I was informed by the gentleman that first encouraged me to run for the legislature that, except during the actual biennial session, my legislative responsibilities would not take much time from my businesses.    It seems that he was either uninformed or, perhaps motivated to not be entirely forthright.    To effectively make a difference, substantial time is required year-round, both working on local issues, and in serving on numerous working committees.  There is not a single week where my legislative responsibilities do not take significant time.

I just spent two days in Helena in pursuit of enhanced student achievement.   The first meeting was in my role as a director of the Montana Council of Economic Education.   We are fortunate to live in a free market economy, where demand and supply set price, and where individuals personally chart their preferred future.  In 2000, the Board of Public Education (BOPE) adopted standards for teaching K-12 economics.  However, the teacher professional development programs have not been realigned to effectively facilitate preparing teachers to deliver this topic to students, thus, in most areas, the school curriculum has not evolved to include market principles.   As such, Dr. Myles Watt, the professor I learned graduate economics from, and I met with representatives from the School Administrators, School Trustees, Montana Rural Education, the BOPE, and the Montana Education Association to formulate a plan for improved outcomes here.   The meeting was productive, and a general roadmap forward was agreed upon.   As such, I look forward to when more students better understand, support, and respect the opportunities that exist in our free market economy.

 The 2nd meeting was the K-12 Data Task Force, a group that I created via my education legislation, SB175.   The intent was to bring stakeholders from all across Montana together, representatives from the smallest to the larges schools, to discuss how to best utilize the plethora of educational data tools available for enhancing student achievement.  Stakeholders included representatives from the technology section, parents, trustees, clerks, teachers, and administrators.  Discussion topics ranged from data security to the best data tools/examples that empower teachers to individualize education opportunity for the entire spectrum from remedial to gifted students.   

The general consensus became that the best data practices put pertinent real-time information on the teacher’s desktop to effectively/efficiently facilitate individual instruction and/or address special need.  Good data practices enhanced parental access into their child’s learning process, making it both more possible and likely for parents to remain actively involved.   There was significant emphasis put onto data systems that correlated to enhance learning opportunity, and in keeping private data secure.   Products, such as Milepost (Silverback) and Parsons provided excellent illustrations of data systems whose primary focus is the illumination of opportunity, not the hammer of compliance.   There was much excitement as to what today’s data systems offer for student achievement, and most left with a strong commitment to further investigate the potential data can bring to student learning.

Thank you for allowing me to be your voice in Helena.

Senator Llew Jones