In her first two terms, Idaho has risen from 31st in the nation for student achievement to 17th. Idaho is 5th in the nation for college and career readiness. Idaho students’ scores on the ACT and SAT continue to increase, while scores for the rest of the nation decline. Idaho ranks first in the nation for the number of students taking dual credit courses.
Sherri has overseen the implementation of recommendations from two task forces on improving education. She has taken great ideas, operationalized them and gotten results.
In-Person Learning Law
Stepped up to lead a movement to ensure that Idaho students have the option of in-person learning. Her landmark legislation, which received strong support from the Idaho Legislature in the 2021 legislative session, will have historic implications for student and parent choice in instruction moving forward. It ensures that students have the opportunity to learn in the setting that best supports their individual needs.
Literacy and Reading Proficiency
Successfully advocated for literacy intervention funding and supported schools in implementing research-based literacy intervention programs and strategies. She successfully secured funding for a new Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) to assess K-3 reading proficiency and provided support to all public districts and schools to implement proven intervention strategies based on robust data from the IRI.
Advocated for student safety, securing numerous grants to address mental and behavioral health and to provide more resources to address these critical needs. These include the Garrett Lee Smith grant for youth suicide prevention and a Project AWARE grant (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) of $6 million over five years to support local educational agencies in identifying regional medical service providers as partners in providing behavioral and mental health services in schools.
Has provided free Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training throughout Idaho. This free, online suicide prevention training using QPR – Question, Persuade and Refer – empowers Idaho’s school communities with the knowledge to identify early signs of suicide ideation, empowers them with the knowledge to intervene, and then helps refer students to appropriate resources.
Secured additional state funding for educator and staff professional development focused on creating the best conditions for learning by helping students learn critical life skills.
Implemented the task force recommendation to implement a system where students advance based on mastery of content instead of seat time. Successfully sponsored legislation to expand the number of districts who could participate in the program. Idaho is a recognized leader in mastery-based education by organization including the National Conference of State Legislatures, iNACOL, and the Excellence in Education Foundation.
Helped simplify and streamline the Advanced Opportunities program, which provides all Idaho students in grades 7-12 with $4,125 to apply toward dual credit courses, Advanced Placement exams, International Baccalaureate exams, Career-Technical Education credits and exams and workforce training programs such as internships and apprenticeships. These efforts resulted in easier administration by schools, increased transparency and access for students and improved support to families.
Parent and Student Engagement
Establish parent and student advisory groups to ensure their voices were heard and their ideas were included in education policy and school operations. Created a parent portal to provide better access to important information and resources.
Strategic Investments in K-12 Schools
Helped secure targeted investments in public schools including K-12 literacy, professional development for teachers and increased funding to cover the costs of health insurance benefits for Idaho public school employees. Secured and advocated for sustainable funding for technology needs, additional funding for district IT staff to support schools, and more funding and support to expand broadband and wireless infrastructure in Idaho’s schools. Assumed management of the state’s broadband program to help rural and remote Idaho school districts get enhanced broadband capability.
Educator Career Ladder
Implemented the 2015 Career Ladder to increase teacher pay to support recruitment and retention of great teachers, a $250+ million initiative enacted by the 2015 Idaho Legislature. Implemented the Career Ladder expansion in 2021 amid the COVID pandemic and after a K-12 public schools holdback that delayed implementation of the career ladder’s new Advanced Professional level.
Focused on supporting schools and students to achieve, which requires ensuring that educators have opportunities for high-quality professional development and collaboration. She has strengthened Idaho’s network of capacity builders and coaches who work in schools to support teachers, particularly in English Language Arts, Math and Science. Established the Idaho Superintendents Network with the goal to enhance district superintendents’ understanding of their role in improving student outcomes.
Autonomy and Cutting Red Tape
Prioritized and worked with districts and charter schools to identify barriers and remove unnecessary reports and other constraints to promote autonomy at the local level. Reduced reports at the state level and the number of data elements collected through the state’s K-12 data system.