TWIN FALLS — Dual-credit enrollment continues to explode across Idaho, with more high schoolers taking college-level classes.

The topic came up Wednesday during an Idaho State Board of Education meeting at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

Every other month, the state board meets at a public college or university — typically, about every two years at CSI. It’s significant because the eight-member board is in charge of policymaking for all Idaho public education, from kindergarten through universities.

And on Thursday — the second day of the meeting — CSI administrators will share updates about the college with the state’s top education leaders.

During Wednesday’s meeting, state board staff shared a preliminary report about dual credit. State legislators will receive the information when their session begins in January.

Dual credit is a hot topic, with a growing number of students and a hefty price tag. But state leaders say dual-credit students are more likely to be successful. The rate of former dual credit students who continue from their first to second year of college is between 70 and nearly 90 percent.

“I think this connects the dots for everybody,” said Debbie Critchfield of Oakley, vice president of the state board. “This is the investment, and this is the return on investment.”

Dual-credit classes allow teenagers to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. Here in south-central Idaho, many of the students take classes through CSI taught by a high school instructor.

State legislators appropriated $6 million for Advanced Opportunities for last fiscal year. But the total bill came to $12.1 million — about double the appropriation, Idaho Education News reported in July. The approximately $6 million to cover unexpected costs came out of the Public Education Stabilization Fund.

One major reason for the growth: Each Idaho public schooler has a total of $4,125 available to use from seventh through 12th grades. Money can be used to pay for dual-credit classes, overload classes, exams or professional-technical certifications.

The largest growth is among students taking fewer than 10 dual credits, state board staff said Wednesday. That’s the equivalent of about three classes or fewer.

Another big area of growth is students earning more than 30 credits — and even an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school.

During the 2012-13 school year, just 34 high schoolers earned an associate degree. That number jumped to 126 last school year.

The report also breaks down participation in college-level classes by factors such as gender, ethnicity and students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

White students and girls are taking advantage of dual credit classes at a higher rate.

Other topics from Wednesday’s meeting include:

Reading, school improvement and mastery education

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra presented information items about the latest developments in kindergarten-through-12th-grade education.

That included piloting the new Idaho Reading Indicator test, students earning Microsoft or Adobe certifications, and mastery-based education, allowing students to advance through schoolwork at their own level and pace.

Ybarra also talked about a one-year pilot project for State Technical Assistance Team phase I schools.

Seven schools across the state — including Wendell Middle School — have been identified as needing support and improvement for the 2018-19 school year under Idaho’s plan for the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Emergency hiring

The Professional Standards Commission gave its annual report and a presentation about emergency provisional certificates.

With a statewide teacher shortage, there’s an increase in the number of school employees hired without a teaching license. Alternate authorizations also include current teachers or school administrators who need a different endorsement.

So far this school year, Idaho schools have seen 648 alternate authorizations — up from 444 during the 2016-17 school year.

Changing school district boundaries

The state board considered three requests for annexing land into school district boundaries, affecting the Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland school districts, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls school districts, and Sugar-Salem and Fremont school districts. None are in the Magic Valley.

Idaho Opportunity Scholarship

The board heard a report about the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship.

This year, a total of 3,716 scholarships were awarded. About 59 percent were renewals of existing scholarships.

Between 2016 and this year, there was a 21 percent drop in high school seniors receiving a new award.

The scholarship can be used at an in-state college or university. It’s based on merit — having at least a 3.0 grade point average — and 70 percent on financial need.

The problem is a lack of funding to award a scholarship to everyone who qualifies. There are about 1,000 students on a waiting list.

Of those who receive a scholarship, the average GPA is 3.7. The average award amount is $3,300.

The state board is considering lowering the GPA requirement. But board President Linda Clark asked if the board should be asking for more money first.

State board staff said that’s their plan. They’re seeking $5 million more in state funding.

Board strategic plan

The board debated the purpose of its strategic plan and language in the document. It decided to bring back revisions in February.

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