Sunday, December 14, 2014

Where are the Engineering Grads?

Previously, we indicated that 143 Boise Schools alums from the high school classes of 2007-2010 had graduated with degrees in Engineering. Here’s a little deeper dive into information about those students.

The distribution of specific majors among the Engineering grads shows that Mechanical Engineering (47) is the most popular major, followed by Civil (27)  and Computer Science/Engineering (24).

Fifty –six percent (56%) of the 1700 degrees earned by Boise District students were earned at Idaho universities, and the percentage is the same for Engineering degrees, with 45 earned at the University of Idaho, another 30 at Boise State University, and 3 from other in-state universities.

We are working with the Idaho Department of Labor to ascertain where the Engineering graduates are living and working. However, we did some less formal, unscientific research to get an idea of the patterns. We looked  at just the classes of 2007-2009, since the earliest grads of the the high school class of 2010 just matriculated in May 2014. It appears that the large majority of in-state graduates are working in Idaho, and an even larger percentage of the out-of-state graduates are living and working outside of the state of Idaho.

Most of the out-of-state Engineering grads are living and working in large cities in the west, such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and San Francisco, often near the universities and colleges they attended. Many of the in-state Engineering grads are working at established local engineering firms and start-ups.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Colleges and Majors of 4-year College Grads - Boise School District

In the last Data Points post, we provided information about students in the high school classes of 2007-2010 who have graduated from 4-year colleges. Following is more information about those students – the colleges they attended and individual major areas of study.

Of the 1700 Boise District students who have graduated, about 46% graduated from one of two universities, Boise State University (28%) or the University of Idaho (18%). Four other institutions graduated 2% or more of the Boise Schools total: the College of Idaho (3.4%), Idaho State University (2.9%), Brigham Young University (2.1%), and the University of Oregon (2%). Boise students also graduated from 207 other universities and colleges, spread across 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Most Boise District students attend and graduate from public institutions of higher education. The following chart shows the public colleges and universities with the highest number of Boise Schools grads. The University of Oregon has traditionally been a popular school for Boise District students, but the University of Utah has gained considerable ground in the past few years. Western Washington University attracts 5-7 Boise District students a year to its Bellingham, Washington campus.

Boise District students who graduate from private colleges attend a diverse range of schools. Here are the private colleges that graduated the highest number of Boise District students.  About 12% of the College of Idaho’s total enrollment comes from the Boise School District. Westminster College in Salt Lake City and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma have long recruited students from the Boise District.

It’s interesting to consider the specific majors of graduates, especially now that we have such a large number and major area patterns are more reliable. A full 6% of all graduates majored in Biology, with Business and Psychology close behind. Of interest was the fact that Mechanical Engineering was 9th on the list with 47 graduates, a bit higher than we expected. Here are the top 30 individual majors of Boise District college graduates.

In the last post we indicated that STEM majors were more popular among Boise students than majors in any other area. Going further, we were interested in Engineering majors in general. How many were there in total, and what schools did they attend?

What we found was that, altogether, 143 Engineering degrees have been earned thus far by Boise Schools graduates in the classes of 2007-2010. Of those, 45 were earned at the University of Idaho, and 30 at Boise State University, along with two at Idaho State University and one at Northwest Nazarene University. So 56% of those degrees were earned at in state universities.

Of the Engineering degrees earned out of state, 8 were earned at the University of Utah, 5 at the University of Colorado, 5 at Gonzaga University, and 3 each at Montana State University and Purdue University – West Lafayette. Of note, the three degrees from Purdue were in Chemical, Electrical, and Nuclear Engineering.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

STEM Degrees – Highest Percentage Among Boise College Grads – and Climbing

Among the Boise District high school graduating classes of 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, 1,700 students have graduated with 4-year college degrees. A higher percentage of Boise Schools 4-year college completers have graduated with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math than in any of the other areas of focus, such as Business, Health and Exercise, Education, Performing and Creative Arts, and Social Sciences.

Majors by Field of Study

When we combined the degrees of college grads in the four classes, here is what we found:

In a previous post, National Clearinghouse research referred to the classification scheme used by the National Science Foundation for STEM degrees, which included social sciences and psychology in its science and engineering category. We have made social sciences a separate category and included many of those majors therein.

STEM Popularity Growing

A look at  the individual classes from 2007-10 shows that the percentage of STEM majors has grown for each successive class, and indication that those majors are becoming increasingly popular among Boise Schools grads matriculating from 4-year universities.

Most Popular STEM Majors

So, what are the most popular STEM majors among Boise Schools college grads? Well, here are the top 10:

Note that over a hundred graduates have majored in Biology, almost 23% of the 445 total STEM degrees earned. Coming in a distant second is Mechanical Engineering, with 47 degrees, just over 10% of the total. However, the 4 major engineering degree areas, Mechanical, Civil, Computer, and Electrical, accounted for 116 degrees, or 26% of the total number of STEM degrees awarded.

Post Script – Concerns with National Clearinghouse College Entry and Retention Data

An article yesterday by the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss in her Answer Sheet blog pointed up potential flaws found in National Clearinghouse data in college-going patterns among New York high schools. Data analysis done by principals found that NSC direct college entry percentages were often up to 15% lower than what was found by the administrators.

We've decided to do some checking into Boise District college-going patterns. Last year, we found some anomalies in the NSC data for our 2013 Century Scholars, with some top students listed as not attending college when they were enrolled at prestigious universities across the country. Though the differences were not to the degree reported in New York, we plan to have a critical look at the data for Boise 2014 District high school grads in the weeks to come, and report the results in this blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

1 in 10 Ninth Graders Graduates College? What do the Data Show?

In the past two weeks, we've heard two presentations, one from an Albertson Foundation official and another from a presenter from Idaho Business for Education, in which the officials proclaimed that that 1 in 10 Idaho 9th graders graduates from college with a certificate, an Associate's Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Perhaps there are some school districts in Idaho in which that statement is accurate, but it's certainly not true for students in the Boise District.

We have tracked the college graduation patterns for students in the Boise District since the class of 2007, and have compiled an impressive database which includes types of degrees, college and university choices, and majors of college graduates.We also know how long it typically takes for our students to graduate from college, by institution.

For example, 1874 students graduated from high school in the Boise District class of 2008. Of that group, 592 have since graduated from college. That's a percentage of 31.6. We also know that, according to the National Student Clearinghouse data, 518 graduated from 4-year colleges, 43 received Associate Degrees, and 31 have obtained certificates. We suspect that many additional students in each class have attained a degree or certificate, or are still pursuing a degree, for several reasons:
  • some colleges do not participate in the National Student Clearinghouse (notably the service academies and some prestigious colleges);
  • several of the certificate-granting for-profit colleges are not members of the Clearinghouse;
  • numbers for students who have entered military service, where they receive training in career pursuits, are not available;
  • some students who serve their church with missionary duty and enroll afterward have not yet graduated from college.
Here are the data for the class of 2008, which is 6 years out of high school to this point:

Considering that the Boise District's high school graduation rate was 91% for the class of 2008, the college grad rate from 9th grade for this class is just under 30%.

The class of 2007 is 7 years out of high school, yet 35 additional students have graduated in the past year, bringing the college graduation rate for the class of 2007 to just over 34%:

Here are the data from the Boise School District classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009. Note that each of the three classes has a grad rate at least 2.5 times higher than the rate claimed in the Field Guide to Education in Idaho.

Among the three classes noted in the chart, almost 1,500 Boise District grads have completed some form of post-secondary training. In a future post, we'll update the areas in which training has been completed.

The Boise District continues to work toward improving college graduation rates; the District's Strategic Plan is devoted to improving those rates and finding ways to help students enter and complete post-secondary pursuits, However, grad rates for Boise's students are far higher than the 10% rate represented in the Idaho Field Guide. 

So, if Boise's college grad rates are so much higher than claimed in the Field Guide, where are the districts that are at 10% or below?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time to Hit the Reset Button on Tiered Licensure

Many Boise School District staff members and administrators attended the Tiered Licensure hearing at Mountain View High School in Meridian on October 21, joining hundreds of others from around the Treasure Valley. The hearing ran for three hours, and speakers provided eloquent, well-stated arguments opposing the State Board of Education’s proposed rule. Those statements, when considered alongside testimony provided in Pocatello and Lewiston, and the volumes of written commentary submitted to the Board, should convince members to scrap the proposed rule and start over.

The President of the State Board of Education asserted recently in the Idaho Education News that many of the comments “do not accurately reflect the actual provisions of the tiered certification and career ladder proposals”. However, the statements we heard reflected general concern that the effect of implementation of the current licensure proposal will be to:

  • further diminish the capacity of Idaho school districts to recruit and retain quality teachers;
  • unwisely use teacher evaluation ratings to strip teachers of their licenses;
  • use discredited methodologies surrounding standardized test growth as part of teacher evaluation;
  • greatly diminish the value of professional development as a necessary part of a teacher’s career
  • drive a wedge between principals and teachers and significantly reduce teamwork on behalf of kids.

Though a few who testified may not have understood that only new teachers to the profession beginning in 2015-16 can lose their licenses, or that the proposal relates to the funding model at the state level and not to individual teacher salaries, the points made in testimony remain valid.

In 2011, the legislature passed the Students Come First laws in the face of overwhelming testimony against the laws. If anything, the tenor of the comments at the hearings was even more unified – teachers, administrators, and parents all made similar pointed, accurate remarks. American Falls Superintendent Ron Bollinger said in the Idaho State Journal, "We've managed to destroy the culture and dignity of being a teacher."

Several alternate ideas have emerged over the last few weeks, including a proposal  that the Boise District developed in anticipation of the hearing. We encourage the State Board to consider the elements of each of the proposals, and to include teachers and administrators in the development of a plan that fulfills these goals:

  • identify the best pre-service teachers in Idaho’s colleges;
  • provide a mechanism for novice teachers to progress toward the next stage in their careers;
  • encourage teachers to remain in the classroom and become involved in leadership activities rather than pursue other career paths.

The State Board’s proposed rule represents an attempt to impose additional accountability into the principal-teacher evaluation relationship, when such accountability is best kept at the school and district level, so that teamwork is emphasized. We encourage the State Board of Education to rethink the proposed Teacher Licensure rule.

Additional Note: The effort to institute systems in which standardized test scores factor in teacher evaluations is expanding to different parts of the country. Peter Greene, a Pennsylvania English teacher, who writes the blog Curmudgucation, recently opined about the effort to do so in Massachusetts. A ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution in Missouri to “require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system was featured recently in Diane Ravitch’sblog. Tennessee’s education commissioner pitched an effort that ultimately failed in the legislature.  All this despite PDK/Gallup Poll ratings indicating that most parents oppose tying teacher evaluation to standardized test scores, and research indicating that standardized test results have little relationship to quality teaching.

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 Idaho School District Advanced Placement Results

In 2014, 9,556 Advanced Placement exams were taken by 5443 Idaho students (about 13% of Idaho's juniors and seniors). Idaho's exam numbers had been increasing for the past few years, but in 2014 decreased slightly.

The percentage of exams scored "3" or above, an indicator of eligibility for college credit or waiver, stood at 66% in 2014, down slightly from the 69% "pass rate" of 2009. The national "pass rate" on these rigorous exams in 2014 was 59%.

Advanced Placement is the "gold standard" of post-secondary dual credit programs because of the rigorous nature of its exams, offered in 34 subject areas, and because AP scores are accepted for credit by the vast majority of colleges around the country. The most popular exams in Idaho in 2014 were English Language and Composition (1867), English Literature and Composition (1148), U.S. History (1120), and Calculus AB (912).

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Idaho students taking AP exams were from the Boise District, which has 9% of statewide enrollment::

Sixty-one Idaho school districts, over half the statewide total, gave no Advanced Placement exams in 2014. Only 15 districts gave over 100 exams. Boise gave 3234 exams, about 35% of the statewide total.

Since most Idaho districts are relatively small, a good way to look at commitment to rigor in Idaho districts is to compare the number of students participating in at least one AP test with the total number of juniors and seniors in the district. To account for extremely small numbers , we used just districts which gave 50 or more exams in 2014.

Blaine County, Boise, McCall, and Vallivue each had over 30% of juniors and seniors take at least one Advanced Placement exam. Vallivue is particularly notable in that they have made a substantial commitment to rigor in the past decade, implementing new AP courses, expanding opportunities, and initiating the AVID program.

Finally, many districts nationwide have expanded opportunities for students to take Advanced Placement coursework and exams. As indicated, passing percentages have declined slightly in Idaho, as more students have experienced the rigor of coursework and exams 

The Madison School District (Rexburg) had an amazing 96% pass rate on 111 AP exams in 2014. However, only 11% of Madison juniors and seniors took an AP exam, compared with Blaine County, where 47% of juniors and seniors took at least one AP exam.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Clearinghouse Findings on Factors in College Entry, Science & Engineering Majors

The National Student Clearinghouse provides a variety of services to schools districts and universities around the country, including a tracking service used to calculate reliable college-entry and retention rates. The Boise District has used Clearinghouse services since 2005.

The Clearinghouse has a research group that is increasingly producing interesting reports about patterns of college attendance and graduation patterns nationwide. An article today in the Huffington Post by Jennifer Klein told of an NSC research report indicating that poverty is the strongest factor influencing college attendance, regardless of minority or rural/urban status of the school. Here is the NSC research report, in which the college enrollment patterns of over 3.5 million students were studied.

Though few would be surprised by the findings in the NSC report, it points up the importance of scholarship and grant opportunities for students with potential such as Capital alum Kristie Hoang, last year's Bev and George Harad AVID scholarship winner, who's attending the University of Southern California this fall.

NSC researchers have also done analyses of Science and Engineering degree patterns among students nationwide in their database. One article examines patterns of Science and Engineering degrees by gender, and finds that degree completions are increasing rapidly for both women and men, and that the percentages by gender of S & E degree completion are equivalent.

However, the study includes social science and psychology degrees in the Science and Engineering category. When the data are broken down, 81% of Engineering degrees are attained by males, a statistic that has not changed since 2009. The percentages in other areas: Math and Computer Science, 74% male, and Physical Sciences and Earth and Ocean Sciences, 62% males.

On the other hand, 58% of Biological and Ag Science degrees and 62% of Social Science and Psychology degrees were attained by females.

Friday, October 3, 2014

BSU Retention, 6-Year Grad Rates Soar

It’s a big ship to turn, but Boise State personnel are making significant progress in retention and graduation rate among their undergraduate students. BSU’s retention rate from freshman to sophomore year has improved by 13 percent in the past decade, from 62% for the class of 2003 to 75% for the class of 2013. The First-time Full-time 6-year graduation rate, as reported to the National Council for Education Statistics and featured on the College Navigator site, increased by 9% from the class of 2006 to the class of 2008, and is up 15% over the last 9 graduating classes.

In fact, the graduation rate improvement is among the best in the nation among 4-year schools. If you think about a 9% gain in terms of an entering class of 5000 at BSU, that’s 450 more 6-year graduates in 2014 than in 2012. Exciting news for Treasure Valley students and parents.

When comparing to peer institutions in the west, BSU’s grad rate growth outpaced Portland State University (+4%), and Fresno State University (0%), and was higher than every peer institution to which BSU compares itself.

Other Idaho universities made growth as well, as you can see in the chart below:

Boise State Vice President Dr. Sharon McGuire illuminated some of the process improvements made at BSU which have likely affected retention and graduation rates, many of which came from the recommendations of a Student Success Task Force in 2005. Here are a few of the actions taken:
  • Hiring a person to oversee the undergraduate experience at BSU
  • Increasing course capacity to support progress toward degrees
  • Developing waitlists for students wanting to take courses that were full
  • Requiring advising sessions for all first year students
  • Promoting a “Finish in Four” program to encourage students to complete their degrees in four years. 
  • Adding additional advisor positions to support general and college-based advising
  • Expanding the new student summer orientation to a two-day overnight experience to build community and focus on academics
  • Increasing opportunities for first-year seminars, leaning communities, and residential colleges
  • Developing early warning systems in a number of first-year courses to identify and support students who are struggling
  • Restructuring early math courses to increase student time with instructors, increase instructor preparation and training, and better assess current student knowledge.
  • Prompting students to review their Academic Advisement Report at 30, 60, and 90 credits to keep students on-track for graduation. 
  • Enhanced academic support in traditionally difficult courses by offering peer facilitated session 
  • Contacting students who are eligible to enroll but have not to inquire about barriers which might be impacting their registration.
  • Offering faculty development activities through the Center for Teaching and Learning and college-based initiatives to help foster student learning and persistence.
Clearly, the folks at BSU would say that more improvement is needed. But what they’ve put in place is working, and benefitting students. Congrats, Boise State!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Poverty and Kindergarten Preparedness

In the previous post (Idaho Kindergartners - Preparation for Reading) we discussed the state of reading preparation among kindergartners around the state of Idaho.

Since the free-reduced lunch data are available for schools around the state on the ISDE website, and research indicates that the two variables are related, we decided to run a scattergram portraying the relationship between preparedness and free/reduced lunch percentages.

For the chart, we used 2013 free-reduced lunch percentages for schools with over 25 entering kindergartners, and Fall 2013 IRI percentages of reading-ready students for those schools. A few of the schools in the comparison are kindergarten-only schools, for which lunches are not provided, so we used the District percentage of free/reduced instead.

Here is the scattergram:

By way of explanation, Van Buren and Sacajawea in Caldwell have free/reduced percentages of 91 and 90, respectively, and 23% of kindergartners at those schools achieved a "3" on the Fall 2013 IRI. Conversely, Hidden Springs (Boise) had 6% free/reduced and 82% scores of "3" on the IRI, and Galileo in Meridian had 11% free-reduced and 87% prepared to read.

As you can see, the correlation between preparation and free/reduced percentage the two variables is quite high (-.755) and negative ((-1) would be a perfect negative correlation).

If a pilot of pre-k is initiated in Idaho, it might make sense to carefully select high poverty/low-preparedness participating schools, so as to maximize the possible return on investment. If Basin District's experience is any indicator, the pilot will yield tremendous gains in reading literacy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Idaho Kindergartners - Preparation for Reading

In the 2014 legislative session, Representatives Hy Kloc (D-Boise) and Doug Hancey (R-Rexburg) brought a bill that would have initiated a pilot of pre-kindergarten in the state of Idaho. Though the bill did not pass, it has stimulated much conversation about the benefits of Pre-k.

Several years ago, the Treasure Valley Educational Partnership set goals in five areas and identified baseline metrics for those goals. Goal 1 is “Prepared for School”, and the baseline measure is student performance on the Fall Kindergarten measure of the Idaho Reading Indicator, a reading screener used with K-3 students in Idaho. The data used herein come from the Fall, 2013 Kindergarten IRI. Thanks to TVEP Data Director Sarah Weppner for the idea for this post.


The Fall Kindergarten measure for 2013 contains the most recent Idaho data on reading preparedness. Here’s how the statewide data looked for Idaho in 2013:


A substantially higher percentage of Kindergartners entering charters around the state were prepared for reading than were in elementary schools around the state. Of the 33 charters in which students took the Fall K IRI, only five had percentages below the state average: Taylor’s Crossing (Idaho Falls), Heritage Academy (Jerome), Chief Tahgee (Fort Hall), American Heritage (Cottonwood), and Another Choice(virtual).

The five charters which had the highest percentage of entering students prepared for reading were:

Victory (Nampa) – 96%
Moscow – 95%
Falcon Ridge (Kuna) – 88%
Anser (Boise) – 88%
IDEA (online) – 85%
North Star (Eagle) – 85%
Sage (Boise) – 80%


Only two districts, Moscow (69%) and Meridian (70%) had higher percentages of prepared kindergartners than the statewide charter percentage. The districts with 50 kindergartners or more that had the highest percentage of prepared entering kindergartners were:

What’s interesting is the gap between the districts with the highest percentages of students prepared for reading and those with the lowest. While Meridian’s percent prepared is at 70%, five districts had 30% or fewer of their entering kindergartners prepared to read:


Fifty-three percent of statewide elementary schools were above the state average in terms of readiness for reading on the Fall K IRI. Among schools with over 20 kindergartners, the highest percentages were:

Northside, Lake Pend O’Reille – 91%
Donnell, Meridian – 88%
Highlands, Boise – 87%
Riverside, Boise – 86%
Siena, Meridian – 83%
Sunnyside, Idaho Falls – 82%
Hidden Springs, Boise – 82%
Seven Oaks, Meridian – 82%
Summerwind, Meridian – 82%
Longfellow, Boise – 81%

Of interest is the elementary school in the Basin School District (Idaho City), which has run a preschool for a number of years. Though Idaho City Elementary had only 14 kindergartners in 2013, 11 of those students (79%) were ready for reading according to the Fall IRI results.

According to Basin Superintendent John MacFarlane, the percentage of prepared kindergartners in Idaho City jumped from the 30% range to its current status with the introduction of the pre-K program, and has remained high since.

Using the same metric (more than 20 kindergartners), the schools with the lowest percentages of “ready to read” kindergartners were:

Brown, Lakeland – 17%
Silver Hills, Wallace – 19%
Bush, Idaho Falls – 19%
Aberdeen – 20%
Erickson, Idaho Falls – 22%
Van Buren, Caldwell – 25%
Hawthorne, Idaho Falls – 23%
Sacajawea, Caldwell – 23%
Hillcrest, American Falls – 25%
Valley, 25%
Roberts, Jefferson County – 25%
Washington, Caldwell – 25%

You may find a pdf copy of the data used for this post here. The spreadsheet is available upon request or can be downloaded from the ISDE website.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Idaho's SAT Math Scores Improve in 2014

The results of the 2014 SAT Schoolday administration were released last week. This was the third annual administration of the SAT to juniors statewide. The State Department of Education coordinates the administration, and juniors are offered the opportunity to take the exam at no cost.

Juniors must take a college entrance exam prior to the end of the 11th grade year in order to graduate from high school. If they have taken the SAT, ACT, or the Compass exam prior to the Schoolday administration, or plan to take one of the three exams prior to the end of junior year, students are not required to sit for the Schoolday exam.


For the purposes of this post, we considered only high school where 75 or more juniors sat for the SAT Schoolday exam, and only those schools in which 80% of juniors took the Schoolday exam. For the purpose of evaluating growth from the 2013 exam, we used only schools that tested 80% of juniors in both years. High schools in which less than 80% of students took the 2014 SAT were Blackfoot, Bonners Ferry, Burley, Canyon Ridge (Twin Falls), Jerome, Post Falls, South Fremont, and Wood River (Blaine County).

Following is a scattergram in which the percentage of students scoring above 500 (the College Board standard for college readiness) is the y-axis variable, and the percentage of free/reduced students is the x-axis variable.

The top scoring “large” high schools in 2014 were (% and average score):


Almost 800 more students scored 500 or better in math on the 2014 Schoolday exam than did in 2013, a 4% gain. Though these are two different groups of juniors, there were almost 17,000 students in each tested group. The average scale score increased from 453 to 461.

We took a look at the high schools that made the most growth from 2013 to 2014. We eliminated the school that tested less than 80% of students in 2013 and/or in 2014. In addition to the schools listed as eliminated above, Kuna (76%), Payette (72%), and Weiser (73%) were eliminated from the comparison.

Here are the schools that made the most growth from 2013 to 2014:


Limited English students, especially refugee/immigrant students who had been in the United States for a relatively short time, struggled with the ISAT, a multiple choice test that assessed relatively low level skills in a multiple choice format. As you can imagine, these students have an even more difficult time on the SAT, and will have similar issues with the Smarter Balanced Assessment next spring.

For example, here are the scoring patterns for a native – speaking student scoring 660 on the SAT math test, and a Limited English student.

                                 Q’s correct                         Q’s missed                Q’s skipped              Scale Score

Native Speaker              46                                             4                                 4                             660

LEP immigrant student    9                                            17                                28                          310

Research on language learning among LEP students shows that “a period of 5-7 years was required, on average, for immigrant students to approach grade norms in academic aspects of English.” (Cummins). Further, a 1995 article by Virginia Collier indicates that “In our studies we have found that in U.S. schools where all instruction is given through the second language(English) nonnative speakers of English withno schooling in their first language takes seven to ten years or more to reach age and grade-level norms of their native-speaking peers.”

On the old ISAT, LEP students were exempted from the language and reading subtests for one year. For the SAT, students can take another exam (ACT or Compass), or have their scores exempted from a school’s totals during their first three years in a United States school.

So how do LEP students’ scores compare? On average, Boise District LEP students who took the SAT scored a composite of 904, compared with the district average of 1426 (excluding LEP students). In math, LEP students scored an average of 330, compared with the district average of 486 (excluding LEP students).

As noted in a previous post, Borah High School has the largest number of LEP students in the state, primarily because the district’s Bridge program for immigrant newcomers is housed at Borah. Fifty-four (54) LEP students took the SAT at Borah. Those students’ average math score was 338. Five (5) (9%) scored above 500 in math, 0 in reading, 0 in writing.

So, what happens when the LEP student scores are taken out of Borah’s percentage of students scoring 500 or above?

Borah High School – Percent 500 or above

                                          With LEP               Without LEP

Reading                                 34%                           39%

Math                                      36%                           41%

Writing                                  21%                           23%

Other districts have high percentages of Limited English Proficient students, though probably not to the level of Borah with its Bridge program. We don’t know the extent of the effect on SAT performance, since the number of LEP tested students is not released by the state.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Student Enrollment in Idaho Schools, Part 1

Which Idaho school district with over 100 students has seen the largest percentage increase in enrollment since the dawn of the 21st century?

Meridian (or, by their new name, West Ada)? – Well, Meridian is first in numerical growth (over 11,000), but fifth in percentage growth. The state’s largest district has grown by 45% since 2001.

Nampa? – Nampa is now the state’s third largest district, with over 15,000 students, but is 8th in rate of growth, at 28%.

The fastest growing district in Idaho is the Vallivue District outside of Caldwell. Vallivue had 3888 students in 2001, and now has enrollment of 7565, according to State Department of Education enrollment statistics. That’s a rate of growth since 2001 of 95%.

Fastest Growing Districts

School districts of over 100 students that have grown by 20% (with enrollment growth) since ’01 are:
  1. Vallivue (3677) – 95%
  2. Kuna (1961) – 62%
  3. Middleton (1348) – 59%
  4. Bonneville (3581) – 47%
  5. Meridian (11237) – 45%
  6. Madison (1176) – 29%
  7. Jefferson County (1141) – 29%
  8. Nampa (3272) – 28%
  9. Teton (335) – 25%
  10. Twin Falls (1696) – 25%
  11. Kimberly (320) – 24%
  12. Post Falls (1070) – 23%
  13. Sugar-Salem (277) – 23%
  14. Dietrich (41) – 21%
Note that much of the student population growth is in three areas of the state: the Treasure Valley (Meridian, Nampa, Kuna, Middleton, Caldwell), the Idaho Falls area (Madison, Jefferson County, Sugar-Salem, Bonneville, Teton), and the Magic Valley (Twin Falls, Kimberly, Dietrich).

Fastest Shrinking Districts

On the flip side, as of the 2013 – 14 school year, 29 school districts of over 100 students have lost more than 20% of their 2001 enrollment. The ten that have lost the highest percentage of enrollment are:
  1. Culdesac – 58% (213 to 92)
  2. Kootenai - 39.6% (288 to 174) 
  3. South Lemhi – 38.8% (129 to 79)
  4. Bruneau-Grandview – 37.6% (526 to 328) 
  5. Nez Perce 37.2% (207 to 130) 
  6. Mullan 36.7% (158 to 100) 
  7. Council 34.8% (333 to 217) 
  8. Cambridge 34.2% (193 to 127) 
  9. Mackay 31.8% (258 to 176) 
  10. Salmon 31.2% (1143 to 786) 
Note that these are all small (with the exception of Salmon), relatively isolated school districts, where the loss of such large percentages of student enrollment certainly has a detrimental effect upon operations.

The median Idaho district size in 2000-01 was 942. In 2013-14 the median size was 798. Eight of the 29 districts which lost more than 20% of their enrollment were larger than the statewide median in 2001:
  1. Emmett (-20%) (2981 to 2382)
  2. Payette (-20%) (1932 to 1582)
  3. Priest River (-21.7%) (1515 to 1187)
  4. Bear Lake (-28.5%) (1501 to 1073)
  5. Orofino (-27.8%) (1419 to 1025)
  6. Oneida County (-26%) (1153 to 853)
  7. Salmon (-31.2%) (1143 to 786)
  8. Soda Springs (-20.3%) (1060 to 845)
Of the 29 districts that lost more than 20% of their enrollment, 18 have opted for a 4-day school week, while 11 have remained with the traditional 5-day student week.

Trends Among Idaho's Largest Districts
To give you an idea of changing enrollment patterns among “large” Idaho districts, here are the ten with the largest student populations, in 2001 and 2013:

  1. Boise – 26442
  2. Meridian – 25223
  3. Pocatello – 12210
  4. Nampa – 11772
  5. Idaho Falls – 10648
  6. Coeur d’Alene – 9083
  7. Bonneville – 7568
  8. Twin Falls – 6869
  9. Caldwell – 5665
  10. Cassia County - 5119
  1. Meridian – 36510 (+44.7%)
  2. Boise – 25978 (-1.8%)
  3. Nampa – 15044 (+27.8%)
  4. Pocatello – 12565 (+2.9%)
  5. Bonneville – 11149 (+47.3%)
  6. Coeur d’Alene – 10284 (+13.2%)
  7. Idaho Falls – 10263 (-3.6%)
  8. Twin Falls – 8565 (+24.7%)
  9. Vallivue – 7565 (+94.6%)
  10. Caldwell – 6277 (+10.8%)

Note: The Boise District had lost about 6% of its enrollment
(about 1500 students) between 2001 and 2007 during the “move to the suburbs”; since then, the district has grown by about 1000 students.

Idaho’s student population grew by 18% between 2001 and 2013, from just over 246,000 students to just over 289,000. Idaho’s districts grew by just 10% during that period, from 245,000 to 270,000. Why the difference? In the next post, data about the growth of charter schools in the state of Idaho.

SAT Math - Rigor and Scores of 700 and Above

In the 2013 administration of the SAT, a score of 700 or above in math ranked in the 93rd percentile nationwide. In Idaho, 247 students, or about 1.5% of the 16921 juniors who took the math subtest, scored a 700 or better on the School Day administration of the SAT. Scoring a 700 is rare, to say the least – most students scoring at this level have their choice of elite schools (of course, they also have high gpa’s, are involved in campus leadership activities, etc).

As has been pointed out in previous posts, a large percentage of Idaho’s student enrollment is concentrated in a few large districts. Over 50% of Idaho’s students go to school in the ten largest districts, and over a quarter of Idaho students attend in the three largest districts, Meridian, Boise, and Nampa.

The vast majority of SAT math scores of 700 and above were also in large districts, but the distribution pattern was very different.

Note that Boise had over a third of the state’s SAT math scores of 700 or better with 9% of the students. Meridian had 15% of the scores with 13% of the students, Coeur d’Alene 10% with 4%, Idaho Falls 6% with 4%, and so on.

In Coeur d’Alene, the two comprehensive high schools (Lake City and Coeur d’Alene) had 9 of the 25 students who scored 700 or better. Sixteen (16) of the students were from Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy. Interestingly, the class of 2014 at CDA Charter had 105 students in the 7th grade, but when the class took the SAT in 11th grade, only 76 remained, a 30% loss among the student population. CDA Charter students are clearly a special group which achieves at a high level.

Sixteen (16) of the 71 students (23%) at CDA Charter who took the SAT during the School Day administration scored 700 or above in math, by far the highest percentage in the state. The total group of 71 students’ average score was 628. Timberline High had 15 of 352 students (4%) score 700 or better in math, with an average of 503.

However, since CDA Charter has a select population, and Timberline High is a comprehensive high school, a better comparison would be a specialized group in the Boise District. For example, the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center uses teacher recommendations, test scores, and an application process to select students who want an accelerated math and science program, and provides a rigorous curriculum, as does CDA Charter. TVMSC is a half-day program offered at a center on the campus of Riverglen Junior High in Boise.

Thirty-three (33) class of 2014 students who were enrolled at TVMSC as 10th, 11th, and or 12th graders took the SAT as 11th graders. Twenty-one (21) of those students (64%) score 700 or better on the SAT math subtest. The total group of 33 students averaged 698 on SAT math.

Students who scored 700 or better were obviously very skilled in math and in problem-solving. However, this level of performance also requires a certain level of content knowledge in mathematics. Of the 88 Boise District students who scored 700 or above in 2013, 87 took Advanced Placement Calculus AB and/or BC as part of their high school math programs. This means that these students were enrolled in AP Calculus AB or Accelerated Math Analysis (or in a few cases AP Calculus BC) as juniors. The lone student who did not take Calculus took AP Statistics as a senior, and was enrolled in Accelerated Math Analysis as a junior.

Of course, a number of students who took Calculus did not score 700 or above in math on the SAT. So enrollment in these courses does not guarantee the highest scores. However, taking advanced math does appear to be a prerequisite for scoring at the highest levels in SAT math.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Goodbye, Old ISAT... what were the results?

In spring 2014-15, the state of Idaho will officially move from the NCLB-era Idaho Standards Achievement Tests (called herein the “old ISAT”), to the Smarter Balanced Assessments (also to be dubbed the “ISAT”).

Beginning in spring 2007, a new vendor, Data Recognition Corporation, was selected to administer the old ISAT, and a new test was delivered to Idaho students. That first year, 79.9% of Idaho students in grades 3-8 and 10 received a mark of “proficient” or “advanced” on the test. In math, the percentage was 75.8%. In 2012-13, in the final statewide administration of the old ISAT, the percentages were 89.1% in Reading and 80.9% in Math. So, then, the improvement in proficient/advanced percentages over the six years of old ISAT administration was 9.2% in Reading and 5.1% Math.

However, this comparison of proficiency rates conceals something much more important that was happening in Idaho’s public schools. If we examine just the percentages of advanced students in each year, we can see that important shift.

In old ISAT Reading, only a third of Idaho's 3-8 and 10 students scored in the “Advanced” category in 2007. By 2012, half of Idaho’s kids had reached that performance level. And, though the ISAT “advanced” level is not quite so high as that of the SAT, it’s clear that many more Idaho students reached a higher level of rigor in the time of the ISAT. In fact, almost 30,000 more Idaho students were “advanced” in 2012 than were in 2007.

In Math, though the growth was somewhat less than that made in Reading, it was still impressive. Again, only a third of Idaho students were advanced in 2007. By 2012, 45% were in that category. That’s an improvement of more than 17,000advanced students from 2007 to 2012.

The measurement criteria used under the NCLB law, which labeled schools “failing” if they did not meet “Adequate Yearly Progress” with as few as 34 students among their total populations, obscured the tremendous gains made by Idaho schools and districts during the administration of the old ISAT. Those gains were truly impressive.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Century Scholars - From Here They Can (and DO) Go Everywhere

For the past nine years, the Boise District has honored top students at Boise high schools with the Century Scholars award. These students, who have the highest weighted grade point averages (gpa) at their respective high schools, receive a medal and a certificate and are asked to choose teachers who have had a significant impact on their lives. These “distinguished educators” are honored along with the students. The ceremony typically takes place in April of each year and is sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Boise.

It’s interesting to look at the characteristics of these top students in the Boise District. What follows is an analysis of the 2012-13 class of Century Scholars. This post focuses on the students from the four traditional Boise high schools.

Grades and Advanced Coursework

The eighty-four (84) students (representing the top 5% of the class of 2013) sported an average weighted gpa of 4.27. The Boise District gives credit for Advanced Placement coursework on a 5-point scale, while credit for all other classes is on a 4-point scale. The Scholars took an average of 10 Advanced Placement courses. Two students took 18 AP classes, 1 took 17, and 3 took 16. 40 of the students took Calculus AB and BC, and another 32 took Calculus AB as their capstone math course.

College Entrance Examinations and Activities

The average ACT composite score from this group was 31 (the ACT is scored on a 36 point scale) which was at the 97th percentile on the ACT scoring scale. There were three perfect ACT scores from this group, and 22 Scholars scored 33 or higher, at the 99th percentile nationwide.

On the SAT Critical Reading subtest, the average score was 645, or about the 90thpercentile nationwide. There were 5 perfect Critical Reading scores from the Scholars. In math, the average of 687 is at about the 92nd percentile, and there were 6 perfect math scores. The writing average was at 639, at the 89thpercentile. The average composite score for Century Scholars was 1971, or about the 92nd percentile. The maximum composite score on the SAT is 2400. Twelve scholars scored above 2220, at the 99th percentile.

Century Scholars participated in all sorts of school activities and classes outside of Advanced Placement – from leadership to varsity athletics, chamber and jazz orchestra to ceramics, from debate to journalism, taking full advantage of the offerings of an elite public school system.

College Destinations

In terms of post-secondary choices, Class of 2013 Century Scholars enrolled in college in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Some stayed close to home – 17 (20%) stayed in Idaho; 7 at BSU, 3 each at the University of Idaho, the College of Idaho, and Idaho State University, and one at BYU-Idaho .

The majority of Scholars chose the northwest and the western United States for their pursuits – 5 attended in Oregon, 5 in Washington, 5 in Montana, 2 in Colorado, 11 in California, 6 in Utah, and 4 in Arizona. Others traveled across the country – 2 to the District of Columbia, 4 to Massachusetts, 2 to Maine, 4 to New York, and 2 to Pennsylvania, while two left the mainland for Hawaii.

A number of students are attending the most elite schools in the country. Georgetown, the University of Chicago, Brown, Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Duke, Columbia, Penn, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Santa Clara, and Stanford are among the destinations of 2013 Century Scholars.

Other Scholars are enrolled at some of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the U.S. – Grinnell (IA), Bowdoin and Colby (ME), Carleton (MN), Oberlin (OH), Lewis and Clark, Reed and Pacific (OR), and Whitman (WA) are included.

In 2013, two Scholars received appointments at military academies, one to The United States Military Academy at West Point, and the other at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Wherever our Century Scholars choose to enroll, they bring an excellent academic record and a well-rounded background to their college and university experiences. They are truly an impressive group.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What the Star Rating System Tells Us, Part 2

The Star Rating System provides a limited portrayal of the quality of a school, mostly because it relies only on growth and achievement in standardized test scores (elementary and junior high), or on those measures and college-ready courses and test scores (high schools). However, given its limitations, the system does provide comparative achievement and growth information about schools across the state.

As indicated in part 1 of this post, elementary and junior high Star Ratings will likely see some revision of growth/achievement weighting by the Star Rating Committee, but will retain the same basic structure.

However, the high school ratings are problematic, in that they tell us little about the achievement outcomes of schools across the state, and instead rely too heavily on growth. Chester Finn, Jr. made an argument for using achievement as the primary measure in rating high schools.

So, if we could adjust the weighting for high schools, could we more accurately reflect outcomes and preparation for post-secondary? Yes, if we used a formula something like this:
  • Achievement – 45%
  • Growth – 20%
  • Graduation Rate – 10%
  • Advanced Opportunities – 25%
In this proposal, fully 70% of the points in the rating system would be earned through college-readiness achievement and course-taking patterns. The effect? High schools with the most students taking Dual Credit or Advanced Placement coursework and showing evidence of college readiness on the SAT or the SBAC would have the highest ratings. For example, using growth points, high school graduation, and advanced opportunities from the old system and reweighting them with 2013 SAT performance, the highest ranked schools would be:

Note that every high school received the maximum possible points for high school graduation and for advanced opportunities. Idaho's high school graduation rate is among the best in the nation, so that makes some sense. But the bar for advanced opportunities is set at a very low level. In fact, only 25% of juniors in the high school had to take an advanced opportunity course (AP, Dual Credit, Tech-Prep, International Baccalaureate), as long as 90% of the students enrolled received a grade of "C" or better, for the high school to receive the maximum number of points.

Comparing to the chart we used in Part 1, we see that the proposed weighting system better reflects achievement outcomes in Idaho high schools.

So what happens to high schools that rated 5 stars on the 2013 Star System, but had lower preparation indicators on the SAT?

Even though the Star system is an imperfect measure of school quality, this proposal provides for consumers a better indicator of college and career readiness among Idaho high schools.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teacher Evaluations and Standardized Test Scores

The Idaho Department of Education recently released its newest application for a waiver from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law for public comment. The waiver application includes a timeline for the implementation of a statewide teacher evaluation system (pages 290-299).

Idaho’s proposed teacher evaluation system is based upon a controversial plan from the state of New Mexico, which recently provided teachers with their evaluation rankings, sparking some reaction from teachers across the state. 50% of a teacher’s rating in the New Mexico system is based on student growth and achievement on the New Mexico Standards-Based Assessment (to be replaced by PARCC assessment in 2015) and/or other assessments (such as end of course and reading assessments), 25% on teacher observations, and 25% on multiple measures, such as teacher attendance, preparation and planning, and professionalism. Teacher evaluation ratings were not made public in New Mexico in 2014. In Idaho’s waiver application, the first statewide teacher evaluation ratings would occur in Summer 2015.

Idaho’s system currently calls for 33% of the evaluation to be based on achievement and growth on standardized tests, though legislation in 2012 that increased the percentage to 50% was rendered null and void by the overturn of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, and House Bill 557, held in committee in 2014, would have increased the percentage to 50% over a period of years, comporting with the new NCLB waiver application.

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), a subcommittee of the Tiered Licensure Committee reviewing Idaho’s licensure requirements as part of the planning for Idaho’s Career Ladder, recommended last week that the SBAC (or another statewide assessment) be a mandatory part of teacher evaluation at applicable grades (the SBAC is currently planned for administration in Idaho in grades 3-11 in spring 2015).

These test-based teacher effectiveness measures are called Value Added Measures (VAM) and purportedly measure individual teacher contribution to student achievement by comparing the expected growth of the individual student against the actual individual student growth while in the teachers' classroom (source: New Mexico Department of Education).

However, two recent studies from reputable statistical organizations question the relationship of student growth on standardized test measures to teacher quality.

First, the American Statistical Association produced a statement regarding Value Added measures and teacher evaluation, making these points:

  • VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
  • VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative - attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.
  • VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.
Here is an article from Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post detailing the ASA findings.

In early May, Morgan Polikoff of USC and Andrew Porter of the University of Pennsylvania published another study, "Instructional Alignment as a Measure of Teacher Quality” in the peer-reviewed journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Using results of the Gates Foundation Measures In Effectiveness of Teaching study, they found “no association between value-added results and other widely-accepted measures of teaching quality.” (see article in Education Week).

The seeming disconnect between the work of the Technical Advisory Committee and the research on value-added measures and teacher evaluation hearkens back to the introduction of Proposition 2, Pay for Performance, in 2011. Research showing the ineffectiveness of Pay for Performance implementation in other states was plentiful, as is the emerging research on use of value-added measurement for teacher evaluation. The first distribution of funds highlighted the same inequities that an evaluation system based on standardized test scores will show.

The work of teachers with their students during the school year can easily be taken into account at the local level in evaluations done by principals with teachers without using standardized test scores and value-added measurement. Progress of orchestra students on musical pieces, Pre-Algebra students on a statistics unit, U.S. History students in understanding the causes of the Civil War – all should be handled at the local level through judicious use of content-specific assessment data, observations of instruction, and analysis of classroom management and preparation, as well as other variables from effective teaching frameworks such as the Charlotte Danielson model.

College Majors of Boise District Graduates

Data about everything from fees to college grad rates are available at an excellent website hosted by the National Center for Educational Statistics and called the College Navigator.

Colleges and universities report their data based on "first-time full-time" enrollees, which means that students in a particular high school class who enter college as full-time students for the first time in the semester after graduation are tracked. The NCES provides four and six-year college grad rates for every college that takes federal funds.

We've used the same statistical calculations to track Boise District students for the past six years, and we now have complete six-year data for the 2007 Boise District high school graduating class. It's interesting that the highest percentage of Boise District college grads major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Classes of 2007 and 2008 - Degrees Obtained

We now have data further illustrating the degrees obtained and major areas for members of the high school graduating classes of 2007 and 2008. Instead of just “first-time full-time” grads, these data are for all students in those classes who have obtained certificates, Associate degrees, and Baccalaureate degrees.

For the class of 2007, we have data for 6 ½ years after high school graduation. 43 students have obtained Associate’s Degrees, 25 have Certificates, and 471 have four-year degrees. For the class of 2008, (5 ½ years out from high school graduation), 40 have Associate degrees, 31 have Certificates, and 498 have four-year degrees.

Of the 56 certificates reported by colleges for the classes of 2007 and 2008, 39 came from Carrington College of Boise (College of Western Idaho came into existence after these classes began their college journey). 36 of 56 certificates were in areas of medicine (Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting were the most popular certificates).

Of the 83 Associate’s Degrees earned by the classes of 2007 and 2008, 24 came from Boise State University and the College of Western Idaho; the remainder were from colleges scattered around the region and the country.

969 four-year degrees have been earned by the classes of 2007 ad 2008. Here is the distribution of four-year degree major areas for those graduates:

Of the BSD 4-year college grads, 284 (29%) graduated from Boise State University. Here is the distribution of majors among the BSU grads:

167 (17%) of the BSD grads matriculated from the University of Idaho. Here's a chart showing the major areas for those students:

In November, we'll have 5 years of data from the high school class of 2009, and additional information about 2007 and 2008. We'll add those data into the mix, in order to continue tracking college destinations and majors.

To date, 32.3% of the Class of 2007 have received a 2 or 4 year degree or a certificate from a college or university. For the class of 2008, the figure is 29%. College matriculation rates for every state are available at the National Council for Higher Education Management Systems site. These graduation rates are about three times those claimed in the Idaho Business for Education Field Guide to Education in Idaho on the Don't Fail Idaho website.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What the Star Rating System Tells Us, Part 1

In August of 2013, Michael Petrilli posted an article in the online magazine Education Next,entitled “The Problem with Proficiency”. In the post, he argued that proficiency levels are determined largely by demographics, and advocated for a system in which schools are judged largely on student academic growth. Petrilli wrote: “To be sure, proficiency rates should be reported publicly, and parents should be told whether their children are on track for college or a well-paying career. (That’s one of the great benefits of a high standard like the Common Core.) But using these rates to evaluate schools will end up mislabeling many as failures that might in fact be doing incredible work at helping their students make progress over time.”

In the same month, Chester E. Finn, Jr. responded with “Let’s Hear it for Proficiency”, in which he argued that proficiency has its rightful place as an indicator of readiness, especially for college, and should not be dropped: “Not, at least, so long as it matters greatly in the real world. Do you want the pilot of your plane to be proficient at take-offs and landings or simply to demonstrate improvement in those skills? (Do you want to fly on an airline that uses only “growth measures” when hiring pilots?) How about dining in restaurants that use only growth measures when selecting chefs? Having your chest cut open by thoracic surgeons who showed “gains” on their surgical boards but didn’t actually “pass” them?”

The Idaho Star Rating system was initiated by the Idaho State Department of Education in 2012. The first school ratings were published in the 2012-13 school year, combining growth and proficiency measures. Though many states have opted for an “A-F” rating system, Idaho’s SDE decided to use a rating system similar to that used for hotels – 5 is the highest rating a school can receive, and 1 is the lowest. The Star Rating system was implemented as part of Idaho’s NCLB waiver request , submitted in September of 2012.

Though the Star Rating system itself is complicated, suffice it to say that the points earned by schools in the system are based primarily on school performance on the ISAT; in fact, 100% of the ratings for elementary and middle/junior high schools are based on test scores. In 2014-15, the system will replace the ISAT with scores from the Smarter Balanced assessments which are being piloted statewide this year.

At elementary and middle/junior high levels, the distribution of Star rating points is as follows:
  • ISAT Achievement – 25%
  • ISAT Growth – 75%
This distribution allows schools that are achieving at a relatively low level to gain Star Rating points by demonstrating that students are “growing” from grade to grade at a high level. In other words, if the schools in a system are showing excellent growth, outcomes should be better over time for that system.

Members of the Star Rating Advisory Committee (established this year by the State Department of Education) recommended that a more balanced distribution of points between achievement and growth be implemented beginning in 2014-15, in order that schools with high achievement receive more credit for their performance. However, the basic structure of the elementary/junior high system will remain intact.

At the senior high school level, the system contains a few more variables. Here is the basic structure:
  • ISAT Achievement – 20%
  • ISAT Growth – 50%
  • High School Graduation Rate – 15%
  • SAT College Readiness – 7.5%
  • Advanced Coursework – 7.5%
The ISAT was taken by 9th and 10th graders across Idaho, which meant it counted in the Star Rating system for freshmen and sophomores at 4-year high schools, and for just sophomores at 3-year high schools. In the current state testing plan, the SBAC will count for 9th, 10th, and 11th graders in 4-year high schools, for sophomores and juniors in 3-year high schools

The Star system at the high school level relies on growth for half of the rating. The result is that it provides a misleading view of high school performance when considered against measurement of progress on the Idaho State Board of Education goal:
“60% of young Idahoans, ages 25-34, will have a post-secondary degree or
certificate of value by 2020.”
In light of this goal, It would be helpful to know how Idaho schools are doing in preparing students for college. The high school Star Ratings don’t tell us that. If we use the SAT performance of Idaho juniors and cross-reference Star Ratings for Idaho high schools, this is what we find:

So, while Timberlake High School (Lakeland District) and Moscow High School are among the top high schools in the state at preparing students for college math, they are “4-star schools”, and American Falls High School and Marsing High School, with far fewer students prepared, are “5-star schools”.

This is caused primarily by the weighting of the factors in the Star Rating system. Grade-to-grade student growth counts for half of the Star Ratings for high schools. If the system were more outcome-based, that is, if it put more weight on preparation for college and career in Idaho high schools (as Finn recommends), we’d have a better picture of how we measure up in preparing students. In Part 2 of this post, we’ll examine an idea for a different weighting system that would be more reflective of outcomes and preparation.