idaho should have access to an excellent physical education curriculum promoting strong healthy habits.  For the first time, students across the state will have equitable access to PE.  Or will they? Continue reading