TWIN FALLS — Michelle Smith wanted to further her education with a bachelor’s degree, but her life is in Buhl. Leaving to attend a four-year university wasn’t feasible.
She has two school-age children and lives with her elderly grandmother.
“Being an older student, I’m already rooted in the community,” she said.
So Smith found a local option to meet her goals. She’s working toward a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in English through Idaho State University’s Twin Falls program.
She takes in-person classes at the College of Southern Idaho‘s campus and expects to wrap up coursework in the summer to start student teaching next fall.
The majority of CSI students want to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree but don’t plan to leave the Magic Valley. It’s especially common for non-traditional students who aren’t right out of high school, have family connections in the area and have a job.
“This is their life,” said Christy Bowman, director of Boise State University’s Twin Falls program. “They can’t just pick up and go to Boise to do schoolwork and attend like a traditional student. They already have an identity here in the Magic Valley, so leaving is hard.”
Another factor: The cost of living tends to be cheaper in the Magic Valley than Boise, she said.
So what bachelor’s degrees can you earn in Twin Falls? Quite a few, including in business, education, criminal justice and social work.
And there are even master’s and doctoral degrees that can be completed locally.
Four universities offer face-to-face, online or distance learning classes via videoconferencing from Twin Falls: University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College.
Some have an office on CSI’s campus. And they offer pathways to help students save time and money by knowing which classes they’ll need to take at CSI and once they transfer.
Helping students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree without leaving the Magic Valley was a key theme during an Aug. 14 CSI “State of the College” address.
In total, 82 percent of degree-seeking students are looking to transfer to a four-year university, executive vice president Todd Schwarz told employees.
The programs with the highest percentage of students who continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree are education, registered nursing, business and criminal justice. Those are all programs four-year universities offer in Twin Falls.
“Our students are apparently more place-bound than we think,” Schwarz told employees.
That’s something Boise State and other four-year universities keep in mind.
“With the programs we’re offering, they’re very community oriented,” Bowman said.
With bachelor’s and master’s degree social work programs, for example, she often receives phone calls from local employers around graduation time seeking recent graduates.
Boise State offers five programs with in-person classes in Twin Falls, with 178 students enrolled this semester.
Bowman also advises students who plan to move to Boise to continue their education. But that’s only about 30 percent of her time.
Lewis-Clark State College has offered in-person classes for education majors in Twin Falls in the past.
Now, it offers only online programs, serving between 15 and 20 Magic Valley students at a time — plus more in a registered nursing to bachelor’s degree completion program.
Business is the most popular major among Twin Falls LCSC students, said Brock Astle, a Boise-based assistant director of admissions.
Astle regularly visits the Twin Falls area. “We’re constantly evaluating what we’re offering in the Magic Valley,” he said.
After graduating from CSI, Filer resident Crissie Gard enrolled in ISU Twin Falls’ bachelor’s degree in elementary education program.
Gard, who describes herself as a non-traditional student, has two children who are 12 and 14.
“Usually, I go to school when they go to school,” she said. But this semester is different because most of her classes start at 3 p.m. or later.
It’s her third semester taking ISU classes, but her first as a full-time student. Gard also works as a substitute teacher in Filer — usually at least two days a week.
Once she finishes her bachelor’s degree, Gard hopes to teach second grade in Filer. She loves the schools and already knows the employees.
Smith said she feels supported by her ISU advisers, program director and professors.
They’re easy to get in touch with and willing to answer questions, she said. And knows everyone she’ll be graduating with.
“It’s a great program and I’m really enjoying it,” she said.
Academically, Smith would like to see more programs offered in Twin Falls — particularly for education majors.
Secondary education students can take methodology classes in Twin Falls, but have to be in Pocatello for subject-area classes.
“It would be nice to see some more variety in that area,” she said. “We’re limited on what we can take.”
And being away from the main ISU campus in Pocatello can be a challenge — particularly in terms of outreach and student activities.
“We miss out on a lot of that in Twin Falls,” Smith said. “It can be kind of isolating.”
But without Twin Falls college programs, she and, many other students likely wouldn’t be able to earn a bachelor’s degree at all.
TWIN FALLS — Lincoln Elementary is pioneering a program this year to teach students who are learning English in their regular classrooms, rather than taking them out for part of the day.
A regular classroom teacher and an English as a Second Language teacher works in each of these classrooms, said Principal Beth Olmstead. The ESL teacher helps with lesson plans to include ESL strategies to ensure students get a boost in vocabulary and language instruction. Then, the two teachers work together to instruct the class. This co-teaching system, Olmstead said, helps children who are learning English to “learn from their peers rather than being isolated.”
Middle and high schools in the district have also started to use a similar model to instruct students who are still learning English. It’s significant for Lincoln, though, because all elementary-age English-language learning students in the district are sent there. About 90 elementary schoolers, or about 17 percent of Lincoln’s student body, are English-language learners who are part of the co-teaching program.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican, visited Lincoln on Thursday to learn a bit about the co-teaching program and to donate to about 100 surplus children’s books he got from the Library of Congress. As he visited classrooms, the teachers pointed out how many students they have from different countries — including Mexico, Iraq, Sudan and DR Congo.
Crapo went to the library first, where he read the book “Whistle for Willie,” about a small boy who is trying to learn how to whistle so he can call his dachshund, to a group of fourth-graders, answered their questions and told them about the Library of Congress.
Crapo said he learned about the Library of Congress’s Surplus Books Program when his chief of staff was eating cereal one day and noticed an advertisement on the side of the milk carton. Crapo has also used the program to get books for several public libraries recently, including in Hailey.
Then, he visited third- and fifth-grade co-teaching classrooms, also answering students’ questions about his job. The students were familiar with who the president is and some asked Crapo if he had met President Trump or been to the White House. (Yes to both.) As Crapo told one class, he has met five presidents — George H.W. Bush and every president since — and worked legislatively with four. (The first Bush was almost at the end of his term when Crapo first entered Congress.)
Olmstead tried to explain to each group of kids the role a senator plays, saying his job is to advocate for Idaho’s interests in Washington, D.C.
“Is he kind of like the president for Idaho?” one fourth-grade boy asked in the library.
“I like that,” Crapo laughed.
“He’s one of them,” Olmstead replied, before settling on “president’s adviser for Idaho.”
Crapo then told the fourth graders he is from Idaho Falls, was elected to the Senate and now splits his time between Idaho and a basement apartment in D.C.
The children were also curious his trips from D.C. to Idaho. One boy asked if Crapo had a limousine (he doesn’t), and others asked about his frequent airplane trips.
“Many people think the government provides us an airplane,” Crapo told the fifth grade class. “It doesn’t. ... I fly in the regular commercial airplanes that everyone flies in.”
KIMBERLY — Students in Kimberly will try out new materials for reading and geometry when they return to class Aug. 28.
The Kimberly school board decided Aug. 16 to pilot Istation for elementary school reading and Core Connections Geometry. School trustees will make a final decision in the spring about which materials to adopt.
Idaho’s public school districts used to receive state funding specifically for textbooks up until 2010. But funding dried up during the economic recession, leaving school districts to hold off on updating materials students use in class.
Now, many districts, including Kimberly, are trying to catch up by allocating money from its own budget or using voter-approved ballot measures.
The new reading program will be used in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms.
It’s the same one all Idaho public schools will transition to soon for a new reading test — a computer-based assessment that will replace the Idaho Reading Indicator.
“We are going to go ahead and purchase it anticipating the state is going to switch over anyway,” Schroeder said.
The Idaho State Department of Education chose 57 schools to pilot the new test this school year.
Here in the Magic Valley, that includes Popplewell Elementary School in Buhl, Castleford Elementary School, Filer Elementary School, Hollister Elementary School, Horizon and Jefferson elementary schools in Jerome, Shoshone Elementary School and Wendell Elementary School.
For high school geometry — taken usually by freshmen — Kimberly students had a lot of success with Carnegie Math in the past, Schroeder said.
But school leaders were looking for something that better aligns with math standards and that doesn’t have extra materials to purchase every year.
The new curriculum comes with e-textbooks. Materials will also better help prepare students, Schroeder said, who’ll take pre-calculus or calculus through the College of Southern Idaho as high school juniors or seniors.