Two weeks from Monday, officially Sept. 1, school districts around the state can being submitting their applications to be part of a pilot program that could forever alter the way public education is delivered in the state of Idaho. Known as the Mastery Advancement Pilot Program, or MAPP, the six-year-long pilot project looks to award students who perform well in school and advance more quickly by testing up and out of grades at a rapid pace.
The program, the brainchild of Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, and Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, successfully won the approval of the Idaho Legislature in 2010. Durst and Thayn worked within their own parties to convince fellow legislators that the radical plan would actually save money for the state in the long run.
The program, when it launches in January of 2011, will permit students to test out of classes beginning in kindergarten. Younger students will have skills-based assessments, while older students will have to pass knowledge-based exams. Students can use other methods, including summer school and online classes to get ahead in school work. Those pupils who graduate early will be award a state-funded scholarship to be used in state public schools worth approximately $1,600 for each year they trim off their public education. That figure is about one-third of the cost the state pays to educate one student. The district will also be encouraged to participate and further student achievement because it will receive $1,600 for each year the student is not in public schools. The state will retain the other one-third and those dollars will be returned to the general fund on an annual basis.
The Idaho Department of Education posted the application for the program on its website July 15. Officials with the department say that though they have seen interest in the program, they are unsure how many schools districts will want to participate in the experimental project. Thayn and Durst did cap the number of schools districts allowed in the test run. Only 21 school districts, divided into three classifications, ranging from small to large, will be allowed into the program. Three charter schools will also be accepted.
Thayn said that superintendents around the state are showing enough interest in the program. “Comments have been pretty positive,” Thayn said. He predicted that all 21 slots will be full when the program begins next year and said that many districts have already promised to apply for the program, including districts in Boise, New Plymouth, and Emmett.
School districts have until Dec. 1 to turn in applications. At that point, department officials will decide which districts will be allowed into the six-year project. When filling out the applications, district officials must agree to participate for the entire six years.