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.