Monday, July 9, 2018

2017 COLLEGE GRADS (Part 3)

Here is the final post in this 3-part series about the Boise District alums who graduated from college in 2017. In this post, we are interested in what may or may not have changed with respect to our Engineering graduates.

Engineering Grads by Major Area

As we indicated in Part 2, the number of Computer Science/Engineering grads has skyrocketed since we last did this comparison. In fact, as you can see below, CS/E grads make up almost 40% of engineering grads compared with 17% in the last analysis.

It's also interesting to note that 61% of engineering graduates were in two areas, Computer Science/Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Engineering Grads by College/Area

In our analysis of engineering grads the classes of 2010-14, we found that 54% of graduates came from in-state colleges, with the University of Idaho leading the way with 31% of the degree-earners.

In 2017, 49% of the grads came from in-state, but Boise State has surged ahead in terms of the number and percentage of in-state graduates. Interestingly, much of the change came in the area of Computer Science/Engineering, where BSU graduated 7 students and Idaho had only 2 graduates. Also of note is the fact that Utah and Utah State combined graduated 7 engineering students in 2017.

Where are They Working?

It's not difficult to find most of the engineering grads - they have landed in good jobs just a year after graduating from college with a Bachelor's degree. You can see from the chart above, though, that the pattern we found in 2014 still persists. If our kids go to school out of state, they tend to stay in the community in which their college is located. If they attend Boise State or Idaho, most remain in Idaho for work. One encouraging data point is that BSU is attracting more engineering/computer science students, and almost all of them are employed here in Idaho, tipping the balance slightly toward in-state employment.

Monday, June 25, 2018

2017 COLLEGE GRADS (Part 2)

In part 1 of this post, we wrote about the general characteristics of the 574 Boise District graduates who matriculated from college in 2017. In part 2, we will look at the majors of those who earned a BS/BA degree in 2017.

For comparative purposes, we will use the results of an analysis done in 2014 of college grads from the high school classes of 2007-2010, and compare that info with that of 2017 graduates.

Major Areas

Nearly a third of 2017 Boise Schools BS/BA degree earners graduated with a degree in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). Social Science and Business degrees were a distant second and third, respectively.

Note in the chart below that STEM degrees as a percentage of the total have grown since we last measured the distribution back in 2014, from just over 26% to over 32%. Business majors have also increased, but Social Science majors decreased substantially between 2014 and 2017.

Specific Majors

So what has caused the change?  Why have STEM degrees increased so much in popularity? We can see the answer when we look at the top individual majors compared to 2014:

As you can see, Computer Engineering/Science degrees were among the most popular among 2017 college grads, after coming in at 26th among majors for the classes of 2007-2010. The 23 CS grads was within one of the total from the four classes we examined just a few years ago!

Clearly, the efforts of the Idaho Technology Council, and others in increasing Idaho students' exposure to computer science are paying dividends, as more and more students are gravitating toward the area.

But are they finding jobs? That is one topic of part 3 of our examination of 2017 Boise District college grads.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Here's part 1 of a 3-part post about Boise District alumni who matriculated from a college or university in 2017 with a certificate, AA/AS, or a BA/BS degree. In this post, we'll look at general demographic information about the 674 2017 graduates. 


The vast majority of 2017 college grads earned Bachelor's degrees:

A few graduates earned an Associate's degree or a Certificate on the way to a Bachelor's degree. We counted only the Bachelor's degree in those cases.


The largest percentage of degrees and certificates were earned by Boise High graduates, which makes sense in that Boise has had the largest number of graduates for the past few years, and a higher number of students with the financial wherewithal to continue their academic pursuits. Timberline has had the smallest number of high school graduates, but that is likely to change in the near future with the growth in southeast Boise.


As you might expect, the large majority of students (63%) graduated from Idaho colleges and universities. However, 9% of degrees were earned from colleges in the state of Utah, continuing the trend of Boise students' attendance in the Beehive State.

Here's the data for 2017 graduates by college:

Of course, Boise State, Idaho, and CWI had the largest number of graduates. The College of Idaho and Idaho State are next in line with 27 and 26 degrees. BYU-Idaho and the three Utah schools are next in line, and no other colleges had more than 10 graduates. However, four or more Boise students graduated from a number of colleges:

Montana State University - 8, Lewis-Clark State College - 6,Western Washington University- 6, California Polytechnic University - 6, Westminster College (Utah) - 5, Arizona State University - 4, Colorado State University - 4, Northwest Nazarene University - 4, Oregon State University - 4, Seattle University - 4, University of Oregon - 4, Whitman College (WA) - 4.

All told, Boise District alumni graduated from colleges and universities in 35 states and the District of Columbia (Georgetown) in 2017.

Friday, June 8, 2018


There's a lot to catch up on in education, economics, and demographic info from around the web. Here are some of the articles that caught our eye in the past few weeks.

Teacher Uprisings Explained

The Numbers that Explain Why Teachers are in Revolt, by Robert Gebeloff, comes from the NY Times' Upshot Research Blog. In the article uses data to show how funding practices across the country have led to the statewide teacher job actions in a number of states. 

Gebeloff writes: "But while the protests are spreading this year, the underlying conflict between public school employees and policymakers has roots in decisions made during the last recession, when  states and local districts short of cash curtailed education spending for the first time in decades."

Can't They Just Move?

In another Upshot article, Emily Badger explains why many people who struggle financially don't just up and move to another community where rent is more affordable. Here's a selection from her article, "Why Don’t People Who Can’t Afford Housing Just Move Where It’s Cheaper?" :

"People who struggle financially often have valuable social networks — family to help with child care, acquaintances who know of jobs. The prospect of dropping into, say, Oklahoma or Georgia would mean doing without the good income and the social support. Those intangible connections that keep people in places with bad economies also keep people in booming regions where the rent is too high."

Still More Bad News About Vouchers

The newest evaluation of a voucher program comes from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Evaluation in the form of an analysis of the Washington, D.C. voucher program (called the Opportunity Scholarship Program). The federally funded program provided scholarships for low-income students to attend a private school.

Though the research team, headed by Mark Dynarski, found that voucher recipients and their parents had a positive perception of school safety after two years in the program, they also found that:

"The OSP had a statistically significant negative impact on mathematics achievement after
two years. Mathematics scores were lower for students two years after they applied to the OSP (by 8.0 percentile points for students offered a scholarship and 10.0 percentile points for students who used their scholarship), compared with students who applied but were not selected for the scholarship. Reading scores were lower (by 3.0 and 3.8 percentile points, respectively) but the differences were not statistically significant..."

Demographic Changes by County

Kim Parker writes in the Pew Research Center blog about demographic changes in the United States, and provides an interactive map  that allows you to search for counties across the country and view comparative data. There's also an excellent article that summarizes the changes. From the article:

A Forgotten but Important Desegregation Case

In the Atlantic, William Stancil writes about Green v. New Kent County, the lawsuit that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and established the basis for many of the most famous busing conflicts of the 1970's. His article, entitled The Radical Supreme Court Decision That America Forgot provides an interesting look at the decision and its ramifications.

Friday, May 18, 2018


Last month, several Boise School District Trustees attended the Boise Chamber of Commerce 2018 Leadership Conference in Sun Valley. A couple of Board members went to a presentation by Boise State University personnel in which they showcased their latest survey (December 2017, 1000 respondents, +-3.1% error margin) results. Here's one of the slides the BSU folks used with respect to preparation:

Wow, not good at all. 29.3% of statewide respondents categorized college preparation efforts as "excellent" or "good". The percentage of "excellent/good" responses for the Boise Metro area was even lower, at 29.0%.

Interestingly, BSU's survey used "fair" as a category, and fully 39% of respondents chose that category for the college prep question. What does "fair" mean to you? Decent? Okay? We aren't sure it's an appropriate category, or that it should be grouped with "poor". But maybe that's just splitting hairs.

However, in the run-up to the 2016 bond measure, we did some polling (300 parents + 300 voters, +- 5.6% margin of error)) in the community with the help of a professional polling group. When they asked a similar question, the results looked very different:

So in this poll the choices are better differentiated. "Very well" was the top choice, "Pretty well" was next. And the two choices associated with "dissatisfaction" were "not too well" and "not at all well".

When the choice of "don't know" is included in the data, 68% of those surveyed chose one of the two "positive" choice. When we factored out the "don't know" responses, the percentage choosing the two "positive" choices rose to 85%.

Admittedly, this poll question asks about "preparing students for a career", so it's a bit less focused than the BSU question on furthering their education". However the difference in response patterns is stark.

However, it's tough to know which of the polls was a more accurate reflection of patron/citizen feeling, since the results differed so dramatically. Perhaps the wisest course, especially considering the accuracy (or lack thereof) of recent state and national polls is to regard polling data with healthy skepticism!


Last week, Idaho Education News did a story entitled "It's a First-Class Finish for  Charter's First Class"about the graduating class at North Idaho Stem Charter Academy, a school in Rathdrum, Idaho.  Seems that, among its first graduating class of 7 students, all have been accepted to and will attend college. One each will attend Whitworth University, Gonzaga University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Idaho State University, the University of California - Berkeley, and two will head to North Idaho College. Very impressive results for these 7 students.

However, a little digging into enrollment patterns revealed that, when this class was in the 7th grade, there were 30 students enrolled. That means that 23 of the charter's Class of 2018 (77%) left the school before graduation. And that pattern appears to be continuing for the Classes of 2019 and 2020.

The folks at Idaho Ed News indicated that NISC is a "difficult school" and thus has a high attrition rate.  But public schools are charged with serving all students, providing a thorough and adequate education for each and every one, and differentiating instruction where it's needed.   There are a number of schools in the state of Idaho, including nearby Lakeland High School in Rathdrum, that do just that. If the school chooses not to serve all students, it's really a private school.

Terry Ryan, Executive Director of BLUUM, the charter advocacy organization, echoed what IEN staff said and also gave this explanation: "some of these students...want more extracurricular activities, especially competitive sports, than these schools are able to offer."

That's a fair explanation that makes sense. Lakeland High School offers music, arts, Career-Technical education coursework, a variety of sports and activities, clubs, Advanced Placement and other accelerated offerings, and a number of electives for students. 

There are many other charter schools in the state that see the same sort of enrollment loss as classes move toward graduation.

A Comprehensive Curriculum

It is true that school districts of some size have more flexibility to offer a variety of classes than do charter schools. So you'd expect some high school students who want more than the "specialty" of the charter (arts, "harbor method", STEM, International Baccalaureate, for example) to move back to the local district for that flexibility.

However, some districts provide a "comprehensive liberal arts curriculum" down into the elementary grades.  For example, Boise District students participate in choir from the earliest days of elementary school, and band and orchestra begin in the 5th grade. If parents choose an alternative such as a charter, their students may miss out on the best music instruction in the northwest. 

Differentiation in math begins in elementary school, as well. Many 5th and 6th graders are enrolled in accelerated math curricula, taught either at the junior high school or in their elementary school. This coursework puts students on the path for Advanced Placement Statistics and Calculus courses, which often satisfy key college entry criteria. In science, as well, acceleration begins in junior high, and can lead to AP Physics C coursework in Electricity and Magnetism, for example.

There are many choices available for parents and children in education these days. Choosing wisely involves investigating the opportunities and the drawbacks that may come with those opportunities.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Since we are immersed in Advanced Placement testing in the Boise District, we thought it might be interesting to do a little research on the demographics of test-takers in the District. Following are some of our findings.

Grade Level Distribution of Test-takers is Changing

A couple of years ago we wrote that more sophomores are taking Advanced Placement exams. That pattern is continuing.

As you can see, many more sophomores are taking exams now than have in the past.  The number of sophomores participating in AP testing has increased by over 250%.

As a share of total exams, here's the distribution by grade level in 2012:

Now note how much it changes by 2017:

The percentage of sophomores taking exams almost doubled in six years. Why? Well, mostly because all four comprehensive high schools have opened up additional sections of the two courses most often taken by 10th graders - AP Human Geography (280 exams in 2017) and AP World History (276) - because the two courses are so popular.

Note too that the percentage of exams taken by 9th graders has also grown - this is primarily due to sections of AP Human Geography being offered at North and Hillside Junior High.

The most popular AP exams are those which are the highest level of a required course. For example, AP English Language and Composition (607 test-takers in 2017) satisfies the junior English requirement, and AP Literature and Composition (366) does the same for the senior English requirement. AP U.S. History (315) satisfies a Social Studies requirement, and AP Government (276) satisfies another. 


More Boise District females (54% of participants) took AP exams overall in 2017 than did males (46%). Females also took 52% of the AP exams given in 2017. This pattern is similar to that of the national AP program.

Among the 16 exams with more than 100 participants, more males participated than females in only 5 exams - Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Physics 1, and Computer Science Principles. The widest participation margins were in Computer Science Principles, for which 70% of the participants were male and Psychology, for which 66% of the participants were female.

65% of exams taken by male students were scored at the level of "3" or above, a "passing" score. 61% of the exams taken by females received a "passing" score.


Over 98% of 2017 exams were taken by students who identified as one of the three ethnic groups in the chart below.  78% of exams were taken by white students (includes middle eastern students), while white students represent 77% of the high school population. 11.6% of exams were taken by Asian/Pacific Islander students (5.5% of the population), and 8.4% were taken by Hispanic/Latino students (10.5% pf the population). Less than 1% of exams were taken by Black students, though they represent about 4% of the population, and a significant number are refugee students.

Boise's passing percentages compared with the nation are interesting. Our Asian/Pacific Islander students' passing percentage is about 5% lower than the national percentage, while the percentage for our white students is about the same as the nation. However, while there's a passing percentage gap for Hispanic/Latino students compared with the Total, their overall passing percentage if 11% higher than in the nation as a whole.