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Consumer Confidence

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index decreased 6.4 points to 109.0 in April. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index decreased 1.9 points to 94.2 in the same period.

Housing Market

In March, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Utah, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 8.0%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.7% during the same period.

Inflation

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% from February to March for a trailing 12-month inflation of 2.2%. In the same period, the U.S. CPI increased 0.4% for a trailing 12-month inflation of 0.9%.

Job Report

Utah’s unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point to 3.5% in March, and the national unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point to 5.0%.

June 2016

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Utah Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

“Ogden has proven that hard work and deliberate community planning make a huge difference in determining a city’s economic future.”

Throughout much of the last century, Ogden’s economy was fueled significantly by the railroad industry. As the rail industry declined, beginning particularly in the 1970s, the city commenced a long period marked by substantial economic challenges. In recent years, however, Ogden has made an extraordinary transition away from these challenges to establish itself anew as an economic hub—enjoying new business, population growth, and rising incomes.

What changed in Ogden? Revitalization and economic development picked up as the city prepared to host downhill skiing events for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Changes were slow and incremental but deliberate. For instance, Ogden began to market local outdoor recreation opportunities and beckon new businesses by making relocation easy and enjoyable. Companies that have relocated or moved operations to Ogden come from a range of different industries with many different functions. They include White Clouds, Wayfair, Northrup Grumman, and Air Medical Resource Group (among others)—companies that bring in moderate numbers of well-paying jobs and benefit from a great business environment and low cost of living. In addition, Ogden’s Frontrunner transit service makes it easy for residents and businesses to stay connected to the rest of the Wasatch Front.

Over the coming four years, the Ogden-Clearfield area is expected to grow by approximately 40,000 people as businesses continue to grow and move into the city. By 2019, the population of the area is expected to reach nearly 670,000. More importantly, the median household income is expected to rise significantly. Whereas median household income averaged $61,231 in 2014, it is projected to jump to $73,055 by 2019. In Ogden City alone, the median household income is projected to rise by $4,500 in that same time period.

Over the past sixteen years, Ogden has revitalized its once-stagnant economy and set itself up for future growth. Its now-thriving business district was recently ranked sixth by Forbes as one of the “Best Places for Business and Careers.” Ogden was also ranked the seventh-fastest-growing city and third-best place to raise a family. Via hard work and thoughtful community planning, the city of Odgen is building a bright economic future.

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Family of skiers riding ski lift during the winter

Short-Term U.S. Outlook

U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) increased 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016 according to the Labor Department’s advance estimate released in late April. This represents the slowest annual rate since the first quarter of 2014. Economists had forecast GDP growth of 0.7 percent in the first quarter. The economy grew 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. Almost all sectors of the economy weakened in the first quarter, in part due to the ongoing saga of cheap oil. Facing severely-reduced profits, oil and gas companies have cut business spending and contracting, reduced numbers of employees, and put off investing in new projects. Manufacturers have also felt the pain of decreasing oil prices.

On the other hand, the housing and labor markets were robust in the first quarter, and employment gains still averaged 209,000 jobs per month. GDP growth has consistently slowed in the first quarter over the past several years, usually due to severe winter snow storms on the East coast. This year, oil prices had a larger impact than did weather.

Also in the first quarter, consumer spending increased at a rate of 1.9 percent. Economists pay close attention to consumer spending because it indicates confidence in the economy and accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Although spending increased, this was the slowest increase since the first quarter last year. In addition, consumer spending in the first quarter of 2016 represented a deceleration compared with consumer spending in the previous quarter. While consumers have saved money at the gas pump, they have also cut back on automobile purchases. Rather than spending the difference, consumers appear to be saving it. Disposable income after taxes and inflation increased 2.9 percent after rising 2.3 percent last quarter. Savings rose to $712.3 billion, up from $678.3 billion the previous quarter. Household debt also decreased. While spending may have decelerated in the first quarter, the increase in household savings sets consumers up for increased spending in the next quarter.

The Federal Reserve acknowledged that economic activity had slowed, but did not indicate how that would affect the interest rate increase schedule. Amid the slowdown, the Fed noted that labor market conditions have improved.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) further cut the global economic outlook in mid-April. It now projects that global growth will move forward at a 3.2-percent pace, as opposed to the 3.4-percent pace it projected in January. Reasons for the cut include China’s slowdown and weak commodity prices. Emerging markets are suffering from the low commodity prices, and wealthier countries are still trying to overcome the effects of the financial crisis.

Recessions in Russia and Brazil have been compounded by political situations. Oil exporters like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela have experienced sharp economic slowdowns. Until the global economy can get on stable footing, the long-term outlook will remain uncertain and sluggish.

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US Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% Utah Consumer Price Index rose 0.4%

Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4 percent from February to March on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. The index has increased 2.2 percent since this same time last year, which is very near the Federal Reserve’s national inflation target of 2 percent. The national Consumer Price Index increased 0.4 percent from February to March and increased 0.9 percent over the last year.

As the primary driver of the increase in Utah’s March CPI, transportation prices rose 1.5 percent from the month before in conjunction with rising gasoline prices. Crude oil prices increased through the first half of the month before receding slightly. Higher rates for vehicle rentals also contributed to the rise in transportation prices. March’s higher CPI was also fueled by clothing prices, which increased 2.0 percent—more than any other sector.

The only sectors that decreased in March were other goods and services, and food both at and away from home. Prices for other goods and services declined 1.9 percent. Food at home prices decreased 0.5 percent, and food away from home prices decreased 0.2 percent.

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National Unemployment Rate increased to 5.0% Utah Unemployment Rate rose to 3.5%

Labor Market

At 3.5 percent, Utah’s unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point from February to March. The state’s year-over-year growth in total employment remained unchanged since last month at 3.3 percent. Compared to a year ago, Utah has added 44,400 jobs to the economy, and the current employment level registers at 1,405,400. The United States’ unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point from last month to 5.0 percent.

Eight of ten sectors measured posted net job increases this month; the only industries that posted net job losses were other services and the natural resources and mining sectors. Leisure and hospitality has been one of Utah’s three fastest-growing sectors of employment every month for the past year. Bolstering Utah’s emerging reputation as a tourist destination, construction was recently completed on several new hotels in the last few months. Furthermore, with the local business environment thriving, Salt Lake City is a frequent destination for conventions and conferences, fueling an uptick in business travel to Utah’s capital. Continued growth in the leisure and hospitality sector is to be expected.

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Utah Consumer Attitude Index fell 6.4 points US Consumer Confidence Index decreased 1.9 points

Utah Consumer Attitude Index

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) decreased 6.4 points to 109.0 in April. Slightly more negative perspectives regarding both the present circumstances of the economy and expectations for the future led to this decline. In spite of the declines observed since last month, the CAI currently sits 3.4 points higher than its level 12 months ago. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 1.9 points from March to April and currently sits at 94.2.

The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, has fallen 10.0 points since last month but remains 4.1 points higher than this time last year. Utahns believe the general business environment is less favorable than last month, and 9 percent of Utahns rate general business conditions in their area as bad—a 1-percent increase since last month, and a 2-percent increase since last year. Forty-eight percent of Utahns describe available jobs in their area as plentiful—a 1-percent decline since last month, but a 7-percent increase since last year.

Expectations for the next six months decreased 3.9 points in April due to a more negative outlook on future business conditions. Fewer Utahns think business conditions in their area will be better in six months—down from 27 percent in March to 26 percent in April. However, the outlook for the labor market is slightly more positive, as 29 percent of Utahns think there will be more jobs available in their area six months from now—a 5-point increase since last month.

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Utah CoreLogic Home Price Index increased to 8.0% National CoreLogic Home Price Index rose 6.7%

Housing Market

Home prices rose slightly in March both across the nation and in Utah. Utah’s home prices increased 1.5 percent from February to March, and have grown 8.0 percent since March 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 2.1 percent month over month and 6.7 percent year over year. National home prices for single-family homes, including distressed sales, are forecasted to rise by 0.7 percent in April 2016, and by 5.3 percent by March 2017.

Although home prices remain 5.4 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has experienced 49 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, which indicates progress towards a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached in April 2017. In Utah, home prices are forecasted to increase 0.7 percent this month and 5.6 percent in the next year. With rising prices and tight supplies, homes are selling more quickly—the average number of days homes remain on the market has plunged almost 25 percent since this time last year. Meanwhile, the surging housing market is also boosting the markets for town homes and condos along the Wasatch Front—condo sales increased 3.6 percent this quarter.

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Young man writing with a pen in a classroom

Optimizing measurement and accountability to improve student learning

At the end of last year, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which fundamentally redefines success and reallocates accountability. Although NCLB was designed to improve innovation and outcomes in public education, it resulted in the unpopular enforcement of one-size-fits-all exams and school goals. By 2011, nearly half of all schools across the nation were labeled as “failing” because they were not making “adequate yearly progress” as defined by NCLB. Meanwhile, taxpayers were spending three times as much on annual testing—topping out at almost $2 billion per year.

In spite of these flaws in implementation, NCLB deserves credit for helping increase the focus of education policy on measurement and accountability. Fortunately, parents, teachers and public officials were quick to articulate the many problems with NCLB and recommend ways to revise and improve the benchmarks.

ESSA requires that states continue to evaluate student outcomes, but it recalibrates the definitions of success. Whereas NCLB insufficiently addressed the existence of multiple points of assessment and evaluation, ESSA allows freedom to choose from a wide range of metrics to measure success, such as graduation rates, student and teacher engagement, and school safety. One significant positive result of this recalibration is that standardized test scores are no longer the be-all determinants of achievement. Under NCLB, curricula were often revamped to focus exclusively on narrow, test-related subject matter at the expense of holistic learning. Without such stringent, singular pressures, ESSA allows a rural school in Arkansas to excel in different areas than an urban school in San Francisco, and both can be considered successful.

In addition, ESSA provides states with significantly more independence surrounding what is measured and who is responsible. Instead of enforcing universal standards with strict funding punishments (as NCLB did), the Department of Education now leaves accountability goals up to the states. Fluid standards and practices that vary by state are intended to empower school systems to innovate and tailor new solutions to specific needs. Plus, as states adopt new approaches and track success over time, schools will be capable of reviewing progress, refining strategies, and augmenting what works best.

Utah has already capitalized on the flexibility allowed by ESSA. In the most recent legislative session, Utah passed a bill that protects teachers from being evaluated solely by students’ test performance. Another bill lets school districts decide whether to administer Utah’s standardized test to ACT-burdened 11th graders. Utah teachers and 11th graders alike will still be evaluated, but in newer, more customized and helpful ways.

There is perhaps no greater responsibility for teachers, parents, and policymakers than to collaborate in creating an educational environment where children can learn and thrive. Because ESSA maintains the importance of measurement and accountability while expanding schools’ independence, Utah and many other states are increasingly empowering local schools to develop student learning in a manner that best aligns with regional needs. Not only does this approach improve outcomes, but it also engages parents and communities, and boosts local jobs.

As with any new policy, implementation will be critical to ESSA’s success. States will need to carefully select meaningful trackable indicators and achievable goals that focus on learning outcomes. Fortunately, with the tools proffered by our digital golden age, schools are more capable than ever before of both tracking and responding to a sophisticated range of metrics. It is up to parents, teachers, and lawmakers alike to harness these tools and ensure that every student has a chance to succeed in the increasingly-competitive global marketplace.

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Empty ski lift in the mountains during the summer

Snowbasin: A year round economic boon

While skiing season is now over, ski resorts continue to have significant economic impact on their local economies year round. For instance, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin Resort play a large role in Ogden’s economy. In fact, ski resorts could very well take partial credit for the city’s revitalization over the past several years. As one of the sites for the Olympic games in 2002, Snowbasin Resort helped jumpstart strategic planning for Ogden’s economic renewal.

Known best for its 3,000 skiable acres during the winter time, Snowbasin also provides outdoor recreation opportunities and popular events that generate economic activity during the spring, summer, and autumn months. For example, every September the resort hosts the XTerra triathlon, which attracts athletes from all over the world. Snowbasin provides gondola rides, mountain bike trails, hiking trails, frisbee golf, outdoor concerts, and more during the summer months.

Snowbasin is just one of many outdoor attractions near Ogden that beckon visitors and showcase the natural beauty of the area. As outdoor enthusiasts pass through the city and spend time in surrounding communities, the dollars they spend eating and sleeping contribute to employment, tax revenue, and other economic activity.

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Consumer Confidence

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 1.9 points to 94.2 in April. The Present Situation Index increased 1.5 points to 116.4, and the Expectations Index decreased 4.3 points to 79.3.

Housing Market

In March, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 7.3%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.7% during the same period.

Inflation

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% from February to March. Year over year, the index increased 0.9%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.

Job Report

Idaho’s unemployment rate decreased 0.1 percentage point to 3.9% in March, and the national unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point to 5.0% in March.

June 2016

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The latest employment, housing and other trends

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Idaho Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

“Idaho’s wildlife and outdoor beauty contribute immense value to state economics—particularly for the residents of surrounding gateway communities, whose income and employment are affected by park tourism.”

Although Idaho’s great outdoors are thought of by some to be a bit off the beaten path, thousands of tourists flood gateway communities throughout Idaho every year, bringing much-needed economic activity. Gateway communities have a special relationship with the tourist destinations they border—residents offer services and products for visitors, and tourism boosts the standard of living for gateway residents.

Rexburg is one such community. Bordering the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, Rexburg benefits economically by providing services for the outdoor enthusiasts who pass through annually. Rexburg is just five miles from the world-renowned Yellowstone Bear World, which attracts a large number of Yellowstone visitors each year and has a $20-million impact on the surrounding region. Tourism has a huge trickle-down effect: some estimate that every dollar spent on gasoline or food turns around four to seven times before leaving the community. Between May and October, the park welcomes about 30,000 vehicles and upwards of 160,000 people. Ninety-seven percent of those guests come from outside a 70-mile radius, bringing dollars to the community for hotels, food, and travel.

For gateway communities, rising park attendance and outdoor attraction participation means higher income in property taxes and greater numbers of jobs. Over the past few years, the number of visitors to Bear World has increased about 10 percent annually. Since 2007, Bear World has paid $120,000 to Madison County in property taxes. Each year, it funnels more than $600,000 in wages into the economy. As of 2014, approximately 60 people in the region were employed at Bear World. Teton Valley is another tourist destination that brings people to the area. It is home to beautiful scenery and amazing music shows all year long. Tourists headed to Teton Valley bring economic activity to areas like Driggs, Swan Valley, and the appropriately-named Tetonia, among others.

The biggest challenge for Idaho’s gateway communities in boosting this flow of economic input is facilitating easy access for visitors—particularly in more rural areas. For instance, when construction on the Thornton Interchange was first announced, many community members were concerned that access to Yellowstone Bear Park would be too inconvenient for tourists to justify. On days when freeway access is limited and visitors have to take back roads, locals have seen attendance drop. To facilitate tourist access and economic growth in this case, construction schedules were arranged to keep Bear World Drive open until October when the tourist crowds begin to taper.

Tourism dollars spent at Yellowstone Bear World, Teton Valley, and Idaho gateway communities near Yellowstone provide livelihood for resident employees who guide tours and expeditions, maintain campsites, operate hotels, and operate restaurants.

Idaho’s wildlife and outdoor beauty contribute immense value to state economics—particularly for the residents of surrounding gateway communities, whose income and employment are affected by park tourism. By facilitating easy access and providing great service for tourists, gateway communities will continue to reap economic benefits.

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Hot springs in Yellowstone National Park

Short-term U.S. Outlook

U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) increased 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016 according to the Labor Department’s advance estimate released in late April. This represents the slowest annual rate since the first quarter of 2014. Economists had forecast GDP growth of 0.7 percent in the first quarter. The economy grew 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. Almost all sectors of the economy weakened in the first quarter, in part due to the ongoing saga of cheap oil. Facing severely-reduced profits, oil and gas companies have cut business spending and contracting, reduced numbers of employees, and put off investing in new projects. Manufacturers have also felt the pain of decreasing oil prices.

On the other hand, the housing and labor markets were robust in the first quarter, and employment gains still averaged 209,000 jobs per month. GDP growth has consistently slowed in the first quarter over the past several years, usually due to severe winter snow storms on the East coast. This year, oil prices had a larger impact than did weather.

Also in the first quarter, consumer spending increased at a rate of 1.9 percent. Economists pay close attention to consumer spending because it indicates confidence in the economy and accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Although spending increased, this was the slowest increase since the first quarter last year. In addition, consumer spending in the first quarter of 2016 represented a deceleration compared with consumer spending in the previous quarter. While consumers have saved money at the gas pump, they have also cut back on automobile purchases. Rather than spending the difference, consumers appear to be saving it. Disposable income after taxes and inflation increased 2.9 percent after rising 2.3 percent last quarter. Savings rose to $712.3 billion, up from $678.3 billion the previous quarter. Household debt also decreased. While spending may have decelerated in the first quarter, the increase in household savings sets consumers up for increased spending in the next quarter.

The Federal Reserve acknowledged that economic activity had slowed, but did not indicate how that would affect the interest rate increase schedule. Amid the slowdown, the Fed noted that labor market conditions have improved.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) further cut the global economic outlook in mid-April. It now projects that global growth will move forward at a 3.2-percent pace, as opposed to the 3.4-percent pace it projected in January. Reasons for the cut include China’s slowdown and weak commodity prices. Emerging markets are suffering from the low commodity prices, and wealthier countries are still trying to overcome the effects of the financial crisis.

Recessions in Russia and Brazil have been compounded by political situations. Oil exporters like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela have experienced sharp economic slowdowns. Until the global economy can get on stable footing, the long-term outlook will remain uncertain and sluggish.

Read more Read more
US Consumer Price Index increased 0.4%

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The national Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4 percent from February to March on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. The national CPI has increased 0.9 percent over the last year, which is lower than the Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target of 2 percent.

The overall rise in CPI was driven by increases in the indexes for energy and for all items less food and energy. For the first time since November, the energy index rose as all of its major components except natural gas increased. In spite of these gains, the energy index has declined 12.6 percent over the last year.

Meanwhile, the food index decreased 0.2 percent in March, as five of the six major grocery store food groups declined. The index for all items less food and energy—a less-volatile measurement of prices—increased 0.1 percent in March, which represents the smallest increase since August. Over the last 12 months, the index for all items less food and energy has climbed 2.2 percent.

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National Unemployment Rate increased to 5.0% Idaho Unemployment Rate fell to 3.9%

Labor Market

From February to March, Idaho’s unemployment rate declined one-tenth of a percent to 3.9 percent. This month marked Idaho’s largest March-to-March increase since 2006 in seasonally-adjusted nonfarm jobs, which grew by 3.6 percent year over year, or 24,000 total jobs. The strongest year-over-year employment gains occurred in the construction, manufacturing, education, health services, leisure and hospitality, and other services industries. Information, mining and logging were the only sectors that experienced annual employment declines. The United States’ unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percent from last month to 5.0 percent.

Idaho’s quickly-improving labor market is outperforming the nation, ranking first in the U.S. for job growth in the last year. March marked the ninth consecutive month that total unemployment decreased in Idaho. In keeping with this trend, unemployment benefit payments have fallen by 2.3 percent since this time last year. Idaho residents are enjoying job security that is unmatched across the nation and are incurring lower costs for welfare, which could lead to savings during tax season.

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US Consumer Confidence Index decreased 1.9 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

The Conference Board’s U.S. Consumer Confidence Index declined 1.9 points to 94.2 in April. Although the Present Situation Index, which measures sentiment about the current state of the economy, increased from 114.9 to 116.4, the Expectations Index fell from 83.6 to 79.3. This decrease indicates slightly weaker confidence in the state of the economy six months out and led to the overall reduction in consumer confidence.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was less favorable in April as the percentage of consumers who felt business conditions were “good” tapered from 24.9 percent in March to 23.2 percent in April. However, fewer people stated current business conditions were “bad”—down to 18.1 percent in April from 19.2 percent in March. Opinions of the labor market were also mixed: consumers who claim that jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 25.4 percent to 24.1 percent, and those who claim that jobs are “hard to get” declined to 22.7 percent from 25.2 percent.

Meanwhile, consumers are less optimistic about the future—just 13.4 percent of consumers in April expect business conditions to improve, compared with 14.7 percent in March. Perspectives about the job market are also less optimistic: consumers who anticipate more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 13.0 percent to 12.2 percent.

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Idaho CoreLogic Home Price Index rose 7.3% National CoreLogic Home Price Index rose 6.7%

Housing Market

Home prices continued to rise slightly across the nation and in Idaho in March. Home prices in Idaho increased 1.4 percent from February to March, and have risen 7.3 percent since March 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 2.1 percent month over month and 6.7 percent year over year. National home prices for single-family homes, including distressed sales, are forecasted to rise by 0.7 percent in April 2016, and by 5.3 percent by March 2017.

Although home prices remain 5.4 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has experienced 49 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, which indicates progress towards a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached in April 2017. In Idaho, home prices are forecasted to increase 0.9 percent this month and 4.5 percent in the next year. Increasing prices in Idaho are driven by a variety of factors, including an improving job market and a wealth of boomerang buyers—buyers who lost homes during the recession but have repaired their credit and are again looking to buy homes.

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HYoung man writing with a pen in a classroom

Optimizing Measurement and Accountability to improve student learning

At the end of last year, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which fundamentally redefines success and reallocates accountability. Although NCLB was designed to improve innovation and outcomes in public education, it resulted in the unpopular enforcement of one-size-fits-all exams and school goals. By 2011, nearly half of all schools across the nation were labeled as “failing” because they were not making “adequate yearly progress” as defined by NCLB. Meanwhile, taxpayers were spending three times as much on annual testing—topping out at almost $2 billion per year.

In spite of these flaws in implementation, NCLB deserves credit for helping increase the focus of education policy on measurement and accountability. Fortunately, parents, teachers and public officials were quick to articulate the many problems with NCLB and recommend ways to revise and improve the benchmarks.

ESSA requires that states continue to evaluate student outcomes, but it recalibrates the definitions of success. Whereas NCLB insufficiently addressed the existence of multiple points of assessment and evaluation, ESSA allows freedom to choose from a wide range of metrics to measure success, such as graduation rates, student and teacher engagement, and school safety. One significant positive result of this recalibration is that standardized test scores are no longer the be-all determinants of achievement. Under NCLB, curricula were often revamped to focus exclusively on narrow, test-related subject matter at the expense of holistic learning. Without such stringent, singular pressures, ESSA allows a rural school in Arkansas to excel in different areas than an urban school in San Francisco, and both can be considered successful.

In addition, ESSA provides states with significantly more independence surrounding what is measured and who is responsible. Instead of enforcing universal standards with strict funding punishments (as NCLB did), the Department of Education now leaves accountability goals up to the states. Fluid standards and practices that vary by state are intended to empower school systems to innovate and tailor new solutions to specific needs. Plus, as states adopt new approaches and track success over time, schools will be capable of reviewing progress, refining strategies, and augmenting what works best.

Idaho is already capitalizing on the flexibility allowed by ESSA. In March, Idaho legislators signed the Local Innovation Schools Act, which will allow designated “innovation schools” to operate outside some state and district regulations to foster a more innovative learning environment for students. For example, a school in the Nampa School District is planning to focus education around leadership-based projects through which students can impact their communities while gaining meaningful experience. These schools will still be held accountable to testing standards, but the flexibility will allow Idaho educators to assess whether new pedagogical strategies should be scaled throughout the state.

There is perhaps no greater responsibility for teachers, parents, and policymakers than to collaborate in creating an educational environment where children can learn and thrive. Because ESSA maintains the importance of measurement and accountability while expanding schools’ independence, Utah and many other states are increasingly empowering local schools to develop student learning in a manner that best aligns with regional needs. Not only does this approach improve outcomes, but it also engages parents and communities, and boosts local jobs.

As with any new policy, implementation will be critical to ESSA’s success. States will need to carefully select meaningful trackable indicators and achievable goals that focus on learning outcomes. Fortunately, with the tools proffered by our digital golden age, schools are more capable than ever before of both tracking and responding to a sophisticated range of metrics. It is up to parents, teachers, and lawmakers alike to harness these tools and ensure that every student has a chance to succeed in the increasingly-competitive global marketplace.

Read more Read more
Man driving a dog sled pulled by two Huskies

Teton Valley: A year round economic boon

Providing access to Yellowstone Bear World, Rexburg isn’t the only gateway community in Idaho that benefits from travelers on their way to nearby Yellowstone Park. In fact, many Idaho communities are destinations in and of themselves. One such destination is Teton Valley. Located on the western slope of the Teton Mountain range, its scenic views draw people from all over the world. Visitors can fly directly to Idaho Falls, Jackson Hole, or Salt Lake City and drive a relatively short distance to the valley.

Teton Valley hosts events throughout the year, generating economic activity in surrounding areas. Some of the most notable events are its summer concert series and its Great Snowfest, in which visitors can attend snow sculpting demonstrations and Skijoring competitions, among other things. Apart from festivals and events, Teton Valley offers a significant number of attractions for summer hikers and winter outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors to Idaho’s Teton Valley boost economic activity in local communities they pass through. The dollars they spend fund employees’ salaries and facilitate business growth in services and hospitality. As Idaho continues to invest in its tourism industry by facilitating accessible roads, infrastructure and services, the numbers of visitors will rise, and all will benefit.

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This page was last modified on Thu Jun 23 13:00:25 MDT 2016